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Writing + Photography

Memoirs and musings of Darius Bashar. Toronto portrait photographer and writer, in pursuit of all things real, raw and intimate. 

Posts tagged Portrait Photography
My Photography Exposed A Major Gap In My Life

I had a powerful realization two days ago about writing, but more importantly about life. Like most meaningful lessons in life, it was simple. It almost seems obvious after the fact.

I actually already wrote about this particular lesson a few months ago, but I was only looking at it from the perspective of photography. For those of you who don’t know, I work as a professional portrait and fashion photographer.

That original post was and still remains, one of my all-time favourite writings. It was also my shortest post ever. It didn’t really attract any attention. Very few “likes”, comments and shares.

But that didn’t matter.

For me, everything was in those 22 words.

I initially wrote the post focussed on my photography process, but when I looked back, I saw it was so much more than that.

It’s a road map to living a full life. Don’t be fooled by the brevity of the original post. It’s short, but if you pay attention, everything I know about life can be found in those 4 simple steps.

I have listed 3 versions below. The first is the original, which was entirely focussed on my photography process.

The other two have slight modifications that make them specific to writing and life.

Again, don’t be fooled by how simple it is.

Also, there is a difference between simple and easy.

My Process (Photography)

  • Find the story
  • Find the light
  • Find myself (“Anyone can take a portrait. Where is Darius in this photo?”)
  • Lose everything else

My Process (Writing)

  • Find the story (One simple take-away that the audience can articulate in a single sentence, after finishing your writing.)
  • Find the light (there is a specific access point where this story has the best chance of truly being seen)
  • Find myself (Show your heart. Show your vulnerability. Don’t lecture. Put your lived-experience at the centre of this story.)
  • Lose everything else

My Process (Life)

  • Find the story (Who do you want to be? Fundamentally different questions than, what do you want to be. One is about finding your purpose. The other is about a career.)
  • Find the light (there are specific beliefs you need to explore, that will allow this story to come to life. Just remember all beliefs are horse shit.)
  • Find myself (Explore your heart. Celebrate your vulnerability. Feel deeper. Think higher.)
  • Lose everything else

I’ve always been obsessed with exploring the creative process of highly successful artists and innovators. I would eat up anything I could find on the topic.

But what about a Life Process?

It’s taken me 35 years to realize I don’t have a conscious Life Process. Or I didn’t, until now. But guess what, not having a process is also a process. It embraces randomness, with the hopes that maybe shit goes your way. It’s very passive and totally unpredictable.

It’s like a writer waiting around for inspiration to find them. That’s not how great writing works. It’s also not how anything great works for that matter.

So, do you have an active life process that you can articulate?

If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Has it worked for you, or does it get in the way?

I’m new to the life process game, but I have a feeling it might just be a game changer.

Portrait 066 - Callen Schaub

Callen is one of my new favourite artists.

His work and his process are both extraordinary.

Mark my words, Callen will very quickly become one of Canada's most sought out abstract artists. This dude has tapped into some true magic and I can't wait to see where he goes from here. 

Check out his website or follow him on instagram


Click to Enlarge Photos

Pain Will Set You Free - NSFW

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is not.

Michael Singer said it best “Pain is the cost of freedom.”

At some point in every human’s life, there will be Trauma (another word for pain). These darker moments in our lives bring up feelings that can be very heavy and often overwhelming.

A common approach to heavier feelings is to suppress them. This is the cause of all emotional suffering. In an attempt to “feel better” we often ignore or deny these feelings. Short-term, this can help us actually feel better. Long-term, this denial is the single most detrimental action we partake in — both emotionally, and spiritually. 

At the moment of trauma, if we decide to deny our feelings and close-up, we unintentionally trap that darker energy inside of us. This ball of densely trapped energy inevitably becomes a blockage in our heart.

The irony is that, in an attempt to move away from those unwanted feelings, we actually end-up bringing them infinity closer.

This approach traps those dreaded feelings inside us, like a roommate we loath, but for some reason decided to sign a 20-year lease with. That which we are trying to leave behind, ends-up owning real estate inside our most precious possession — our hearts.

Healing happens when we realize darkness is not evil or a bottomless pit. Darkness is merely the blockage of light. These blockages are living within each of us and are preventing the magnificent beauty of our light from shining onto the world.

Stepping into the pain can be scary. It feels darker because with every step we are getting closer to the blockage. It can feel isolating because with every step we are moving away from the surface and its many distractions.

But remember, with every step we are ALSO moving closer to the light, moving closer to the Infinite and closer to freedom.


(click to enlarge photos below)



I've known Andrew for almost 10 years, but sometimes it feels like we've always known each other.

For 5 of those years, Andrew and I lived together. Those were honestly my all-time favourite years. A week before Andrew came in for his portrait, I told him that I was going to be moving out. That was a tough conversation. Even now, I get emotional thinking about it. We were both very sad, but also knew this day was coming.

So when Andrew walked-in, the following Wednesday evening, to what was (eventually) going to be my new home, the energy was already very tender. I've seen so many colours of Andrew Peek over the years, so I really didn't know what to expect.

Andrew loves talking about big and audacious ideas and I love hearing about all of them. We have a history of jumping into conversations that soar above the clouds. But something was different that night. We both gravitated towards a different emotional altitude. Throughout I remember feeling very grounded. We spoke less than we normally would, but the whole time I felt really connected to Andrew, as if our souls were doing all the talking.

About halfway through, I spontaneously decided to experiment and asked Andrew to think about specific people in his life. I won't get into the details, as they were private, but I sat and watched, as my brother bared his soul and held nothing back. It was beautiful, it was tender and honestly it was really inspiring.


Life has many colours, but so many of us choose to live in black and white. These portrait sessions are an opportunity for people to let some of those dormant colours, come out to play.

And no, the irony is not lost on me. :)



My process for these write-ups is fairly simple. I finish editing the photos, then I sit in front of the computer (usually in the mornings) and close my eyes and transport back in time, to the day of the shoot. Usually its been at least a few weeks since the shoot. This is helpful because only the truly memorable moments remain in my mind. There are typically several that I reflect on, but almost always there is one memory in particular that finds me. All I do is make space for it. Then, I sort of let go.

Writing has always been very difficult for me, I later came to realize this was partially due to being dyslexic. The other, and probably larger part, was due to being terrified of what people would think - if I let them in. I've come to realize this is exactly what everyone that sits in front of my camera experiences. If they let go and let the "real" them shine through, people might judge them. When you see it in writing, you can't help but realize how stupid that sounds. But still, it can be scary. The truth is, I'm still sort of terrified every time I share one of these write-ups (and even the photos). But everyday I do, I get a little more confident, but also I care less and by care I mean overthink and over criticize less. Again, like my portraits, the more photos I shoot during a session, the less people are in their heads. They eventually stop paying attention to that voice in their head and let go.  

So back to Frank and our time together. When I close my eyes and reflect on our portrait session, the memory that strikes me the most, actually didn't happen on the day of the shoot. It happened two weeks prior, when Frank texted me "Hey dude! You still need recruits for your b&w portrait series?". Nothing special about that text...unless you know Frank. He's one of the sweetest guys I know. Honest, kind and super reliable, but he can also be shy and fairly private. I've know him for almost 5 years, but it took Frank a while to open up and be really comfortable.

The other interesting part of the story is that Frank was my landlord until very recently -  that's how we meet 5 years ago. You hear these horror stories about terrible landlords. Well, Frank was the exact opposite of all those stories. I have so much love for the dude. Over the years he would stop by every once and awhile and he'd ask "what are you working on these days? Anything good?". I'd invite him in and tell him about whatever project I was working on at the time. He genuinely cared. I really enjoyed our talks, especially when the wine came out. So, one day in November I ran into Frank in the stairs and he asked me that same question "what are you working on these day?". I pulled out my phone and started to show him the early pictures of the first few portraits. No reaction. I told him about what the project was about. Still no reaction. I asked him if he was "maybe... possibly... sort of interested to be a model? " Blank face. Then after a long pause he respectfully declined. Frank being Frank, he still wanted to help, but was clearly not comfortable being the one in front of the camera. So he started listing off names of friends that might be interested. I can't say I was surprised. Like I said, Frank can be a little shy. No harm in asking though. 

I thought that was going to be the end of it. I would've bet money on it. But low and behold, two weeks later, on a Sunday morning, I get a text message and before I know it I've booked my dear friend Frank for a portrait. What a great surprise. 


The lesson was very clear to me. Everyone wants to be seen. That's my favourite part of this portrait project. If I do my job right, I get to bring people out of their shells (we all have them!) and show them how truly beautiful they are both inside and out. I can hear the haters barking about how cheesy that sounds, but fuck it's true. We are - all of us - beautiful.



As soon as Steve got to my place he admitted to me that he was a little nervous. I was a bit surprised because in my eyes he's a total stud. Always full of confidence and charisma. The truth is virtually everyone I work with (even seasoned top models) are a bit nervous at first. This is normal and usually a good sign when someone is willing to admit it to me, as it means there emotions are closer to the surface and that they trust me enough to be honest about their feelings. It's my job to get the model out of their head. I find the best way to do this is to have a sincere conversation with them. With Steve, this was easy. He shared so many amazing stories and I genuinely had a blast. Two stories in particular left a real impression on me. One was about the moment Steve and his business partners realized they had a legit business. Such an epic story! The second was when Steve opened up and started talking about his new lady. It was amazing to see Steve light up when he spoke about his girlfriend Negin. I swear I could see love radiate from his eyes and his face. It was beautiful to witness. 


Steve being the thoughtful guy he is, brought a bottle of wine for us to share during our shoot. I love a glass of wine every once and awhile and I was very thankful. The lesson; a glass or two of wine is one thing, but add a little whisky to the equation and it's a totally different experience. We each had 2 drinks of whisky, so nothing crazy, but still it was not the best idea. What the hard alcohol did was create a barrier between me and my senses and for portrait photography I need to be as close to my sense and emotions as I can be, otherwise something will be missed. Thankfully the whisky only came out towards the very end of the shoot. I'm going to stick to coffee and wine from now on.