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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 wow photo
Masai Ujiri For TEDxToronto

When I photographed Masai Ujiri last year for TEDxToronto, I had no idea that the Raptors were going to become world champions.

Masai is the President of the Raptors, he is insanely busy, and he probably gets his photo taken weekly if not more. Knowing this, I had to adjust my process. 

And when Masai first arrived it was clear that our window to “get the shot” would be short. 

He was friendly and attentive, but I could also feel that he was not so thrilled to interrupt his day and take a break for photography. 

Things started off stiff and slow, which is almost always the case with every photo session. But the difference was that I did not have warm-up “get to know you” time like I do in most of my portrait sessions. We essentially started the shoot in the 4th quarter with 2 mins left on the clock. Crunch time! 

I took a deep breath. Grounded myself. And let my heart lead. 

This is when I had two game-changing instincts…

  1. I asked him to pick the music. Suddenly the room was flooded with vibrant tunes from his home country Nigeria.

  2. I looked around the room and found a basketball. I picked it up and tossed it over to him.

The moment the basketball hit his hands I could see his energy shift. His face lit up and I could see his inner-child come out. So much joy. So grounded. Masai was instantly transported to his happy place. 

I could also feel our trust and connection grow. 

He originally had a 10 minute “hard stop”—but he ended up staying for almost an hour. And what an incredible human being to photograph.

So grateful to Jeff Lohnes, Afshin Mousvian and the homies at TEDxToronto for this amazing opportunity. And of course, a special shoutout to Masai Ujiri.

My Obsession: Hiding VS Being Seen

(If you’re interested in learning how the black and white portraits came to be, click here to read the full story.)

—> Every single person I photograph has two things in common.

Sure, on the surface we’re all unique. Different ethnicities, ages, genders, body types, upbringings, occupations and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

But there are two things that show up in every shoot I’ve ever done—no matter what the person looks like.

  1. Every person has a piece of themselves they desperately want to hide.

  2. Every person, to varying degrees, has a desire to be fully seen.

The contradiction between these two parts of ourselves creates a tension.

And that tension is my obsession. Because it exists in everybody.

My process as a photographer plays right at this crossroads. The part of us that wants to hide and be safe. And the part of us that is so sick and tired of hiding. This is where the magic happens.

And if you’re willing to take a risk, sit in the discomfort, and let people see you in a place of vulnerability and sincerity, you’ll walk away feeling stronger, lighter, and able to access more of yourself.


Step Forward

Sometimes the only way through is by taking a deep breath, opening your eyes, and stepping into that which scares the fuck out of you.


For anyone that feels called to working together, I have an amazing promo this month. See the link below for all the deets -->


Take risks. Trust me on this one.⁣⁣

When I look at these photos, I remember a clear moment in a crazy ambitious project. It was for TEDxToronto, and the goal was to get 20 amazing photos of EACH speaker—in only 15 minutes! This was a long day.⁣⁣

What happened during this set of photos is the same moment that happens in every big shoot I’ve ever done. Once you get past the feeling of “What have I gotten myself into?” and then “This is too ambitious, this isn’t gonna happen.”⁣⁣

Past the chaos. Past the panic. And then somehow, at some point, you realize:⁣⁣

Shit. This might be really, really cool.⁣⁣

When I look at these photos, I see the moment that I knew it was going to work. And that risk, the promise of getting 20 photos in 15 minutes, somehow paid off.⁣⁣⁣⁣

Big risks = Big rewards

Summer of Yes

What would happen if you said YES to almost every project that was offered to you?⁣

Forget outcome. Forget what you did or did not do in the past. Forget what might be one day. ⁣

YES, to projects with new co-creators.⁣

YES, to projects that place you outside of your comfort zone.⁣

YES, to projects that could not pay you.⁣

YES, to projects that look impossible to complete.⁣

YES, to projects that you know will never be complete.⁣

"If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives." - Lemony Snicket⁣

Thank you Kristen Saxton for the opportunity to collaborate on this project. ⁣

You took a risk and stepped outside of your comfort zone so that you could continue building out your portfolio as a Hair and Make-up artist. I love people who are chasing their dreams. ⁣

Also, a big thank you to Kim Foulkes for also saying YES. You were so easy and effortless to work with. Such a treat.