07 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz (born 1864 in Hoboken, NJ)
(died 1946 in New York, New York)
Alfred Stieglitz was a highly influential figure in the arts at the dawning of the twentieth century, and a vastly significant spokesperson for modern culture. He was a principal advocate of Modernism and arguably had more of an impact on photography than any other artist of his time. His work represents his vision for the future of photography as an art form at the turn of the twentieth century. Through photography, he saw a new vision for a modern world. He made it his life's ambition to teach people how to see. He pushed the technical limitations of photography, often using weather to his advantage in order to create a certain mood or atmosphere. For instance, he spent three hours standing in a blizzard in order to achieve the desired soft-lens effect of one of his most famous photographs, Winter - Fifth Avenue.

Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1864, but his family moved back to Germany in 1881, where he attended school and subsequently first picked up a camera. He returned to the United States in 1890, committed to proving that photography was a medium as relevant as painting or sculpture as a means of artistic expression. He founded Photo-Secession, a prominent group of American photographers who fought to have photography acknowledged as an art form and led the Pictorialist Movement, which promoted the artistic legitimacy of photography in the United States.

Alfred Stieglitz is an inspiration, not only because of his talent and his impressive body of work, but because of his dedication to and advocacy for the medium of photography. His intense passion serves as motivation for me to push the boundaries. I am grateful -- as all photographers should be -- for Alfred Stieglitz.

Mending Nets. 1894. © Alfred Stieglitz Archive
"There are many schools of painting. Why should there not be many schools of photographic art? There is hardly a right and a wrong in these matters, but there is truth, and that should form the basis of all works of art."

Spring. 1905. © Alfred Stieglitz Archive

"In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality."

Snapshot. Paris. 1911. © Alfred Stieglitz Archive
“The camera was waiting for me by predestination and I took to it as a musician takes to the piano or a painter to the canvas. I went to photography really a free soul – and loved it at first sight with a great passion.”


06 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt (born Hermann Wilhelm Brandt, 1904, Hamburg, Germany)
(died 1983, London, England)
Although born in Germany, Bill Brandt -- born Hermann Wilhelm Brandt to a British father and German mother -- is considered the quintessential British photographer. He captured all aspects of British life -- from dingy mining communities to high society -- like no other in the twentieth century. In his work, you find the perfect balance of powerful social commentary and ingenious artistic style.

He spent a considerable amount of time being treated for tuberculosis in a Swiss sanatorium, where he first showed an interest in photography. He began his career as a photographer on a 1926 trip to Vienna, where he ended up working and living for the next three years. In 1929 he left Vienna for Paris, where he spent three months working as a studio assistant to surrealist painter and photographer Man Ray. Evidently, he learnt something from the master, because a hint of the surreal permeates so much of his work. In 1932, he moved to London, where he began his lifelong love affair with England. 

It is Brandt's combination of poetic imagery and documentary photography that inspires me. Through his lens, he inspires us all to view the world around us with “a sense of wonder.” His work resonates with me deeply and although I would never attempt to replicate his style, he inspires me to create a style of my own. 

Campden Hill. May 1951. © Bill Brandt Archive
“A photographer must be prepared to catch and hold on to those elements which give distinction to the subject or lend it atmosphere.” 

The English At Home. 1940. © Bill Brandt Archive

"A feeling for composition is a great asset. I think it is very much a matter of instinct. It can perhaps be developed, but I doubt it can be learned. However, to achieve his best work, the young photographer must discover what really excites him visually. He must discover his own world."

Children in Sheffield. 1930. © Bill Brandt Archive
"It is the gift of seeing the life around them clearly and vividly, as something that is exciting in its own right. It is an innate gift, varying in intensity with the individual's temperament and environment."


05 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson (born 1908 in Chanteloup-en-Brie, France)
(died 2004 in Montjustin, France)

Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered the pioneer of photojournalism and was regarded as a leading creative force of his time. He coined the term 'the decisive moment' -- that fleeting moment of inspiration that a photographer has to capture an instant in time. His passion and wanderlust took him to the four corners of the earth, where he documented both the great suffering and great joy of humanity. His skill and perseverance helped establish photojournalism as an art form. 

Throughout his childhood, Cartier-Bresson showed a keen interest in the arts. As a young adult, he went on to study painting and literature at Cambridge University, England, which is also where he was introduced to photography. After his studies, he acquired a hand-held Leica camera and photography became his new passion. In 1935, Cartier-Bresson abandoned photography and worked as an assistant to prominent French filmmaker Jean Renoir. He collaborated with the director on several films, including the renowned La règle du jeu (1939). Later, Cartier-Bresson served in the French army and was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1940. After several failed attempts, he finally escaped in 1943 and promptly returned to his photography and film work. He was one of the founders of Magnum Photos, which remains, to this day, one of the leading photo agencies in the world. 

I am profoundly inspired, not only by the humanity shown in Cartier-Bresson's work, but by his precise, geometric framing and his remarkable sense of timing. I aspire to capture moments the way he did and that will take an awful lot of practice, training and courage on my part. Believe me when I say that I am up for the challenge!   

Hyères. France. 1932. © Henri Cartier-Bresson Archive

“To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life.”

SPAIN. Andalucia. Seville. 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson Archive 

'"For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression."

Rue Mouffetard. Paris. 1954. © Henri Cartier-Bresson Archive 

“Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes a precise moment in time.”


04 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus (born 1923 in New York, New York )
(died 1971 in New York, New York)
Diane Arbus is considered one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. She is best remembered for her distinct style and passionate dedication to her unique subjects -- marginalized groups and subcultures -- who were generally overlooked by mainstream society. Her work has remained, to this day, highly controversial. Although some criticise her for being a voyeur, others see her as a philanthropist who shed light on the lives of people who most would turn a blind eye to. Personally, I see her as an extremely courageous, creative genius. 

She began her career as a fashion photographer, but later turned to freelance work. She studied under renowned photographer Lisette Model, from whom she learnt her most valuable lessons -- to have confidence in her talent and not to let fear stand in the way of her artistic integrity. Throughout her career, Arbus viewed each photography project as an adventure and viewed the resulting photographs themselves as a sort of recompense for the adventure. Sadly, after battling years of depression, she took her own life in 1971, at the age of 48.

It is my own fear of approaching strangers that attracted me to Diane Arbus's work. Although an extrovert by nature, I am hesitant to take photographs of people I do not know. This is an apprehension I wish to overcome and there are myriad lessons to be learnt from Diane Arbus in this area. I was astonished to learn that she often feared her subjects until she got to know them -- a fact that has deeply inspired me to face my own fears. 

Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park. New York City. 1962.
© Estate of Diane Arbus
"If I were just curious, it would be very hard to
say to someone, "I want to come to your house
and have you talk to me and tell me the story of
your life." I mean people are going to say,
"You're crazy." Plus they're going to keep
mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of
license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that
much attention and that's a reasonable kind of
attention to be paid."

Hermaphrodite and a dog in a carnival trailer. Maryland. 1970.
© Estate of Diane Arbus

"I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don't
like to arrange things. If I stand in front of
something, instead of arranging it, I arrange

Identical twins. Roselle, N.J. 1967.
© Estate of Diane Arbus

03 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me: Hiromi Tsuchida

Hiromi Tsuchida (born 1939 in Fukui Prefecture)
Through his photography, Hiromi Tsuchida explores what it means to be Japanese. Throughout his career, he has documented various aspects of Japanese life, including an examination of the role of traditional Japanese customs and rituals in the face of modernization -- Zokushin, Gods of the Earth (1969-1975), an analysis of the evolution of the crowd in Japanese society -- Counting Grains of Sand and New Counting Grains of Sand (1975-1989) and a profound exploration of the impact of the bombing at Hiroshima -- Hiroshima 1975-1978 (1978), Hiroshima (1985), Hiroshima Collection (1995) and Hiroshima Monument II (1995). I believe that his work is both of great artistic and sociological value. 

He earned a degree in engineering at Fukui University before enrolling at the Tokyo College of Photography, where he later became a lecturer (1972) and professor (1993). He began his career as a commercial photographer after graduating in 1966, but soon turned to more meaningful work as he embarked upon a new path and became a freelance photographer in 1971. His first solo exhibit, at the Ginza Nikon Salon, was called Jihei kukan (Autistic Space) (1971) and was an introspective look at Japanese culture. This exhibit paved the way for future projects that would delve deeper into Japanese consciousness. 

I was drawn to Hiromi Tsuchida because of my strong affinity for Japan. I have always been fascinated by Japanese culture. I lived in the rural town of Nakatsu in the Oita Prefecture from February 2004 to August 2005 and it was an experience I will never forget. I established friendships with people who are in my life to this day. I have been fortunate enough to take part in Japanese traditions and ceremonies both whilst living there and when visiting Japan in 2007, twice in 2008 and again in 2012. I have visited both the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and what I saw there will remain with me forever. Japan will always hold a special place in my heart and I hope to return someday. 

Asakusa, Tokyo, 1970 from Zokushin © Hiromi Tsuchida

“I have been wandering these past several years in mountains, villages, towns and cities in pursuit, for the most part, of festivals and religious space.,' he writes. 'My wandering was not in response to a definite plan, in fact it was quite arbitrary. I suppose what I was trying to do was to find myself again as a Japanese.”
Kawasaki. 1981. Counting Grains of Sand. © Hiromi Tsuchida
Untitled. Tottori. 2001. New-Counting Grains of Sand. © Hiromi Tsuchida
"Crowds were no longer seas of people but had become a network of small groups that maintained a certain distance from each other."

Lunch Box. 1970. Hiroshima Collection.
 Reiko Watanabe (15 at the time) was doing fire prevention work under the Student Mobilization Order, at a place 500 meters from the hypocenter. Her lunch box was found by school authorities under a fallen mud wall. Its contents of boiled peas and rice, a rare feast at the time, were completely carbonized. Her body was not found.
© Hiromi Tsuchida
"We can never pretend that what happened at Hiroshima has nothing to do with us."


The History of Japanese Photography
by Anne Wilkes Tucker, Ryuichi Kaneko, Dana Frs-Hansen, Dana Friis-Hansen, Takeba Joe, Iizawa Kotaro (Contributor), Kinoshita Naoyuki (Contributor)

The Independent Administrative Institution - National Museum of Art

30 September 2013

The Julie Project

When I mentioned to a dear friend of mine that I was doing a research assignment on a photographer of my choice, she asked me if I had ever heard of Darcy Padilla. She suggested that I look into The Julie Project. I was not prepared for what a profound effect it would have on me. Julie’s story will stay with me for a long time. Personally, I could ever do work like this, but I have a deep sense of admiration for those photojournalists who delve into the darker side of life. These are stories that must be told. These are stories that are happening not only in distant lands, but in our own backyards. I am grateful to my friend – and to Darcy Padilla, of course – for sharing Julie’s story with me. I strongly urge you to discover Julie’s story.

© Darcy Padilla 
Darcy Padilla is a San Francisco-based photographer, who has won worldwide recognition with her poignant documentary work. She won a place at the World Press Photo exhibit in 2011 and again in 2012. She has also won several other awards including the W. Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace and the Professional Grant and the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography.

Her work has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, amongst others. She is a visiting faculty member at the San Francisco Art Institute. She has offered lectures and workshops in the US and in Europe.

She is best known for The Julie Project, a heart-wrenching, 18-year project in which she chronicled the life and death of Julie Baird, a drug addict afflicted with AIDS, who was born into poverty, struggled with myriad issues including abusive relationships and losing five of her six children to child protective services.

 “While I juggle several passions at once, my enduring study has been the life of one woman I met in the Tenderloin 17 years ago. This project is one that has set a direction for my approach to photography.”

She is currently working on a follow-up project called Everything is Going To Be OK, which follows the lives of Jason and Elyssa, the boyfriend and daughter that Julie left behind. She is also working on a documentary film of Julie and Jason’s lives, which she started filming in 2005. I look forward to both of these projects. Someday, I would love attend one of her workshops or lectures.

Julie, Valdez Alaska, 2006 © Darcy Padilla

28 August 2013

Farewell Summer!

Inter-Dec College, Montreal
Things are going to get very hectic, very soon. The summer is coming to an end and in less than a week, I will be starting my full-time studies in Professional Photography at Inter-Dec College. Tomorrow, I'll be going in for orientation, where I will get my class schedule, obtain my Student ID, get a tour of the campus and be assigned a locker. It's been 12 years since I last pursued full-time studies. I graduated from Concordia University with a Bachelor of Arts in 2001. Oh, and I haven't had a locker since high school.

Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal
Another sign the summer is coming to an end is the return of the annual Montreal World Film Festival. Last Saturday, I saw a profoundly beautiful and touching Japanese film called Case of Kyoko, Case of Shuichi. Tomorrow night, I'll be seeing Dark Blood, the film that the remarkably talented River Phoenix was working on when he sadly passed away. On Saturday night, I'll be seeing a French film called La Vie Domestique. On Sunday, I'll be seeing an Italian film called A Five Star Life. Finally, on Monday, I'll be seeing an Australian/French film called Adore. I love attending the World Film Fest, as it's an opportunity to see films from across the globe. It's also an opportunity to meet some extremely interesting people -- patrons, filmmakers and actors alike.

My niece, Liana Paré
In addition to attending the Film Fest, I will be going to see my lovely niece Liana in Last One Standing's production of The House of Yes, in which she will be playing the role of Lesly. I'm very proud of my niece and always enjoy seeing her on the stage. This Saturday also happens to be her 22nd birthday, so she's very excited!

In related news, Liana will be studying Art History at my Alma Mater -- Concordia University -- beginning this autumn. So, it looks like I'm not the only one who's going back to school! The two of us are looking forward to meeting up for coffee between classes, as our school campuses are very close.

In other news, last week, I was delighted to spend time with my dear friends Mike & Miyuki and their three-year old son, Koa, who were visiting from Japan. I hadn't seen them since 2010 -- when Koa was just a few months old -- and it was so great catching up with them after all this time, but it was also a tad bittersweet. Unfortunately, all of my closest friends live far away. I'm not complaining, though. I am so grateful to have the most incredible friends a girl could ask for. Perhaps someday -- when I'm a famous photographer -- I'll be able to afford to take all my closest friends on a spectacular holiday. My first choice of destination is... Sri Lanka. I hope you're all okay with that. Emotion Smiley - Wink

11 August 2013

It's About Time

It's been over a year since my last blog entry. I could say that I've been busy with other things, which I have, but that's no excuse, is it? Still, it's my excuse and I'm sticking with it! Haha! In any case, I'm making a conscious effort to be more consistent and prolific starting NOW!

Simon Le Bon's Save A Prayer pick!
Now, I will pick up where I left off. I can't begin to describe what an extraordinary experience the Great American Duranadventure was. There were lots of highs -- like catching Simon Le Bon's guitar pick! -- and also lows -- Nick Rhodes became very ill, so they had to cancel the last six shows of the tour, including the Chicago show I had tickets to -- but I still got to see three unforgettable shows, explore places I had never been to before, and most importantly, I got to spend time with my friends. As the band are working on their 14th studio album, I find myself dreaming of my next Duranadventure. Who knows where it will take me? One thing is for certain, Duran Duran remain my perpetual source of inspiration, and the incredible friendships I am so grateful to have built through them continue to grow. You can see all the photos from my adventures here: MemphisBiloxiNew OrleansNew England and Chicago.

Almost immediately after returning from my travels, I started a new job as an Early Childhood Educator at Ecole Montessori International. The job took up a lot of my energy, and taught me a lot of valuable lessons. My contract ended at the end of June and I will not be returning next year. But... that's a whole other story.

Moz performing at Terminal 5
The autumn brought even more adventure! In October of last year, I had the opportunity to fly to New York for the weekend -- where I was fortunate enough to see Morrissey in concert once again -- and meet up with two of my dear Duranie friends. It had been years since I'd been to New York and although it was a whirlwind trip, it was an unforgettable one. The only bit I didn't like was when I had to bid my friends farewell. I had to get back to work, but they stayed on for John Talylor's In The Pleasure Groove book reading and signing.

Chatting with the lovely John Taylor

A short while after that trip, I found out that John would be doing a book reading and signing in Toronto. I managed to get some time off work and booked a last-minute flight and hotel. I got to meet three of my fellow-Canadian Duranie friends at the event, and I made some new friends, too. As luck would have it, my plane landed just a couple of hours before John's, so I greeted him with flowers at Pearson International Airport. I have a very dear friend to thank for that information! You know who you are...

Unfortunately, I was so nervous that I forgot to ask for a photo, even though I was holding my camera in my sweaty palm. At least I found the courage to speak to him this time, unlike at Incheon International Airport in Korea, a surreal experience that I never blogged about... but I should. In fact, I will! I also plan on blogging about the Great American Duranadventure in more detail. I realise it's been over a year, but it's still very fresh in my mind and this stuff has got to be documented! But I digress... John was extremely gracious, both at the airport and at the book signing. He even remembered where I was from and wished me a safe flight back to Montreal! What a sweetheart. Click here to see all my photos from this extraordinary experience.

Gangwa Island, South Korea, 2008
Gondolas, Venice, Italy, 1993
In other news, this September, I will be embarking upon an entirely different sort of adventure. I'm going back to school! After close to fifteen years in the teaching field, I have decided to pursue a lifelong passion and will be studying Professional Photography at Inter-Dec College. I have a lot to learn, but in the meantime, I have been trying to build a name for myself online. You can visit my website here: Beautiful Colours. And yes, the name I chose happens to be a song by Duran Duran. No big surprise there. I would be profoundly grateful if you'd take the time to check out my Facebook Page and click "like" if you are so inclined. I am both nervous and excited about starting school in a matter of weeks. The support I have received thus far from my friends as well as from fellow artists is overwhelming.

Please stay tuned. I promise not to wait a year before my next blog entry.