What Will Your Verse Be?

The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.  What will your verse be?”

– Walt Whitman

“The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.”

– Pablo Picasso

2020 is in full swing for most of us, the celebrations of New Year’s Eve already a distant memory.  I normally start each year energized, eager to plan out my year and attack new goals with intent and purpose.  My calendar fills with product launches, travel, presentations, podcasts, workshops, Skype sessions… and before I know it summer has arrived.

This year started out differently though.  Our usual cold, rainy days were followed by snow, causing power outages and blanketing the sky with lifeless grey clouds.  Productive planning sessions were replaced by contemplative periods, and most of my time has been spent writing, playing guitar, and walking the dog.

These have been slow days…. quiet days…. good days.

I initially attributed this different pace to my father’s recent passing, especially as it has only been 21 days since I delivered his eulogy, but more and more I am realizing that there is something bigger forming in my mind… a desire to do something special that is not yet defined.

The last few years have been incredibly productive:  I have reviewed a lot of gear, written almost 300 articles, guested or guest hosted on dozens of podcasts, delivered hundreds of presentations and taught thousands of students.  I cherish all of these things, with no intention of slowing down or stopping, so this desire isn’t because I am unsatisfied with the work that I am doing.  It is, rather, a desire to do something new… something… bigger.  I find myself constantly thinking of the quotes that I started this post with, especially this one:

“The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.  What will your verse be?”

I have always felt that my “verse” was the work that I do with my students.  I am a creator to be sure:  I love crafting a wonderful image, creating a well written essay, or nailing a song on my guitar.  But, I find more joy from seeing my students grow as artists.  It is what I live for.

I am realizing now, however, that the Create Forever project that I participated in last fall set off a huge period of intrinsic reflection… reflection focused on things like service to others and personal fulfillment.  I am sure that these feelings were compounded by many hours spent writing my father’s eulogy, where I spoke about his amazing life, his remarkable accomplishments, and his legacy.

So, it is time for me to write a new verse; not to replace what I am currently doing, but to build something new that can exist alongside my current work and contribute to this wonderful community of people that I am a part of.  It doesn’t need to change the world, but it definitely needs to be meaningful.

….

I am writing this post while sitting in my favourite coffee shop.  It is another rainy Vancouver day, and I am taking a break from reading a script that a film-maker and respected friend sent me.

The script is for a short film, an intensely personal project that tells the story of a loved one’s mental health struggles.  The story is told with passion, with love, and with an artistic vision that I hope to one day achieve in my own work.  In summary, it is brilliant.

This is a great example of what I am talking about:  My friend is writing a new verse in his powerful play, and it couldn’t be more awesome.  I am very proud of him.  And, I am inspired by him as well.

….

Have you ever felt like this?  Like there was something building inside of you… something that you just had to do or create?  If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments below, just as I absolutely plan on writing about my journey here on this site.

In the meantime of course, life goes on:  Soon you will see new work on this site from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oregon.  My street photography workshops in Vancouver and Toronto are filling up nicely, and I have many speaking engagements and weddings already booked.  I am sure that Fujifilm will release new equipment of course, which we will definitely discuss here as well.

The powerful play goes on and on though, doesn’t it?  And, it is time to write a new verse.

…what will it be?  What will your verse be for 2020?

Cheers,

Ian

2019: Finding Photographic Success In A Reflective & Disruptive Year

December 31st is upon us again… another year almost in the books.  How crazy is that?  2019 was a bit of a dichotomy for me:  I travelled, I taught workshops internationally, I was blessed with numerous opportunities to write / present / guest on podcasts, I had the privilege of photographing beautiful weddings and I worked with my friends at Fujifilm on multiple projects (the Create Forever project and the X-Pro3 launch).  The latter part of 2019, however, will also be remembered  as a time when I lost several former peers in the emergency services, when I lost my father, and, I think, when I lost my way for a little bit.

Life, right?

As I reflect back on the photographs I made in 2019, however, I am satisfied to see a consistency in my work.  I have invested many years of blood and sweat into my photography and feel like I can reliably make the images that I see in my mind when I am out shooting.  Are they the greatest images?  No, of course not.  But, I think there is a strength that comes from knowing that you can translate what you see in your mind to the creation of an image regardless of what is happening in your life at the time.   This consistency allows you to push the boundaries more, to experiment more, and, ultimately, to grow more.

So, let’s look at some of my favourite images from 2019 and celebrate this awesome art form that we all love so much.

Silhouettes continue to be a big part of my street photography, and these two photos are  examples of how I try to use them as compositional elements in my work:

Photos like these are visual experimentations, but I also try to include a storytelling element in many of my street photographs (as illustrated in the next set of photos).  The images below, featuring the silhouettes of young lovers holding handing hands in Hawaii, of a father walking his child to school in Paris, and of ominous watchers looking down from above all provide opportunities for the viewer to find a story in the photograph.  What that story is will differ for each viewer, of course.  My goal is just to set the stage… people can interpret the image however they chose.

It seems that my eye for composition naturally shifts over time, changing what I am attracted to when composing images.  This year I found myself working with lines and angles a lot, using these compositional elements to add another layer of complexity to my photographs:

Street images can be made everywhere of course, and I am always shooting.  Sometimes I frame the image around beautiful light and shadows, while other times my eye is caught by a subject who has that magical ”X” factor that catches our  interest as photographers.  Here are a few favourites from 2019:

If anything “negative” really stood out to me this year (photographically speaking) it was the realization of how few street portraits I made.

I love interacting with strangers… meeting new people is one of my favourite things about travel and street photography.  It was surprising then to find that I made less than 20 street portraits in 2019; all of which were made in the first half of the year.  There is definitely a correlation between our emotions and the art that we create, so I wonder if my tumultuous fall had anything to do with not wanting to interact with new people? 

There were, of course, also many opportunities to drop a tripod and make a cityscape or two.  I always enjoy these shoots because they represent a slower, more cerebral approach to photography.  I love the time between setting everything up and finally making your keeper images, when you can be lost in your thoughts as you wait for the light to reach that perfect place for your image.  It is a very zen like experience for me.

Here are a few from 2019 that I enjoyed making:

And, finally, I found that I still took time to experiment on occasion… taking the opportunity to try and create something a little bit different than I normally shoot:

A few final thoughts to end the year…

There is clearly a cycle to life.  Some years are formative, some are maintenance, and some are transitional.  This year was definitely the latter for me personally, but it was also a year that gave me  so much to be grateful for.

This blog initially started, years ago, as a simple place for me to share my work.  Over time it morphed into a site that featured countless Fujifilm gear reviews, and has morphed again into a place where I share my work and thoughts with you as openly and honestly as I can.

Along the way I have met new friends, built relationships with wonderful clients and students, supported people who were struggling, had the opportunity to teach all over the world and have had the joy of working on incredible projects with Fujifilm (one of the best companies in the world in my opinion).  It is the absolute truth that my success is owed as much to all of you as it is to my own efforts.

Thank you.

I am excited to see where photography takes me in 2020.  I can’t wait to share new work with all of you and to see so many of you face to face in workshops, at conferences, or during presentations.  I hope you are all fired up for a new year and for the opportunities that it brings… after a challenging 2019 I know that I am.

Happy New Year everybody, I wish you all the best for 2020!

Cheers,

Ian

The Injury Chronicles – Part Two: Assembling The Watchers

We have all felt fear – that sense that something is wrong even when we can’t put our finger on it.  Perhaps it is a gut feeling that tells us not to walk down a certain street one evening, despite it being on our usual route home.  Maybe you have felt unsettled in a lonely parking lot, your eyes constantly scanning while you hurriedly unlock the car door.  I know that I felt unsettled many times as a paramedic, such as when we would approach pitch black houses at 3am or when we were surrounded by a crowd that was turning angry on a scene.  Fear is an intrinsic thing, primal in nature, and because of that it is used by many creatives in their work (I’m looking at you Stephen King).  

When I am out shooting I will occasionally use an emotion as a source of inspiration for my photography (happiness, surprise, fear, etc).  Over the last year I have had the idea of “The Watchers” in the back of my mind… a feeling that maybe there is something dark and foreboding following us that might be a threat.  As an exercise in creativity I have been working with composition, darkness and silhouettes to try to create this feeling in some of my photographs.

This is the first time I have put some of these images together in a series.  I am definitely still exploring this idea of shooting to a specific emotion, but I thought I would share these first steps with all of you.

Cheers,

Ian

Note:  The Injury Chronicles is a series of photo essays, with minimal text, that I am posting while I rehabilitate a hand injury.