Friday, December 20, 2019

Welcome to The Portrait Project

I'd been thinking about a new community photography event for some time. I wanted to do something like we'd been doing with Help-Portrait St John's but on a smaller scale. I've been the coordinator for Help-Portrait St John's since 2010 (we've done 12 events) and had a good idea of what I needed to do.

It's called "The Portrait Project".

We Had Our First Portrait Project

Our first event was at The Pottle Centre on December 13th 2019. The Pottle Centre is "a social centre for consumers of mental health services in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador. We provide a safe and healthy place for people to be social, enjoy some special events and get involved." I was joined by my friend and local entertainer, known mostly as a famous children's entertainer, The Teddy Bear Man, Terry Reilly and fellow photographer and old buddy Doreen Moyst. I looked after the portraits, Doreen the candid shots and Terry threw one hell of a party.

Even though the Pottle Centre will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2020 I only became aware of the centre several years ago. As a part of my street photography and portraiture work (you can see that on my Chasing The Light Fantastic website) I had been giving 8x10 prints to some of the people I photographed downtown and noticed some of them going into the centre. There were people I couldn't find so I thought I'd drop in and see if I could locate them or perhaps leave the prints there for them to pick up. That's when I met Leanne and the staff and I've been in touch ever since!

We photographed 28 people in all and here is a sample.

Welcome to the Portrait Project. Looking forward to the next one! :-)


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Getting a Bad Rap

I don't usually post something from my professional work on this blog but this work had a personal aspect to it and I had an experience I'd like to share!

I don't photograph many Rap  or Hip Hop artists, I'm not a fan of the music. I had offers in the past but turned them down but last August I had an offer and decided to follow through with it. I do enjoy photographing performers and working in the theater. I enjoy the challenge of the lighting and the opportunity to produce great images for my client. So I took this job and I got to say I came away appreciating the music and having a good experience at the same time.

Jazz Cartier at the Rock House
Jazz Cartier at the Rock House

I had to photograph some of the other things going on before the main show but my primary job was to photograph Canadian Rap star Jazz Cartier at the Rock House in St John's for New York based Media company VP+C. I was amazed with the energy during the performance but that's not what this post is about. The place was packed and it was very hard to get around. I had two cameras hanging from me and a monopod close by. I tried to move around to get the best shots I could and on a couple of occasions people were kind enough to step out of their prime location and let me in front of them to get what I needed. Even though the place was rockin' and everyone was dancing to the beat there was a young woman who waved for me to go in front of her on two occasions and another time a young man did the same. Rap music often has a bad rap of being anti-social and aggressive and I guess you might think it's fans are the same but my experience was otherwise.

Jazz Cartier at the Rock House
Jazz Cartier at the Rock House

I didn't get a chance to properly thank these two young people or buy them a thank you beer but I really did appreciate it. My opinion of both the music and it's fans has sure changed!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Adventures of Father FuckHead

I've been downtown photographing people from all walks of life for about 12 years now, the number of people last time I checked was over one thousand. Over that time my approach has changed. Initially I started out with the intent of capturing the character of the place and the people who go there. I had recently seen some similar photos taken downtown when I was a boy which I loved and I wanted to continue that. However eventually it evolved into doing street portraits. These days I like to go from one idea to the other depending on what's going on at the time.  I find they both have something to say and have a purpose.

A few years ago I was at a buddies house having a coffee and he asked me "of all the people you've photographed downtown over the years how many have caused you problems or given you any grief". At the time the number was around 500 but the amazing thing was, upon reflection I couldn't think of 5. Actually I could only think of 4 and they could be chalked up mostly to the person having a substance abuse or mental health issue. Social issues I have some understanding of and a lot of sympathy for. Imagine that less than 1%!

And then along came Father FuckHead! "

"Are you the guy who's been taking photos of "Cathy" and posting them on the internet? She said she doesn't want her father to see them". I knew who he was talking about, she had asked me before to remove it and I did. The photo I had added to my Chasing The Light Fantastic website was very nice and respectful and it was in among some local celebrities and others. I should say when I asked her before she had no problem with it.

I had to ask  Father FuckHead "how much did you give her" and got no answer. Over this time I've gotten to know many of the people downtown and I know "Cathy" always laid it on deep. On several occasions over the years, so her story goes, she would tell people her father just died, other times the kids were home with nothing to eat. She's gotten me with both! Most times she'd lay this on a passerby she would often get handed a 5 or 10.

To put this all in perspective most of the panhandlers I've gotten to know are suffering from substance abuse or mental health issues.Some are just down on their luck and their life is in the dumps. Others have had an abusive childhood and were never able to put their lives together! They are sincere and often the kindest, sweetest people so lets not forget that.

The funny thing about this is that I don't know if it was my picture he was talking about. Other photographers go downtown taking photos and when I spoke to him I realized he knew nothing about me or my work, had never seen any of it or was even aware of it. Despite this he was very aggressive and confrontational and I decided to ask him a few questions of my own. I asked him, "you don't mind taking young children into a building with a dead man hanging on the wall"? "You don't mind telling children they are sinners and if they don't do what they are told they will burn in hell"? I'm amazed that after playing these morbid psychological games with these children we don't have more psychopaths in the world. There will come a time when this will be looked upon as child abuse.

Oh and there's the historic child molestation problem that neither the the Pope, clergy or Jesus wants to deal with. And catholics don't seen to want to deal with it either. Imagine if they all stayed away from church how fast this problem would be dealt with. But they are someones elses children. Usually from poor and broken families, so fuck them eh!

For some people the moral high-road is the road less travelled!


Friday, January 18, 2019

Hopedale Harry

I can't say I knew Harry well or even knew him at all. We only had one meeting back in January 2015 when I came across him downtown. I had been out doing my street portraits and as he approached I knew I had to ask him if I could take his portrait; such character in that face and such an amazing smile. I took several portraits of him and our meeting lasted only a few minutes. I offered to give him a small print as I usually do but he declined. I think he refused because he thought he might be putting me out. Such a kind and gentle fellow he was!

Like I said I hardly knew him so I will let others use their voice...

"We were looking for him Christmas this year, but didn't see him. We would bring him soup and Coffee (large with 4 cream and 6 sugar!!) He looked for the bread in the bag so he could feed the pigeons. He told us the names of those birds and he had a favourite one too. We always called him Hopedale Harry. Sweet gentle man. RIP Hopedale Harry xo" - Kim Kelly

"Many many moons ago my grandparents found this young boy outside their shop. They took this boy in and raised him as one of their own. His name was Harry. Harry was my grandfathers sidekick, my other cousin, and a very familiar face downtown. His smile will be greatly missed but I’m sure Pop is happy to see it again". - Miranda Squires

Hopedale Harry by Brian Carey

"I always spoke to him at Tim Hortons on Harvey Rd. He was always smiling and always stopped in there for his coffee, even the staff there knew him well. He will be sadly missed". - Jennifer Gail Peddle

"I knew Harry as a patient for many years. Never was there a less demanding, more pleasant man. He was always working at something. His life with the Squires was so happy and he truly belonged. He never looked any different over the years so it’s a shock to learn he’s gone from us. I hope his last years were happy and knowing the Squires family, I suspect they were. RIP.....a true gent" - Dr Steve Walker .

"my oh my...i remember many years ago Harry and another fellow made the news. There was a purse snatching from an old lady. Harry and the other fellow chased the guy down and got the ladies purse back...i could be mistaken but i think they held the bad guy until police got there". - Mary Taylor

Hopedale Harry by Brian Carey

"What Mike and Bel did for this man is indescribable. He was their son.Certainly treated as such.To all the SQUIRES family especially Ms.Isabel .I send thoughts ,prayers and much love.Your family has shown that it isn't always blood,but certainly is kindness, patience and love that is family. Rest peacefully Harry.God Bless.Deb XOXO" - Deborah Tapper

"Harry was always considered to be all of the Squires’s oldest cousin.  As I said, I knew Harry over 35 years. It is unbelievable how many hearts Harry touched.  You shared the picture you took of Harry a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve been following your photos on Facebook. You are doing an awesome job.  Take Care"! - Alison MacKenzie

"It was the first business day after New Year's and I was at the bottle depot. Bad idea because it was so busy on account of the holidays and Harry was in line ahead of me. His demeanor and sense of humor about everything was so pleasant that I found myself just watching him the whole time and not even worrying about getting out of the noisy smelly place. Here I am calling myself an "entertainer" and this guy does it without even trying! May he rest in peace". - Gary Mills

RIP Harry.

You can see more of my street portraits on my Chasing the Light Fantastic website.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Sister Golden Hair Surprise

When I started doing my street photography downtown St John's 11 years ago not surprisingly I had some idea of what I was and wasn't going to do. One of the things I wasn't going to do was take portraits of young women. The point was that every photographer in the world takes photos of young women, I have too. That's where the beauty is after all, isn't it? Also there was the creep factor. As an older man I didn't want to ask a strange young women for fear they might take it wrong and feel frightened or threatened. But it was mostly that I wanted my focus to be different. And besides I'm bored and tired of the same old stuff over and over again! To put it rather politely I was going for character.

But one day that all changed...

I was downtown casually strolling around and every now and again I would stop, perhaps leaning up against a building resting and along came a young woman. She looked removed, you might say troubled and unhappy. As she came my way I fumbled with my camera a bit (I do this so people will see the camera and maybe get an idea what I'm up to) and as she approached I asked her: "excuse me I'm doing some street photography would you mind if I take your portrait"? By the time we finished our little session which lasted just 2 or 3 minutes she was lit up like a christmas tree.

Showing a little interest in someone; giving them a minute of your time can mean a lot to some people. Seeing this transformation meant a lot to me too. This little meeting made us both feel better and it made us both smile.  I've photographed many dozens of young women downtown since then. I'm always cautious about it but as you can see from the photos here they enjoyed it very much. And I did too!

Thanks for stopping by and please let me know what you think.

You can see the portraits of these young women and many more people on my Chasing the Light Fantastic website.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Loan Sharks and Vape Shops

An odd title for a post which was drawn from the disappointment of my favorite bookstore closing recently. In the last 20 years or so we have seen many of these payday loan type shops set up here offering criminal interest rates to the desperate! The rich get richer and the poor get beaten down even further than when they came in the door. Those that can't afford it the most pay the highest premiums, that's how the system works. We recently had one of our photography stores, Henry's Photo and Video, close down and the location is now housing a vapor shop! I can tell you more but don't get me started.


Over the last 30 years I bought hundreds of books from this store but I feel that I could have done more. There were times when I dropped by and didn't buy anything because I was out walking, taking photos and didn't want to be carrying books around with me knowing I'd be back. This is a personal loss as well as a blow to our community. Fewer used book stores means we are faced with the likes of $30 soft-cover books at Chapters, Coles or Amazon which means fewer people will read. But perhaps most biting is losing what had become the unofficial literary center of St John's. A place you could go to find the works of Orwell, Sagan, Joyce and many of the great literary giants and thinkers and you wouldn't have to empty your wallet to enter their world! Or you could visit and enjoy a poetry reading. When the provincial government was looking at closing libraries and taxing books David and the crew at Afterwords stood behind education and a more vibrant and dynamic society!

And all of this is going on while the Business of Superstition flourish with tax breaks! Sad times.

With the people of Newfoundland and Labrador already overburdened with taxes and high prices we have the hydro development at Muskrat Falls looming in the shadows with electricity rates expected to double (some say we will be paying more than that). These sad times are our own doing.. Only education and a sense of community can save us.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Art of Smoking

I hate smoking. I did it for maybe 10 years from about the ages of 18 to 28 smoking a pack of 20 fags a day and when I got on the beer I'd put away 2 packs. I remember the day I decided to give them up. The wheezing, the breathing through my teeth. I was often short of breath. Here I was in a 28 year old body (looking something like a Newfie Jim Morrison) which I had beaten up somewhat over the years but I was in still in great shape despite the abuse. Breathing like this made me think "what the fuck am I doing to myself". There was also an added incentive. I couldn't help thinking of some psychopath sat in his big fancy office getting rich knowingly poisoning  people! What kind of people would do that?

The Art of Smoking
The Art of Smoking
I guess you can say smoking used to be more of an art than it is now. It's hard to believe there used to be a time when marketers used to sell smoking as glamorous and healthy. Hope we are a lot smarter now.

Yours truly in his mid twenties.

For more black and white as well as color portraiture please click here to visit our Chasing the Light Fantastic photo galleries. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Passing of the Storm

I’ve been photographing Norman for the last 5 years or so when I head downtown doing some street photography trying to capture the character and color of the area.

Norm was one of my favorites. He was always animated in front of the camera and enjoyed the experience very much! He always had a story to tell and I remember many a time when I passed by with an appointment to make I had to drag myself away because I couldn’t get a word in. He loved to yak!

It’s amazing how a man who had so many problems in his life could be trying to be funny or entertaining. Maybe I could put it this way he often seemed “light in life”! Maybe it was a mask, I don’t know! His love of alcohol was a driving force in his life! I've had those problems too. Not to his extent because I slayed the beast but maybe that connection in some respects is why I really liked this guy, I understood him! I think most of us would call it an addiction but I think he might call it a lifestyle choice!

Yesterday I dropped of a portrait of Norm to Mackenzie at FogTown Barber & Shop. The people at the shop have been very good to him over the years and he frequented there often. The portrait was one my favorites. It was the one of him with a number 4 tied to the front of his baseball cap! Mackenzie told me he had taken the number 4 from the front of the building and tied it to his hat. We all had a great chuckle!

Even in passing Norm the Storm is still making us laugh!

Monday, May 8, 2017


I "sees" Wayne downtown all the time. He's usually on his way somewhere minding his own business. The first time I met him four years ago, I had to ask him if I could take his photo; he has a great face for a portrait and such intense eyes!

PAIN by Brian Carey

Wayne by Brian Carey

I photographed him 5 or 6 times now and each time we meet we always have a great chat. I gave him copies of two of the photos so he can have the memories! Seems like he's one of those guys, if you give him a chance you will find he is the nicest kind of fella!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Remembering Donnie

I've only gotten to know Donny Dunne over the last few years since I first approached him downtown and asked to take his portrait. I'd seen him around before but never had any contact with him until then. Of the one thousand or so people I've photographed downtown he was one of my favorites but it didn't start out that way. I was hesitant at first to ask him and as you can tell by the first portrait I took of him he wasn't sure what to think of it either!. After our first "photo session" he would light right up whenever he seen me coming along with my camera. I used to watch for his reaction as I approached, it used to make me laugh! We both had fun doing this!

My first portrait of Donnie
I began to go downtown to photograph people 8 years ago and the reasons for doing so did change over the years but one thing I wanted to do was to take a "nice" portrait of the regulars. I wanted to take portraits they would be proud of and in most cases I gave them copies, I believe I gave Donnie 3.

I've been reading some comments on social media, one person called him a "misunderstood soul", I think that puts him in some perspective. I've asked some of the people who's comments I read if I can use them here and here they are ...

Sylvia Louise Locke:
"Being a mom of two young girls I always told them to never talk to strangers but one day after getting on the bus to Da Pearl Lord and Behold who did I talk to but Donnie. My youngest daughter asked Mom why are you talking to that man? Do you know him? My answer was oh yes, everyone knows Donnie Dunne. So as my daughters grew up they would meet Donnie around and always say hello to him. Yesterday I got a message from my oldest daughter telling me that Donnie Dunne had passed. Yes he was a very kind soul and he never ever passed me without a chat as well. RIP Donnie thank you for being a friend". 

Chris and Donnie

Tony Hann: 
"I remember Donnie from my time managing a record store at Sobey's Square. Donnie was a fixture there and always dropping by for a chat. When I left every time I saw him he would stop and chat. Quite the character for sure. RIP are a good old soul". :-(

Vicki Stapleton: 
"I bet he had no idea how highly ppl thought of him...the last time I seen him which was last week, he told me how much he missed me over Christmas it's my turn to miss seeing him at dooleys and buying him a tea or Pepsi  :) gonna miss you buddy rest in peace"!

Mark Gruchy:
"This is so sad.
The first time I met Donnie, I was a kid around 8 years old playing video games at the old games arcade in Sobey's Square. That was 30 years ago.
I heard a voice, looked to my left, and saw a grown man very engrossed in my game. He spoke to me just like my friends would.
I didn't know what to think. I thought I was being confronted with "the stranger" my parents always warned me about. :) But... I wasn't. I realized quickly he was for real. He was just being himself. That was who Donnie was.
For years I would see Donnie at that games arcade. He would always be the same. Years passed. I got older. Then we hit the phase where Donnie was looking after the cafeteria in Sobey's Square. I recall one night, when I was very depressed and chain smoking away. I had walked out of a movie because I was having an anxiety attack. I felt absolutely and utterly horrible. I was a far cry from who I was when I was 8.
Donnie chased off some kids who were causing some trouble... I recall them hitting a light... and then apologized to me for my enjoyment of the cafeteria being interfered with. I was the only person there... except now I was an "adult" and Donnie was trying to be respectful to me for some reason after all those years of watching me play video games. I didn't even really notice those kids. Yet... he was so concerned I enjoy the cafeteria. He was very serious about it.
He never forgot me for some reason. Every time I would see him or pass him wherever he was he would speak to me as if he knew me all to pieces. Just quickly and in passing. I would pass him in the mall and he would look at me as I passed and say how's it going or something like that. It happened time after time. He always picked me out of a crowd and acknowledged me... after first meeting me as a small child. He looked at me exactly the same way.
I started to gauge my own age by Donnie's. I noticed how he was getting older every time I saw him. Inevitably, I would end up looking in a mirror at some point later and realize I was getting older.
I truly believe this man sincerely meant no harm and simply tried his best to be a part of his community. He did it very well. To sincerely mean no harm is about as high a praise I can give to anyone. It's near as good as we can be.
I remain amazed and touched he never forgot who I was. There must have been something he noticed when I was a kid talking to him about video games. It is so far away now I do not even remember what it could have been. I remember talking to him just like I would anyone playing games. I more or less thought of him as another kid in the arcade.
But he never forgot me. He knew me somehow after all that time.
I don't even know if he knew my name. I knew his.
Rest in Peace Donnie".

Lynda Meades:
"Donnie was a gentle giant. He hung out a lot at the Marie's Mini Mart on the intersection of Park Avenue and Topsail Road. I can guarantee you that if Donnie Dunne was there, no skeet would try an rob it".

From Tina Dunne (his niece):
"...Donnie always lived with his mom Elizabeth until he got a taste of being on his own. His mom was the most important person in his life as his dad passed when Donnie was just a boy himself. His mom never had to lift a finger to clean or cook Donnie looked after her very well. He would wash the floors for her ... he was a good hearted man with a lot of love for his family. He didn't expect nothing in return he was happy to help anyone he could help."

Donnie had the greatest smile. It was honest, warm and sincere. In the short time I knew him he warmed up to me and that smile seemed to get bigger and bigger. In the spring of 2014 I had to write a blog post about it. In the last few days I've noticed from being in touch with some of his family and friends he did have a lot of people who thought very highly of him!  

This Friday evening (Jan 20, 2017) at Dooly's, 354 Water St,  there will be a fundraiser to help pay for Donnies funeral expenses. It will consist of a 50/50 draw, a donation box and there will be a draw on a print I've donated. Any additional proceeds will be donated to the Wiseman Centre where Donny spent his last days!

RIP Donnie!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

We often think of great photographs being taken at the decisive moment. That moment in time when something unique or important happens. However  sometimes an iconic image can be taken after the fact. Sometimes what's not there is also important as it lends to the imagination. Such is the case for "The Valley of the Shadow of Death"!

"The Valley of the Shadow of Death" is a photograph taken by Roger Fenton in 1855 during the Crimean War. It's a photo you have to take a good look at to understand and appreciate! 

It is taken after a battle in a gully littered with cannon balls. No bodies, no dead soldiers or animals, just cannon balls. One can only imaging the horror the soldiers must have felt as these canon balls rained down on them!

"The Valley of the Shadow of Death" has been included in Time Magazines Top 100 photos the most influential images of all time.