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.