Portrait of an Artist: Sage Tyrtle

One of my photography projects this fall is to take environmental portraits of various creative people I am lucky to know. For this project I am using black and white analog film, and old cameras in order to get a more organic look for the images. The artist featured in this image is podcaster Sage Tyrtle.

Sage Tyrtle

Simply put, Sage is perhaps the most talented podcaster I know. Her podcast QN is always thought-provoking, often very funny in an ironic and sardonic kind of way, and always extremely well crafted both from a technical point of view and especially in terms of the writing involved.

Shooting this image was challenging; I used my old Nikkormat FT2 with a 24mm f2.8 Nikkor lens (one of my favourites), and Ilford XP2+ film. Technically it was a very challenging shoot, with dim lighting and very little room to work in. Also, the shutter on this 35 year old camera started sticking, ruining a number of frames. I literally got only one usable frame (the one you see above) but I was really happy with how the image turned out; I think it captured Sage’s energy and joy in doing what she loves to do.

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Telling a Story

I like street photography that hints at the stories that are hidden inside of everyone. I took this photography in Brussels this past August, in an historic part of town called Central Place. It is an amazing old square with a lot of great historic architecture, but the people who filled it gave it its vibe, and its stories. We only had one night there, but I am longing to go back.

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Window Light

It was a quiet moment on Saturday just before the opening of the Hindsight’s G20/20 exhibit; I looked up and saw this young woman (a friend of the organizers) sitting by a window, Macbook in hand. The soft light was ideal for a portrait, so out came the iPhone for a picture. I then applied an effect from the VintageScene iPhone app, not for the sake of an effect, but because it got the image closer to what I was seeing.

Catching the Window Light

Packing Heat

One of the gallery rooms at the G20/20 showOne of the rooms at the Hindsight’s G20/20 exhibit

I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but if the open mic portion of the Hindsight’s G20/20 exhibit goes ahead today, here is what I would say:

There is a town in Europe that at one time as a tourist attraction, would put on a life-size chess game once a year. The part of the chess pieces would be played by living people dressed in costumes, white or black, appropriate to the piece. The chess board was appropriately large, of course. The actual chess game however was a reenactment of a game from a few hundred years ago, so the outcome was predetermined. There would be no surprises, everyone knew what they were supposed to do, and were constrained by moves hundreds of years old.  In a sense, everyone was a pawn.

I have felt in the past that protest marches in Canada have often been like that; everyone knew their role, invisible boundaries and unwritten rules would be observed, whether by protesters or police, and at the end of protest nothing would have really changed.

The impact G20 protests are helping to change that, not because of the police brutality, or the childish actions of the so-called Black Block, but because of the overwhelming presence protesters and observers, armed with cameras and video recorders, many linked to social networks. Citizen journalists all, who turned the surveillance society back on itself, as the authorities ended up under the microscope of thousands of lenses. The police have lost the advantage of plausible deniability; it is almost impossible for them to brutalize  and then claim it never happened.

The lens is a more powerful weapon in the long run than teargas, billy clubs or bullets, whether rubber or lead. When it comes to the camera, we have the right to bear arms, and thus we need to be “packing heat” every time we step outside our homes.

I’ll finish by co-opting a slogan from the NRA: You can have my camera when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

The Ghost Bike

People used to say “the camera never lies.” Nonsense. The world is 3-D, cameras for the most part are 2-D. The world (for humans at least) is in colour, and photographs are often in black and white. I would go so far as to say that what makes a photograph special is how it differs from reality, and that the difference directly informs what the photographer is trying to say in an image.

The image below is unrealistic. It is black and white, and deliberately underexposed to bring out the white bicycle and roses, which where in fact a temporary monument to cyclists killed on Toronto streets earlier this year.  (The monument has since been removed.)  For the subject matter, the non-realism I added to the image for me captures a tragic reality, and that’s as real as it gets.

 

Bicycle Memorial, Toronto