Over the course of my photo career I have had the good fortune to meet many incredible people. These folks range from the salt-of-the-earth Newfoundland fishers, to famous personalities with celebrity, to fellow photographers who have achieved greatness in their careers.
Today I have just completed writing the draft for a future article in Photo Life profiling the career of one of Canada’s greatest photographers, Douglas Kirkland. I have the good fortune of having met Douglas and his delightfully charming wife, Françoise. In fact, one of the most memorable and utterly enjoyable moments of my life was spending time with them on a personal level. They are, without doubt, two of the most genuine, personable and passionate people I have ever met. They have every reason to carry an ego, but that luggage cart is empty.
In reading and researching for the Photo Life article, I came across this most interesting quote from Douglas. The background is Douglas offering his opinion on what it takes to connect with the person being photographed. He says, “You have to be really interested in them. You have to really care about them. If something looks good in the camera, they have to know that. They have to feel your excitement, because that is what photography is about.”
This got me thinking about some of my most enjoyable shoots. Typically I have my most fun and get my best shots—in my mind—when I am in my comfort zone. That, in and of itself, should not be surprising. However, in retrospect, and upon reflection, I can state categorically that my best shots all come with a story. The story is not about the technique or equipment, but about the circumstances around the individual I have been photographing.
More often than not I would have been in Newfoundland—the place I feel most at home. Despite some of the images having been made 15, 20 and approaching 25 years ago, I still recall the names, places and times.
Mr. Cooper, from Trinity Bay, saying, “I’m retired now, you knows, but I still gets up at a quarter-to-four to see what the day will bring.”
Or maybe it was Mr. Day, in Harbour Breton, in the middle of the afternoon getting up from his trawl tubs and saying, “Well, boys, oh boys, oh boys. She’s all done now.” I was chatting and taking a few shots of Mr. Day on that now infamous day, July 2, 1992, when the Canadian government imposed a moratorium on the Northern cod fishery and instantly put 30,000 people out of work and collapsed the cultural fabric of coastal Newfoundland and Labrador.
I hadn’t really thought about it before, but as Douglas Kirkland was saying, you really have to care. You have to be genuinely interested. Only then can the results follow.
I also believe our best and lasting images are recorded in our mind’s eye, only the time and place are recorded by cameras. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we could just slow down and learn a little more about each other before we record that moment for perpetuity?