Thursday, October 30, 2014

Who are they?

THE MOST PROFOUND THING I EVER HEARD ANOTHER PHOTOGRAPHER SAY was Duane Michals, in the introduction to his collection of portraits: "There is no such thing as a bad celebrity portrait." It was proved to me again and again when I showed my portfolio to photo editors and art directors, who slowed when leafing past the pages featuring someone currently high on the celebrity index; they were usually the only photos I was ever asked to talk about.

By that simple measure I had might as well throw away two-thirds of my negatives and contact sheets. As a working photographer in a provincial city, working for dailies and newsweeklies and music magazines, I shot countless subjects who were either utterly obscure - regular people briefly put in the spotlight of a news cycle - or who worked in a business that gave them a flash of celebrity in at least a local context.

And so I have thousands of photos of actors and activists, theatre directors, chefs, wait staff, restaurant owners, politicians, lawyers, businesspeople, dancers and musicians - more of the last, probably, than anyone else. You have probably never have heard of them; many have since moved on to other, more obscure work. Some are dead.

Some time in the mid-'90s I stopped writing down names or dates on the sheets I used to store negatives in their binders. It might have been laziness, or simply a realization that it didn't matter much, as I rarely returned to most of these rolls of film to print them again after the assignment was handed in and the cheque cashed. The result is that, thanks to my lack of effort then and my lack of memory now, I have no idea who I photographed in at least half of the work behind my analog wall.

At the end of each month I'm going to pull out a shoot and feature a scan of one of these obscurities, provided the photo looks halfway interesting on the contact sheet or squinted at through my desk light. If someone recognizes themselves or someone they know, by all means leave a comment below.

Probably shot either in the fall of 1994 or the spring of 1995. I recognize the sculpture in the background as High Park. It's a band, perhaps one plying the gothic genre this city has always enjoyed. I don't want to be sexist and presume that she's the singer, but it's a fair bet.

The rest of the band were photographed singly or in pairs, with this desolate tree in the background; I was fond of creating diptychs and triptychs around this time - Catholic religious art making its influence known - and thankfully my editor at NOW was always able to carve out space on the page to run them.

There are raindrops on her coat. One of the band members is carrying an umbrella. I have fond memories of High Park as a child; I always enjoy shooting there.

The steel pyramid sculptures in the background aren't there any more; they've been restored by the artist and moved to another part of the city. There's nothing special about this photo.

No comments:

Post a Comment