By Mika Rekai - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
Climbers defy gravity to capture heavenly perspectives and stomach-turning drops
Tom Ryaboi has always been a fan of heights. One night, when he was a young child, his father came home from work and found him sitting on top of the refrigerator, taking in the kitchen from a new angle. Ryaboi’s appetite for height has only grown. At 23, he began sneaking into construction sites and taking photographs from the rooftops and ledges of Toronto’s highest skyscrapers. Climbing up cranes, evading security guards and risking the occasional trespassing ticket, Ryaboi has captured heavenly perspectives and stomach-turning drops rarely seen by anyone. And in his five years of gravity-defying work, he has helped to turn “rooftopping” into a global photography trend. “I like that everyone is making it their own,” he says. “The kids in Russia, in Melbourne, they all do something a little bit different.”
These days, building owners are happy to have the photographer immortalize the view from their rooftops. “Ironically, some of the buildings that I entered on my own have now invited me back to shoot again,” he says.
Although Ryaboi has taken his talents to a number of cities, including Chicago, Detroit and Montreal, he says Toronto is still his favourite muse. “Toronto has more buildings under construction than all of the States combined,” he explains. “Going up an unfinished building, looking for that shot . . . it’s a rush.”
By Jane MacDougall - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 3:30 PM - 0 Comments
Behind the acerbic television persona resides the sensibilities of the artist
You know Kevin O’Leary, right? He’s the gelid-hearted executioner on CBC’s Dragon’s Den and ABC’s Shark Tank. On The Lang and O’Leary Exchange, CBC’s daily business show, he displays the nuance and subtlety of bleach. His brand of blunt financial counsel has earned him both an audience and a reputation. This month he floats more of his typically mordant advice in Cold Hard Truth: Men, Women and Money—a primer on how to stay solvent, and thereby, he says, happy. But there is another Kevin O’Leary. Behind his acerbic television persona resides the tender sensibilities of the artist. Every thorn has its rose.
Much in O’Leary’s life conspired to lead him to his true passion in life: photography. His early years taught him his watchful eye. As a child he witnessed his beloved mother stagger under the emotional and financial problems of a broken marriage. Life improved, but grew complicated when his mom married an economist with the UN’s International Labour Organization. He was installed and removed from an array of exotic locations as he moved with his parents from various UN postings. Constant relocation defined him as an outsider, an observer. Dyslexia confounded him and he relied increasingly on images.
In 1970, as a student at Nepean High School in Ottawa, O’Leary bought himself a camera, a Soviet Zenit-E, and joined the photography club, becoming instantly captivated by the alchemy of the darkroom. He still has the photos he developed himself from that first roll of film and says that he couldn’t do any better today. Continue…
By Ryan Mallough - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 10:36 AM - 0 Comments
Stunning pictures offer glimpse of frozen cave below the Alberta-B.C. border
The Booming Ice Chasm, named for its ringing echoes, was first explored back in 2008, by a team from the Alberta Speleological Society led by Chas Yonge. Yonge stumbled on the chasm’s entrance, near Crow’s Nest Pass on the southern end of the Alberta-British Columbia border, by accident while en route to an established cave. In July, Vancouver-based photographer Francois-Xavier De Ruydts joined the only expedition to explore, survey and photograph a new passage there.
“I have never seen anything like it before,” says De Ruydts. “The ground is made up of hard, blue and very thick ice that forms a slide straight to the bottom of the cave.”
“Being in such a place is indescribable,” adds the 31-year-old. “The ice on the ground is so transparent. You feel like you’re flying.”
De Ruydts’ pictures will help explorers further understand the caves. “The headlamps used by cavers aren’t powerful enough to get a good view of the cave,” says De Ruydts, who brought portable lights for the shoot. “The photos allowed us to get a real sense of the size of the room for the first time.” Continue…
By Sara Angel - Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 7:50 PM - 0 Comments
How did the most important international collection of documentary photography end up at a new museum in Toronto?
In 2003, the Toronto-based photography dealer Stephen Bulger was hired for a dream assignment. An anonymous client (who requested Bulger sign a confidentiality agreement) asked him to appraise the Black Star archive. Possessing one of the world’s most important and comprehensive accumulations of 20th-century documentary photography, the Black Star photo agency was founded in New York City by three German Jewish intellectuals who fled Nazi Germany. With 292,000 prints, created by more than 6,000 photographers, Black Star is still in business today but had put its historic archive on the market.
Bulger describes the job as “mind-blowing.” Not only did it involve studying photographs by such masters as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Bill Brandt, it was a review of history itself. The collection includes pictures of every internationally newsworthy moment from the 1930s to the 1980s. It was exhilarating to appraise the images as photographic artifacts, says Bulger, after having seen so many of them in books, magazines, or newspapers.
When Kurt Safranski, Kurt Kornfeld and Ernest Meyer established Black Star in 1935, they did so with a sophisticated understanding of photojournalism not yet present in America. German newspapers and magazines had been in the vanguard of editorial communications and design ever since the first mass-marketed hand-held camera, the Leica, invented by a German optical engineer, hit the market in the 1920s. Not bound by heavy tripods and cumbersome apparatus, the camera used easy-to-load 35mm film. Photographers embraced it to capture images spontaneously and in quick succession, an aesthetic soon represented in the European illustrated press, where stories were told through pictures.
By Jane Switzer - Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 3:55 PM - 0 Comments
A natural musician and a wise soul, even as a boy, for much of his life he’d drifted. then he found photography.
John Robert Matthew MacIntyre, the son of Ingrid, a homemaker, and Robert, an RCMP officer, was born in Winnipeg on Dec. 18, 1984. Robert’s career took the close-knit family across Canada, from Ontario to Alberta, Nova Scotia, then finally back to Manitoba. Matt, as he was known, was wise beyond his years; his sister Tracey jokingly called him her “big” brother, though she was eight years his senior. “He always had really good advice,” she says. “He was always calm.”
Matt’s parents encouraged his artistic interests, but were caught off-guard by how quickly their son mastered the guitar and saxophone without any formal instruction. “I’ve been playing guitar for 40 years,” Robert says. “In four years, he left me in the dust.” Matt’s musical skills could reduce his dad to tears. “I got a promotion one time, and when I came home he played Hail to the Chief on his saxophone,” one of many songs Matt learned by ear, Robert recalls.
When Matt was 14, the MacIntyres, after years on the move, settled for good in Stonewall, a small town north of Winnipeg. There, Matt met Ben Shedden, and formed a lifelong bond over marathon video-game sessions in Matt’s room. Later, they would buy slushies and cruise around town in Ben’s beefy muscle car, a 1970 Pontiac they called “the Chief,” listening to tunes and talking about life.
By Andrew Tolson - Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 4:07 PM - 0 Comments
Terry Jones, one of the comedic geniuses behind the legendary Monty Python, was at TIFF to talk about his involvement in Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. So, what do you do when you have one minute for a photo shoot?
When it’s Terry Jones, you ask him to act natural …
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 2:50 PM - 0 Comments
It was in India, in 2003, that the idea came to Andrew Blackwell. He was invited to visit Kanpur, an industrial city of three million that finds no place in any popular guidebook. But it had received—from its own government—the title of India’s Most Polluted City, a designation that required, as Blackwell notes in an interview, overcoming “some fierce competition.” What he found there was an environmental movement “that feels more like a civil rights struggle, where activists focused on their kids’ everyday experiences and economic future, rather than the moral stance for pristine nature we take in the West.” And Blackwell realized too, as he watched Hindu pilgrims immersing themselves in the Ganges river in that city and “collecting holy, chromium-laced water, all without another tourist in sight,” that the world must be littered with “unvisited but fascinating places.”
Nine years later, the 40-year-old American journalist has been to more than a few of those places, and describes his experiences in Visit Sunny Chernobyl. His seven destinations range from that Ukrainian city, which a 1986 nuclear catastrophe rendered the iconic site of human environmental overreach, to the computer-recycling hot spot of Guiyu, China, where he tried (and failed) to keep up with a cigarette-smoking, eight-year-old motherboard stripper. Most uncomfortably for Canadians, who will wince at seeing a hunk of Alberta included in what one reviewer of Sunny Chernobyl casually summed up as seven global “toxic spots,” Blackwell also went to Fort McMurray. (The other sites are Delhi, India; Port Arthur, Texas; the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; and Amazonia.)
Blackwell has lived in the U.S. since he was two, but he was born in Calgary, the son of a Canadian mother and an American father. He headed to Alberta partly as a homecoming, and partly, he adds amiably, because “Americans don’t expect this kind of environmental destruction in Canada.” But mostly he went because he can’t think of a better locus for what he calls the “paradox” of our lives, the one shared by everyone who both benefits from industrial civilization and cares about the environment. If there wasn’t a collective worldwide lust for what Syncrude and Suncor provide, Fort McMurray wouldn’t have carbon emissions twice the size of Los Angeles’s, a city 100 times larger.
By Andrew Tolson - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 8:15 AM - 0 Comments
When Joseph Boyden said he was heading up to the Arctic basin to write a story for us, I was anxious to join him and photograph that part of the country. When he said the Tragically Hip were coming along too, I had visions of the legendary rock band playing on an ice floe while polar bears nipped at their guitar cords. As it turns out, the Hip and Boyden were in Fort Albany, Ontario to attend The Great Moon Gathering, an annual conference that brings together teachers from all of the eight Omushkego Education Authorities and surrounding communities.
By Andrew Tolson - Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 4:09 PM - 3 Comments
When it came to photographing Jake Richler’s story on cooking with different flours, the obvious choice was to shoot at the Arva Flour Mills, in Arva, Ontario, Canada’s oldest water powered flour mill. The mill is a museum piece of belt-driven grinders and wooden shutes, and the building shakes under the perpetual earthquake of the century old machinery. Despite using high quality digital cameras for the majority of photographs that run in the magazine, this location called for a more lo-fi approach to the visuals. I’ve been in love with the Hipstamatic app for the iPhone since it came out last year, which renders the photos with a nostalgic sometimes washed out and grainy look. The irony is not lost on me that despite using some of the world’s finest photographic technology, sometimes crappy snapshots are the best way to tell a story.
By Jody White - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 9:02 AM - 6 Comments
You’d hardly know it, but George Hunter’s work is everywhere
Wandering through George Hunter’s Mississauga, Ont., studio, one gets the distinct impression of flipping through Canada’s scrapbook. Portraits of smiling Inuit huddling in igloos, steely-eyed miners, and fleet-footed draveurs prying open log jams adorn every inch of available wall space. Anyone who grew up in Canada in the 70s and 80s has probably seen at least one George Hunter photograph. His images have appeared on currency, stamps and in textbooks and galleries across the country.
Photographers get a raw deal in Canada, where they’re just barely more famous than poets. Apart from the late Karsh brothers or Ed Burtynsky (of Manufactured Landscapes fame), the average Canadian would have a hard time naming a top photographer. Despite his extensive body of work, Hunter is as inconspicuous as they come. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 6 Comments
A new documentary trails the elusive New York Times photog Bill Cunningham
For institutions so wedded to fact, newspapers are rooted in fantasy, in the enduring romance of the obsessed reporter who finds his stories in the street and lives for the chase. And in all of journalism it would be hard to find a nobler paragon of that myth than New York Times veteran Bill Cunningham. He’s the original street fashion photographer, the inspiration for hip imitators like The Sartorialist. For decades, he has been riding a bicycle through Manhattan, capturing fashion in the wild for his weekly column in the paper’s Sunday Styles section, “On the Street.” Snapping pedestrians, often unawares, he tracks fashion trends with a keen eye, crafting what amounts to an ongoing collage of cultural anthropology. At night, he changes out of his eccentric uniform—the blue smock worn by Paris sanitation workers—puts on a suit, and heads out to photograph charity soirees for his social column, “Evening Hours.”
Now 82, and still working round the clock, Cunningham is a legend at the Times. A stubborn holdout in the digital age, he still spools 35-mm film into his camera. He has no phone, no computer, and spent 60 years living in an artist’s apartment in Carnegie Hall with a shared bathroom down the corridor. Notoriously shy, he shuns the limelight. But he has finally allowed the lens to be turned on himself, and the result is an enthralling documentary: Bill Cunningham New York.
Director Richard Press took a decade to make the film, but spent the first eight years just trying to persuade his subject to co-operate. As a freelance graphic designer, he met Cunningham at the Times while designing one of his columns. Press then teamed up with producer Philip Gefter, who spent 15 years as picture editor at the Times, and they proposed a film. “He just laughed,” Press told Maclean’s. “He thought it was the most ridiculous thing imaginable. Bill is profoundly modest. He doesn’t think he’d be of any interest to anybody. Even his work, though he takes it very seriously, he doesn’t see it as significant. He sees himself as a reporter.”
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 1:20 PM - 5 Comments
With his eye trained on his little world, James Bradshaw brings the Yukon to life
James Kennedy Bradshaw was born in the English fishing village of Polperro, Cornwall, around the turn of the last century. When he died in 1981 in Mayo, a Yukon mining hub 400 km north of Whitehorse, he was penniless, without family, destined for oblivion. Except that Bradshaw, who left school at 13 and worked for 30 years as a mechanic and electrician along the Yukon’s fabled Silver Trail, had left behind a lifetime of photographs whose haunting beauty catapults him beyond the realm of hobbyist.
In the 60 or so prints that went on show in Whitehorse late last year (part of a charity auction to benefit the Ted Harrison Artist Retreat Society), Dawson City, Elsa, Keno City and Mayo emerge with all the richness of Manawaka, Lake Wobegon or Winesburg, the fictional outposts that Margaret Laurence, Garrison Keillor and Sherwood Anderson created to anchor their human dramas. Here it’s all real. With Bradshaw’s documentary eye trained on his subarctic world from behind a prized Leica 35 mm, loaded with colour-saturated Kodachrome slide film, the Yukon becomes his perfect muse. “What’s interesting about his photographs is the depth and quality of his description of everyday life,” says Vancouver-based photo artist Roy Arden, who has written about Bradshaw’s work, comparing it to the work of Eugene Atget, a so-called “amateur” photographer who documented fin-de-siècle Paris. “Bradshaw’s got a narrative, almost novelistic approach to his subjects.”
The shots reward the expectations of southerners, then tweak them. A man in muddy coveralls dons a spotless fedora. Miners gathered in a beer hall in conspiratorial bunches cast tough but wary glances at the camera. “He was always taking pictures,” says Laura Crowther, Bradshaw’s neighbour in the town of Elsa in the late 1960s. “When the guys from the shop had their Christmas party, he was taking pictures. You know how guys get together and argue over work, those kinds of scenes? Ken was always laughing, as though he’d caught somebody in the act, pointing a finger in somebody’s face.” The shots are just as often tender. A woman in a floral-patterened dress leans into the telephone as though into a man’s shoulder, rare Arctic oranges on the table behind her. Or the two children amid tar-paper shacks hanging from a fire-engine-red tricycle.
By Andrew Tolson - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 3:05 PM - 3 Comments
From dejection to jubilation, and crazy fans to Sidney Crosby’s fairy tale finale
An outstanding Olympics for photography. Here are my choices for the best images from the Games, from dejection to jubilation, and crazy fans to Sidney Crosby’s fairy tale finale.
For more amazing photography, pick up Maclean’s special commemorative issue on newsstands this week.
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 12:11 PM - 23 Comments
Among the most convincing “What will 2009 be remembered for?” ideas I’ve seen is Jason Kottke’s notion that this is the year we heard the death knell of traditional still photography. Esquire magazine broke new ground in May by capturing a high-definition cover image of Megan Fox without using a still camera at all: instead of having her cavort en maillot while a photographer activated a motor drive a couple thousand times, they shot the whole sequence with a high-definition video camera and selected the most appealing compositions from the resulting footage. When you imagine the editing process, you realize that there’s no clear qualitative distinction between taking two frames a second and taking 24. We’ve stepped forward into a world where “video” is capable of image quality as good as “still photography” was just a few years ago—allowing photographers to capture the crucial moment at leisure, after the shoot, instead of with their fingers in real time.
Of course, saying it “allows” them to do things a certain way doesn’t mean they’ll like it, because it “allows” everyone else to do it that way too. Ask a newspaper columnist how he much has enjoyed having his medium demoticized; it drives down the price something awful. The new “moving photography”, as it becomes available to the consumer, will be seen to de-privilege the mystical gift of perfect timing that was once perceived to distinguish a Cartier-Bresson or a Winogrand from the herd. (Though that argument becomes hard to sustain when you find out just how many exposures Winogrand, for one, took–more than he had time to scrutinize editorially, and maybe more than anyone ever will have time for. It seems likely that he regarded the shutter of his Leica as a mechanical impediment he would have been happy to see superseded.)
In short, cheap hi-def video seems poised to make editorial judgment (and being in the right place at the right time) scarce relative to content-generation, which is exactly what the web did to nonfiction writers. On the other hand, cameras aren’t totally Moorean. The price of chips and memory will continue to approach zero; glass, not so much.