Though I believe that art shouldn't need to be explained to be appreciated, here are a few thoughts on topics close to my heart, otherwise found silently behind the photos and in between the lines.
I had actually spent a week in Prague back in 95 during my original European tour that changed everything. Eleven months, and 14 countries later, Prague was on a very short list of my favorite cities. Despite the short time I had been here, the nostalgia had not been lost, and the question remained 11 years later: was Prague as cool as I thought it was? I came, in many ways to find out.
When I arrived, it was really with the intention of re-inventing everything. I decided I would arrive as a beginner and leave my portfolio behind me, unlearning everything I had come with, and relearning how to approach the camera all over again.
That mentality was fundamental in developing my new style. I had to re-question everything.
Incredibly enough, even seven years later, it still feels like the honeymoon. No matter how much I've done, and whatever I may achieved, it still feels like I've just began to begin. I've lived in my fair share of cities, but there's nowhere that compares to life in Prague.
I believe that artists, in general, feel too emotionally attached to their work to be able to assign any real value to it. Somehow we've come to quantify public validation with dollars and cents, allowing our egos to determine the price tag with what is likely just wishful thinking.
To illustrate, someone may think they've created some modern day masterpiece and attempt to price it accordingly. But at the end of the day, if nobody buys it, what's it really worth?
As such, I take my cues by largely letting the public decide its market value through things like exhibitions that use silent auctions. I can't stress enough how valuable this tool can be for artists getting to know the tastes and spending habits of their closest clients.
Yes, it's scary. But I have done what I can in creating the work to the absolute best of my ability, and have to be confident enough to let it go in the same spirit it was made to complete the cycle.
As far as what people are willing to pay, like one of my favorite songwriters, Maya Solovey, says, “either I donate, or you donate”.
In time, the market value will work itself out.
Considering how much has already been done in the art world, and especially photography, achieving anything truly original becomes more and more difficult. That said, it's exciting to see how technology in particular is affecting not only the way we create art, but how we show it.
One area that I definitely have my eyes on is the evolution of LCDs, flat screens, and digital frames. It's hard not to see unprecedented opportunities in regards to “moving” pictures, and it becomes highly conceivable that an image which appears in the morning may then totally evolve into another image by the evening, though completely unperceivable to the human eye throughout the day.
I mean, how cool would it be to wake up to one piece of art, and go to sleep to another?!
Technologies and trends aside, ask me where I think I’ll be personally in 5 or 10 years, and I have learned better than to attempt an answer. Knowing me, I will have reinvented everything at least once or twice over, probably starting something new all over again.
During my formative years, guys like Alexander McQueen (RIP), John Galiano, and Steven Meisel, were deities for me. They really inspired me in so far as how they were able to so beautifully blur the lines between art and commerce. Through them, I saw fashion as one of the few viable ways in which I could do the same.
Because I never studied formally, or assisted anyone, I had the huge creative advantage of not knowing what I wasn't allowed to do.
But while my “edgy” approach got the agencies’ quick attention, from the beginning, they were naturally trying to clean up my work to make if more commercially viable.
I learned and adapted as I went, but within three years, I went from this hungry kid bent more on sexual bravado and experimentation towards a formula photographer regurgitating things that I thought would simply be accepted.
Along the way I lost the fearlessness, and enthusiasm that made me stand out from the beginning.
Meanwhile, my compass for what was good, and what was crap, often pointed in a different direction than the people hiring me.
I recall the moment I walked away. Some editor tried to pay me the compliment of recognizing my work in a magazine even before reading the credits. But instead of embracing my emerging sense of personal style, I freaked out, labeled myself as a formula photographer and vowed to start new.
It seems like a juvenile reaction now, but it’s clear I was simply due for a change.
The desire to return to fashion always stays slightly kindled due to the occasional collaboration, but at this point, it's hard to say whether I would return or not.
Collaboration is such a double-edged sword. It depends fully on finding people equally willing to take the chance of failure to produce something truly original. Truth be told, I just never really found that since leaving Toronto.
That said, I do still believe that if I were able to combine my current style within a commercially viable context of fashion, I would have something truly unique. If that return ever does happen, it will happen naturally.
Having started in the days of film, I still recall the resistance the old guard of photographers pronounced when digital started. Ironically enough, the criticisms that painters once reserved for photographers were exactly the criticisms film photographers reserved for the new digital breed.
But even then, despite my love for the darkroom, I was pretty excited about digital photography as I quickly realized that what was once an end, could then become a whole new beginning.
Once I cut my teeth digitally, there was a time when I became pretty hell-bent on pushing the limits of Photoshop and the creative opportunities it provided. Looking back, perhaps it became too much of a good thing.
People often make the wrong assumption that my current work is the result of some digital manipulation. If it was, I would have no problem saying so. But what I create in the camera simply can not be created in Photoshop, or any other program for that matter.
At this point, the biggest reason I no longer manipulate my work, is not out of some sense of "purity", but because once I open that can of worms and start playing with so many possibilities, it becomes impossible for me to know when to walk away.
Never knowing when a piece of work is truly "done" can be maddening. By accepting, or rejecting, a piece on its original merit just makes it so much easier to determine what's good and what's not.