I feel that part of my role as a photographer is to capture the unexpected. Mostly, the unexpected happens when you are least prepared (which is why it is unexpected!), so having your camera poised and ready when that perfect moment arrives can often be more a case of luck than judgement. It’s one of the reasons I always have a camera with me at all times.
It’s impractical for me to have my camera prepped and ready 24/7 however so I have to go out hunting for unexpected images, rather than simply waiting for them to happen. This is what I have hopefully captured with my art photograph of Canada’s Sugar Beach in the dead of winter – who else but a slightly insane photographer would think of heading to the beach in the middle of the coldest Toronto winter for decades?
What I really like about this shot is the colour – or rather the lack of it. The snow, sky and mist create a kind of washed out effect enhancing the pink of the umbrellas. In winter, with the light and conditions being uniquely challenging, the snow and fog with beach umbrellas usually seen in summer offer an unusual winter contrast.
It might surprise you to learn we do have several beaches here in Toronto, as Toronto is not normally a place you’d think people would go to in search of a bit of sun. We do have plenty of sunny days here and while Toronto may not be as well known for its hot summers as it is for its cold winters, it has been known to have some extremely hot summers. Indeed for three days in July, 1936 Toronto thermometers recorded balmy highs of 40.6 °C! If you’ve been following my blog or the international news you’ll know temperatures here of late have not been so tropical. Of course, sun-seekers can always don their swimsuits and head on out to Sugar Beach with the intention of turning their skin a different shade … the only problem is, that shade would be blue!
It was the American photographer Diane Arbus who said
“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”
She was famed for taking her camera to places us “normal” folk do not normally see, and photographing marginal people such as circus performers and transgendered men.
Her most famous work is oddly appealing. It is of a small, skinny-legged boy wearing a checked shirt and shorts, pictured against the background of Central Park. He has one strap hanging loosely from right shoulder and is clutching a toy hand grenade. What makes this shot so appealing is the maniacal expression he is wearing, as though he is on the verge of throwing that hand grenade at someone. The truth behind his mad face was revealed years later – he was frustrated at the time it was taking Arbus to frame the shot! The rest of the photos from the shoot show a happy, smiling child. They’re almost like family snaps. I think Arbus was so fortunate to capture this one moment of frustration perfectly and record it forever. An original print of this photograph sold for just over $400,000 in April 2005.
With “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park” you have to peruse the photograph for several moments to make sure you’ve observed everything. If you do the same to my art print of Sugar Beach, you’ll notice that the icy snap has proven too much for two of the Muskoka chairs and that they have keeled over and expired. Perhaps the forlorn-looking chairs were lovers who decided upon a tragic suicide pact. Will we ever know?