As a Fine art photographer, I always strive to capture the unusual. Sometimes, the unusual aspect of a composition is hidden in plain sight – such as my recent photographs of beaches and the Toronto Harbourfront covered by the invasion of this year’s excessively bleak winter.
Other times, the unusual quality of an art print is not so readily apparent, and such prints conceal stories beneath what you can see, or display something familiar in a way that people who are accustomed to the subject of the shot will look at and be surprised to see it displayed in a way that’s unfamiliar to them.
This is one of my reasons for composing this art photograph of Baldwin Street in Kensington Market, here in Toronto. There seems to be such a sense of bleakness about this shot – it being in monochrome helps that, of course. Everywhere you look you seem to see gloom and emptiness – the lone figure on the right walking towards you; what appears to be a broken neon sign in the top right-hand corner, the sign on the left announcing “No Entry”. Even what you can see of the sky is just a big grey cloud bearing down on you.
The most delicious aspect of this art composition is the story behind it – and it’s a story that will only be readily apparent to those who are familiar with Baldwin Street, as the street is usually one that is extremely busy. I was out early one Sunday morning when I found myself walking down Baldwin Street with almost no one else around. I quickly jumped into the road (checking for cars first!), spent a few moments obtaining the correct composition, then took the picture. While my initial intention had been to wait for the guy walking towards me to pass by me (so as to get an almost empty street) while composing the shot I decided it would work better with him in it. So I was pleased I managed to capture him walking on the right as I feel it gives the shot that one tiny aspect of character that’s really important.
To illustrate the point I’m trying to make, I’ve chosen the following quotation by the American photographer Ralph Gibson:
“Even though fixed in time, a photograph evokes as much feeling as that which comes from music or dance. Whatever the mode – from the snapshot to the decisive moment to multi-media montage – the intent and purpose of photography is to render in visual terms feelings and experiences that often elude the ability of words to describe. In any case, the eyes have it, and the imagination will always soar farther than was expected.”
Words may help to create pictures, but a photograph is a picture, and most of the time a picture is much stronger than words. Sometimes though, it’s hard to capture the precise aspect of what you are trying to capture as a photographer, as both the moment and the opportunity have to be there. With words, you can create anything as you leave it to the imagination of the reader to conjure the image. I could have described Baldwin Street as an abandoned thoroughfare, but hardly anyone would be able to picture it in precise detail. This is why the photograph on this occasion surpasses any image that words could convey, and I was pleased I was there to snag the opportune moment.
This is what continues to makes photography such an exciting pastime and profession for me. There is no limit to what my camera can capture. The world is full of moments – some apparent, some quirky, some unexpected … there really are no limits, and it’s my joy to be able to share them with people who appreciate everything that even the simplest image can portray.