Part One of a four-part series revisiting my favourite photos from 2010-2019.


By 2010 I had already been taking photos for six or seven years, so I mostly knew what I was doing and was producing work that I was happy with, but it was pretty scattershot. And that was fine. The second half of the previous decade was personally upending: my mother passed away, I was separated and divorced, met and married an incredible person, found a new home or two along the way, went to Australia for a little bit, and changed jobs a couple of times. So by 2010 I had regained my footing and was more solidly established.

In this 2010-2012 time period I was starting to get more ambitious with travel and projects, and had my first 'serious' film cameras after a couple of training Yashicas. This is when a lot of my current patterns and interests are starting to take shape.

We start in October 2010. I was in New York City for the first time, and spent a couple of days visiting some of the art museums. This photo was taken with my new Zeiss Ikon rangefinder and ZM 35/2 lens on XP2 film, although I was also carrying my GH1.

This photo is a moment that's lost to time: she's checking her wristwatch while he looks at a foldout map. Today both of these actions would involve less-photogenic smartphones. They're probably tourists, or even honeymooners like me, planning out the rest of their day. There's certainly a lot to do in the city.

New York City trip #2, in March 2011. This was my first long-range day trip, where I'd take a bus overnight, spend the day, and then take a bus home again. It's cheaper than a hotel, and with less time available, I use it better and see more than when I have an entire weekend.

I'd never been to Coney Island before, but I picked it as an interesting place to go in the off-season, with the thought that it might become a recurring subject. For this trip I carried my portra-loaded Hasselblad 500cm and tripod. It was a nice balance: the tripod was a nuisance on the bus, and the camera was a nuisance during the day. I never traveled with either again, but at least I still own and use the tripod.

NYC trip #3. Learning my lesson, I'm back to miniature format for my camera, and this trip set the pattern for how I'd use my time on my future day trips. The bus drops me in Manhattan very early in the morning – this was 6:30am, according to the clock on the corner, and I was walking across to Grand Central Terminal in the hopes of finding an open restaurant or cafe. (New York City does indeed sleep.) I'd stay in midtown for lunch, then take a break by riding the subway for an hour to Coney Island. I'd stay there until the light faded, then subway back to Times Square and dinner before taking the bus home.

While this photo was early in the morning, I picked this weekend in June – Saturday, June 18 – as it was close to Manhattanhenge. Innocently I wondered "…what else is happening that weekend…?" Honest.

It turns out that the weekend that I had booked bus tickets for was also the date for the Mermaid Parade, a Coney Island tradition that involves elaborate costumes that often don't involve a lot of coverage. It's an art parade, really, and about the only time a beach is photographer-friendly. I'd come back again several times over the years, including one trip with my brother, and another with my wife, who were interested to see it for themselves. But out of all of those visits, this photo from before the parade even started remains my favourite.

Between the XP2 photos in Manhattan and the Portra in Coney I shot about twelve rolls, which remains a one-day record for me. Fortunately a local corner store sold LR44 batteries when my all-electronic rangefinder camera ran out.

By 2011 I had already spent a few years exploring the Leslie Street Spit with a camera, and one afternoon I had the idea of photographing the bricks as dignified and noble objects. The result was my Lakefill project, which was entirely photographed on location. I'd pack a couple of sheets of bristol board, my tripod (of NYC2 fame), D700, and 85mm tilt-shift lens onto my bike and head out to the spit for the day. I probably made four or five trips out there through the summer.

Intended for printing, these photos were all stitched from multiple shots made possible with the perspective-control lens. It was the first time I used my product photography experience for a personal project, and I'm still pleased with the results. One of the bricks remains my avatar on most platforms to this day.

When the weather turns cold I stay inside, but try to stay creative. This photo from December 2011 is an outlier for the project, but it's the start of what would become Please Hold Handrail. It's an escalator in Queen subway station, taken with my Fuji 645zi camera, and stretched to a wider aspect ratio. It was the print that got me invited to join the Toronto Focal Forum critique group, where I remain to this day.

Handrail was important because it was a very early project that combined photos with field audio recording. It's also the start of my exploring long exposures as a way of giving up some creative control, and the first time a moment of whimsy resulted in worthwhile work.

I'll end this post where it began, in midtown Manhattan, as I'm visiting with my wife on a weekend trip to New York City. She was at a confrence in lower Manhattan, so I was photographing this taxi passing the military recruitment center in Times Square at a quarter to two in the afternoon. This is my fifth trip to the city, I'm using a D800 with the 60/2.8G macro lens, and it's October 27 2012. That's a Saturday.

Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Monday.

We were incredibly lucky to make it out of New York on Sunday night. Airports had been closed by that afternoon, the subways were shut down, and Penny had to run the twenty blocks to where I was waiting at the jammed Port Authority bus terminal without a cell signal. We were among the last people to get on the last bus to Toronto before the station shut down, and we drove past many "Road Closed" signs in the heavy rain on our way out. The experience changed how we travel – including when we make sure that we stick together.

Coney Island was inundated by the storm, and took years to fully recover. I'd been to the parade four months earlier, and came back for the next two years as well, but haven't returned since.