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


This is the period when I was most focused on creating complete series and bodies of work, which is something I would like to get back to. It's also when I started to get tired of the big cameras, and the big purposes, and started to diversify. This meant I was effectively running two systems – one Nikon, and one comprised of a handful of fixed-lens compacts. While I was still doing photo trips, to both NYC and a couple to Chicago, the big gear stayed home. I've also gone all-digital during this period, shelving the rangefinder and selling the Hasselblad.

Continuation and Projection

March 2013: I'll admit that it was too late at night for the amount of noise I was making. I had gotten a bit carried away, but the results I was getting were exciting, and I lost track of time. It's not every day that I think to try throwing plastic cups across a running flatbed scanner.

That's how my Mechanism project started. Although these images were made under more controlled conditions, the stochastic ones have their place as well. And while the images were created abstractly out of things that don't exist, I still traveled around the city to record audio to accompany them in a slide show, giving the project a real-world connection. Mechanism remains my only pure-art project, so it's definitely the best one that I've done. For me it looks like how the city sounds.

This was also the first project that I showed to the general public at the Annex Sidewalk Art Show, which took over store windows across a weekend in July. Someone commented that how the images were made was "like DJ'ing with light", which is perfect.

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Horizon was the third major project that I had done, and the second one I was able to display at the local art festival. The photos are all long exposures taken during late winter and early spring of 2014 at Humber Bay – after the ice had broken up, but before the sailboats came out. And the worse the weather was, the better. One afternoon I was shooting from my heavy wooden tripod, spiked feet driven deeply into the ground, in wind that was too strong to stand upright in. The photos are all from my D800 and 85mm tilt shift lens; sometimes I would get the camera excruciatingly level and then pan the lens left and right during the long exposure to add to the shape and movement.

All of the photos were taken to have the exact same composition, and then printed to match on metallic paper. They were 16x10" on 19x13" paper, which is the aspect and size that I've fully standardized on for all of my work in 2019.

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I don't remember if "street photography" was a thing back in August 2014, but this is definitely my best attempt in the genre. I saw the scene with the interior of the restaurant, the person leaning against the building, and the third person walking toward the garage entrance. The fourth person inside the parking garage – and getting the two walkers in the same pose – took luck and steely determination to wait until the perfect moment. That's not usually my strength. 

This is from my eighth trip to New York City, and I was using my Sigma DP3 Merrill. Luke called my Merrills "the dial-up internet of cameras" and he was being generous because he didn't know about their battery life yet. This is also the first photo I've picked for this series that comes from a sensor smaller than 24x36mm. But the only way to get along with the Merrill is to think of it as a digital camera with the quality, convenience, and nimbleness of medium-format film.

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My ninth, and so far to date, final trip to New York City. It's November 2015, the Selfie Revolution is just kicking in, but nobody knows what live-streaming or Influencers are yet. I've also just tried New York City street hotdogs for the first time, and they're cheap but terrible. Boiled and steamed, instead of grilled, and the little flavour that they do have isn't appealing. So then I tried a "sausage", hoping it would be better, but it's just a thicker hotdog! Appallingly bad, even after I thought it couldn't get worse. And no, I never had a hotdog at Coney Island. I saw Nathan's, thought it looked like Honest Ed's at a ballpark, and kept walking.

But I digress.

This was only five years ago, but the changes to how photography is done in public have been dizzying. Just think about how much seeing a younger person using a digital camera instead of a phone sets the date for this photo. Steve points out that cars are a great way to time-stamp a photo, but I say a Canon Powershot will do in a pinch. I was using my Ricoh GR for this, which is the only camera I have ever worn out from regular use.

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There's poetry in the world. "Too big to ride the ride" has a wonderful staccato, although I wonder if "too tall to" would work better. I adore alliteration, but I suppose 'big' is the word that kids would use, so it's the right choice here. This sign brings me right back to childhood – in this very amusement park on Centre Island – feeling the longing to be big enough for the rides I wanted to go on, and the crush of being too big to ride past favourites. Growing up is tough, and we forget that too easily.

I took this as a print to the Forum – they hated it, and not just because of the kerning. So what do I know. It was taken with my D800 and 60/2.8G macro lens, and that's Nikon's last appearance in this series.

This photo also stands in for an early formative moment that I had seven full years before the summer of 2015 when I took this photo. I was at a clichéd photo spot, partaking in a "Photo Walk" back when someone thought that was a new thing that needed a name. I went because they were giving away a copy of a Scott Kelby book that I thought I wanted, so I was one of dozens of people scurrying around looking for that perfect photo of the same old things. Like Utah Phillips said, something inside of me snapped. I started using the image frame to aggressively cut into shapes and objects, especially signs. That influenced my direction for years, and is why I own as many books on typography, advertising, and graphic design as I do about photography. It's no coincidence that so many of my photos for this series have prominently included text.

And speaking of photography books, I left before they drew for the raffle that day in the Distillery. Who knows? Maybe I won.