In the advertising business you get to spend a certain amount of your career in between jobs, or freelancing. During one of these breaks in the action I started to become interested in writing screenplays for feature length films. I was chatting with a very good friend, a photographer named John Wild, who told me that if I wanted to be a good screenwriter, I really needed to develop my visualization skills, which kind of made sense to me.
Then about a month later, John called me and told me he had found a great deal on a Pentax Spotmatic 35 mm reflex camera. I didn’t really know what that was, but he was excited about it and told me he would come over and kick my ass if I didn’t buy it and get into shooting pictures.
Not wishing to be subjected to an asskicking I bought the camera and the lenses and filters that came with it. John gave me a crash course in how it worked and then turned me loose on the world.
This was the beginning of a life long love affair with photography and, back then, film as well. It took me about a year of messing around with exposures and film stock and the way that natural light affected the outcome of whatever you were shooting. but I got the hang of it and it wasn’t long before I started to really feel like a shooter.
The Unintended Consequences
About two years later, I had put together, with John’s help, a bit of a portfolio. Mostly I was shooting scenics and people. I shot a ton of stuff on a trip to Nova Scotia, and even more on a trip to California. Plus I had a lot of interesting stuff from all around the city and cottage country where we would take the kids on holiday, because I took my gear almost everywhere I went. (I still do that today, but thankfully it fits into the palm of my hand).
After a few years, I found myself being hired by different art directors I knew to work on campaigns that required shooting a lot of people in a very natural way, which is what I was good at. I also was hired and did a lot of stuff for Ontario and Toronto tourism, Weekend magazine, (for an art director named Robert Priest, who went on to become art director for Rolling Stone magazine). I also shot a lot of stuff for Attic Records, where my wife was the promotion manager.
Another Arrow In The Quiver
The weird thing about this was that I wasn’t really pursuing any sort of career in photography, I was just trying to become a more visual writer. And so I never really let this potential alternative career path really mature into what it could have become. Instead I just tucked it into my back pocket and added it to my creative arsenal.
The Intended Consequence
To to be honest, photography was the best thing that ever happened to my writing. Through it I learned to visually conceptualize quite literally, within a frame. I could close my eyes and see the image that was inspired by whatever I was thinking. And best of all, I could describe it in great detail, in writing.
Long term, what photography did facilitate was was my becoming a writer/art director, (after developing proficiency in desktop publishing) which really came in handy when I decided to go on my own back in 1989. This meant that I could offer my clients a complete creative service at affordable rates, and that, in turn mean that my services were an excellent value that the smaller businesses I really wanted to work with could afford. It also meant that as I writer a had a lot in common with the designers I worked with, and that made the process of creating whatever we were trying to create that much more enjoyable.
Since I got my first SLR camera back in the 70s to today, I have always had a camera in my bag. I don’t take anywhere near as many pictures as I did in the early days. But I like to think that I’m just a lot more selective than I used to be.
Developing photographic skills, has served me well over the years, especially with the advent of the social media, which gave every photographer the chance to show his work to the whole world.
Photography is pretty easy to get into these days, at least as a hobby. The pics you see in this post were all taken with a Vivitar 7.1 MP camera that I bought at Future Shop for the whopping big price of 30 bucks. So there you go…you have no excuse. LOL.
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