The head, the eye and the heart

As so many blog posts begin, I'll start with the same:

It's been some time since I posted here. I've been busy. (Some of my recent work is scattered through this post).

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Earlier this year I accepted a job as a photographer and video producer in the marketing department of my old university.

For the time being it has moved me away from my passion for photojournalism and documentary. Yet it has provided a stable paycheque and an opportunity to shoot every day, further honing my skills.

Without the constant pressure to find the next paying job I've found my interest for writing and true documentary photography returning. This was only bolstered by my selling a photo essay, more than three years in the making, to Canadian Geographic magazine (to be published June 2018). This was my first big (successful) magazine pitch.

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This time away from the constant hustle of journalism has given me some perspective.

Henri Cartier-Bresson proffered this quote to photographers: "To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life."

I often took this quote to describe a single photograph, a single moment-the decisive moment, to quote another of Cartier-Bresson's wisdoms.

However, I now realize this statement can be interpreted much more broadly.

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I've photographed many different things to pay the bills; weddings, real estate, families, children, the list goes on. For most of these I relied on my head and eye to create the photograph. I used rule-of-thirds or other compositional techniques to create an image a client would be happy with.

But the heart was missing. What makes my heart beat a little faster isn't just any single decisive moment but rather my choice of subjects in the first place. To me, aligning the head, the eye and the heart, is to know what kind of photographer you want to be.

Some people are excited by elegant fashion photography, some by artistic abstracts. I am excited by documentary.

It took stepping away from the documentary world to realize it.

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As emerging photographers we often scatter ourselves over many subjects and styles as we learn and forge our way in the industry. This is good and part of the learning process.

At some point, however, I now know that to progress as a photographer you have to pursue what excites you and brings your heart into the process.


One of the documentary projects I'll be working on for the next while is a focus on women with hard-to-diagnose chronic illness who have been dismissed by doctors and our medical system. This is still a very real stigma that women face when seeking medical care and that is something that needs to change. If you know someone who would be willing to share their story, please put them in touch with me.