A Day of NUIT: Fall Collection at Mountain View

Autumn is my favourite season.  Its arrival heralds the flight of summer from the slow, creeping fingers of winter and the long, dark nights that probe one’s spirit and strength. 

Admittedly that doesn’t sound like much reason to rejoice but the endurance test it poses to the body and mind is a stern reminder that change is inevitable and time relentless in its passage – and, like the changing colours of the leaves, the spark of life is fiercest when it is tested. 

Toronto-based NUIT has been producing some gorgeous dark fashions for several years now and while I’ve long been a fan of founder Ana’s work it was her stunning collection of hooded tournure pieces that prompted me to contact her and propose a shoot.

Taking our cues from the 70s-themed shoot with Shae that I posted earlier this year, this photo series at Mountain View Cemetery with Caitlin, Marlene, and Dahlia was an opportunity to frame NUIT in waning autumn light while Vancouver’s massive murder of crows made its customary flight east to roost for the night. 

Much like that flurry of black wings overhead, the dramatic, swooping lines of these several pieces from the NUIT autumn collection – “Mythic” cowls in black black wool and jersey, black velvet bellbottoms, butterfly-sleeve kimono, bell sleeve hooded pullover, and linen ruff collar bustle top – beautifully allude to the whispering vibrance of encroaching shadows.  

Thanks again to Ana for her collaboration on this shoot and to Marlene, Dahlia, and Caitlin for their participation!

One Night in the Witch House

Here he knew strange things had happened once, and there was a faint suggestion behind the surface that everything of that monstrous past might not—at least in the darkest, narrowest, and most intricately crooked alleys—have utterly perished.

H.P. Lovecraft, The Dreams in the Witch House

The story quoted above remains my favourite work of fiction by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the reclusive 20th century author from Providence, Rhode Island who singlehandedly invented a genre of “weird” fiction that began in obscure pulp fiction periodicals and has, in one way or another, influenced virtually every afficionado of dark art thereafter.  

Initially this shoot was intended to serve as a demonstration of my work with kids portraits for a local trade event but its content ultimately seemed far too dark for the average parent of a young child – fortunately that didn’t stop Dahlya and Poppy from volunteering to be my mom-and-daughter modeling team! 

The Dreams in the Witch House stands apart from Lovecraft’s other stories as (in my opinion) his most realistically speculative work of fiction: beginning with a reference to non-Euclidean calculus and quantum physics in the third paragraph, it remains the one story that has a plausible albeit quasi-scientific theory at its heart and quickly establishes a heavy atmosphere of mystery and occult dread in an ancient, crumbling corner of the fictitious town of Arkham. 

Further, Lovecraft relies on a very specific device to herald the presence of the story’s titular witch – an “unearthly violet phosphorescence.” In attempting to create that effect I stumbled into more familiar visual territory and seemingly recreated the lighting of Italian film director Dario Argento’s similarly witchcraft-themed masterpiece, Suspiria

Those of you familiar with Lovecraft’s story probably don’t need any further explanation but I’m going to stop there anyway because I hope the images that follow will tell their own story with at least a modicum of Lovecraftian dread on this cold and dark Samhain evening.

(Thanks again to Dahlya and Poppy for their participation in this shoot, which I’m sure will be responsible for a few nightmares among viewers tonight.)

Happy Halloween, everyone!

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Dóiteán Cailleach (“Firewitch”): Part Three of the Elemental Witch Series

 

This third installment of the Elemental Witch photo series has been a long, long time coming; it seems only fitting to finally publish on Samhain, a traditional Gaelic festival which marks the coming of “the darker half” of the year.  

This series is as much about the land and people of British Columbia as it is about nature and magic – beginning in the forests of Surrey with Woodwitch, then following the coastline of Vancouver with Stormwitch, the “elemental” aspect of the theme provides frames within which to explore diverse landscapes and characters. 

Originally I had planned to shoot the third installment in Osoyoos, not only for its arid desert landscape but also its history – Irish-born John Carmichael Haynes was an early European settler, local dignitary, and major landowner of the town – a familiar story in the history of Canadian colonization which also reflects model Caitlin’s Irish roots; but after a location-scouting trip to Kamloops this summer I found myself smitten with its similarly semi-arid landscape and opted to relocate the shoot for aesthetic and logistic reasons.

A lot of thought and planning went into this shoot and I’d like to thank everyone that helped to realize this vision, most of all Caitlin for her commitment to the project and enthusiasm for the character.

Rather than give everything away, I invite the reader to let me know what stories you find in these images. This series continues to generate a lot of discussion among viewers and we appreciate the feedback.

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Caitlin: Rockin’ It!

I first worked with Caitlin last year during the Gatekeeper band photoshoot, when she assisted with makeup and fire wrangling, but it wasn’t until I saw a selfie she posted on social media – looking like the very definition of a classic rock/ NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) fan circa 1980 that I realized she was the perfect person to continue my music-themed portrait series (see Shae’s Black Sabbath-themed gallery here.) Last month we spent several hours shooting in various locations throughout downtown Vancouver and, after many weeks of processing and consultation with Caitlin, who has the patience of a saint (and the enthusiasm of an ardent heavy music fan), here now are the results!

Separated into colour and monochrome galleries, these images are some of my favourite work to date. Admittedly I say that about almost every new shoot I post because I love what I do, but this series is the first I’ve shared that features many recognizable aspects of Vancouver itself. It may not be the biggest city in Canada, but its heavy music scene has a distinctive spirit that I am proud to portray visually in some small way.

Thank you, Caitlin, for your enthusiasm, feedback, and general badass self – you rocked this!  \m/ \m/

 

An Idyllic Afternoon at Bear Creek

Never mind what they say about sticks and stones – just looking at natural forms like rocks and trees in their natural settings is an exercise in rejuvenation!

This website has been all too quiet over the past month, but relocating from one city to another will do that. Fortunately I’m just about settled in here in New Westminster now, and while I continue to catch up on various projects, here’s a photo series from last month’s visit to Bear Creek Park in Surrey to give you a hopefully relaxing glimpse of nature to lead you into the weekend. Enjoy!

(Click to enlarge images)

Dark Festivities Continue!

It’s been nearly a month since my “Black Metal Walpurgisnacht” photo series originally appeared at Factory Worker Media (apparently setting a record for most traffic in a single day!) and, beginning tomorrow, I’ll be back in Vancouver to cover Modified Ghost Festival for the second year in a row!

To celebrate, not only will I be reposting the Walpurgisnacht gallery here (once a technical issue is fixed on the server end), but any last-minute Vancouver-area bookings for daytime shoots over the next four days (25-28 May 2017) will be eligible for a 25% “dark days” discount. Give me a shout to schedule yours now!

Thanks once again to everyone who participated in and showed their support for the Walpurgisnacht project (which was just the beginning – keep an eye out for more details)! 😉

Family: Mother and Daughter at Home

 

With Mother’s Day just weeks away now, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the mother and daughter team which created the “Skeleton Princess” look for my Halloween-themed kids portrait series last autumn.

Given that Mom is herself a photographer I wanted to keep technical concerns at a minimum, shoot entirely with natural light, and maintain a casual tone for this relaxed location shoot.  

It’s amazing how fast a kid can grow – it appears that the “Skeleton Princess” has grown several inches since our September shoot! –  so I’m grateful that I caught these two sooner rather than later for the sake of continuity. 

Have you been thinking about getting a family portrait done for Mother’s Day? Now is a good time to contact me and book yours!

Shae: Pale Fire (Boudoir Series)

SHAE

Moving indoors to continue my recent shoot with Shae, I wanted a dark, severe colour palette to complement her makeup and wardrobe, but with a patterned satin backdrop to soften the overall tone. And, although my tiny home studio setup can’t accommodate an opulent full-boudoir setting, the old black leather couch provided an effective alternative set.

The average person might assume that a boudoir shoot is sexual in nature but in my opinion it works best when the images create an intimate and sensual experience rather than an erotic one for both subject and viewer.

Many thanks to Shae (and impromptu lighting tech Benny) for coming out to deepest darkest Surrey for this shoot!

Shae: Reviving 1970 (Photo Gallery)

One of the things that inspires me most as a photographer is music – everyone has experienced a virtual time-travel nostalgia trip thanks to some old song on the radio – and lately I’ve found myself mentally returning, again and again, to this image from Black Sabbath’s debut 1970 album:

Black Sabbath (album cover), 1970.
Black Sabbath (album cover), 1970.

My neighbourhood isn’t quite as picturesque as this but I’ve always enjoyed walking the trail that runs along the swampy drainage channel behind it. Evidently it reminds me of that iconic album cover and its evocative autumnal imagery never fails to transport me to that place in my mind whenever I need a break from editing photos. I wanted to acknowledge its inspirational effect by creating something similar and Shae was clearly the perfect model for the job (and stay tuned for our studio shoot, also coming soon.)

Having grown up in the late 70s/early 80s, I still remember and love the grainy quality of that era’s images, which were primarily shot on 35 mm film; however when photographers recreate that aesthetic now they tend to do so according to modern digital image standards that eschew the old grainy 35 mm texture, so for this shoot I opted to use the natural lighting effects of sunset (and my beloved lantern prop, which always seems to appear in my outdoor shoots lately) as a means to soften these images and give them a bit of grain.

Massive thanks to Shae (and lighting tech Benny) for helping to bring 1970 back to life!

Alternative Surrey: Beauty with an Edge (at Phoenix Tattoos, 21 January 2017)

Alt Surrey #046

Naturally one might assume that counterculture only thrives in big cities (people only go to the sleepy satellite towns and suburbs when the party’s over, right?) But given the ways that the high cost of living continues to drive Vancouver’s working class away from the city I thought, why shoot there? When so many creatives are forced to take refuge away from the traditional centers of culture, why continue to support the culture of a city that seems to have a vested interest in kicking out everyone that contributes to the varied richness of its communities?

For those familiar with the Phoenix Tattoos studio here in Surrey, it’s no secret that the second-floor shop at the corner of King George and 108 avenue is a sanctuary for local creatives, as the bright mural at the top of the stairs suggests, welcoming customers with its flaming orange tendrils and icy waves of silver-blue.

I like to update my portrait portfolio on a regular basis and rather than make another trek out to Vancouver while the transit system seems to be at its most unreliable (who knew an inch of snow last month would bring an entire fleet of trains and buses to its knees?!), I thought it high time to turn the spotlight on Surrey.

The three models pictured below were undaunted by a location far from the center of the Vancouver universe (for some, it was actually a rare opportunity to work much closer to home,) patiently smiling and posing despite the lateness of the after-hours shoot, for which I’d like to thank Phoenix for allowing us extra time to get all the technical details right.

And, of course, thanks to stunning models Reshmi, Shelby, and Siena for their energy and enthusiasm, as well as my industrious lighting assistant Rhys for illuminating us all! 

Engagement Season Blooms Early This Year!

Engagement Party

Now that the holidays are over and the dreary, grey midwinter weather is upon us, most creatures in the northern hemisphere have to wait until Groundhog Day for a cheerful bit of good news – but not these lovebirds! They started building their forever nest together with an engagement party at Bombay Banquet Hall in Surrey right after Christmas, from which these shots are taken (our congratulations to the happy couple.)

And, much to my surprise, they’re not alone – just a few days later I received a call from another couple already keen to book ahead for their summer nuptials! 

If you haven’t guessed already, the moral of this story is that the early bird really does get the worm – if you’re planning an engagement party or wedding for the spring, best get in touch now!

Stormwitch (Part Two of the Elemental Witch Series)

From the "Stormwitch" series
From the "Stormwitch" photo series
From the “Stormwitch” photo series with Kas

Picking up where “Woodwitch” left off, “Stormwitch” follows the Elemental Witch Series from its earthy origins to the rocky shores of West Vancouver. Acknowledging both the element of water and the nomadic spirit of life on the coast, this portrait set envisions nature as a hermit whose solitary life on the beach marks a convergence of the elements – a place where water touches land and sky – and a neverending procession of ocean weather systems briskly passes overhead while each shift of the tide washes up some mysterious new bit of flotsam and jetsam.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Elemental Witch series!

 

Woodwitch (Part One of the Elemental Witch Series)

From the "Woodwitch" portrait series with Casper Macabre

As I’m just about to post the second photoset in the elemental witch series, here is the image that inspired my personal creative direction for the year, photographically speaking:

"Woodwitch"
“Woodwitch”

An introductory essay about the set appears alongside its photo album on Facebook, from which I’ll quote here:

The main inspiration for this series came from walking through various wooded parklands and forests in Surrey, Vancouver, and Squamish, and watching how people treat these spaces as harmless sites for personal recreation – often in a very casual and disrespectful manner. For anyone that has ever been alone in the woods at night, there is the distinct feeling that life is stirring all around us, unseen in the shadows. It’s easy to forget that when the sun is shining and we feel safe, but as we recall when we breathe the smoke of distant brushfires or feel the earth quake beneath our feet, we remain subject to nature’s law – our privileged place at the top of the food chain isn’t guaranteed at all – we survive because nature allows it. The figure of the woodwitch is the archetypal “dark mother” who appears to remind us that there is indeed a price to pay for disrespecting her rules – so it’s best to stay on her good side.

That said, here again are several of the images first seen in the Facebook photo album, along with a few new additions – also check out “Stormwitch“, the next installment of the elemental witch photo series!