Photography by Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail
Covering election night is all about faces and emotions. It can often be overwhelming, with packed ballrooms like the one set up for Doug Ford’s election-night party, where at times the media were trying not to step over each other as they looked for that one person or scene that told the story of the night.
Most of the evening was pretty routine, with not very many strong photographs to be found … until everyone saw this Ford supporter. When that happened, it became a frenzy as photographers and videographers scrambled to find the best angle.
For this image, I found that going off to the side gave me the best opportunity to photograph AnnMarie Beaudry, overcome with emotion, after hearing election results broadcast at the Toronto Congress Centre where Mr. Ford’s election rally was being held on June 7, 2018. The side lighting added some depth to the picture, and shortly after this was taken, I had to make my way through the dense crowds to file the photo from my work spot.
When photographers are assigned portraits, we often take posed photos with a static subject either looking directly at the lens or off to the side. A steady diet of posed portraits can lead to repetition and the need to try something more natural and “of the moment.”
I had a portrait assignment of the actor Bob Nasmith. A Vietnam War vet who had been active in the Rochdale College scene in Toronto in the late 1960s, Mr. Nasmith was in the show Krapp’s Last Tape, which ran at Theatre Passe Muraille. I photographed him in his space at the Cameron House, a very photogenic bar/residence in downtown Toronto.
Usually when assigned portraits, I tend to spend the first part of my time talking with the subject as we look around for a spot that would work as a background and, in the process, let them become comfortable with my presence. So it was with Bob. We talked about all the bric-a-brac and mementos in the room, the treadmill tucked away in the corner and the vast library of VHS and Betamax tapes.
We took some posed portraits but also just wandered the room following the window light where I’d take a frame here, a frame there, chat some more, take a few more pictures. While chatting, Bob would become animated and would gesticulate with his arms and it was all I could do to keep him framed and in focus. Soon enough, he said he had to wrap it up and I had what I needed by then, so thank you and adieu.
A decision we have to make with portraits is whether we photograph with lights, or use available light. Studio lighting affords more control over how we shape the light to our subject but it means carrying more equipment. Available light can make it much easier to photograph but at the expense of accurate colours, or poor lighting levels.
For this portrait of the Toronto author Sheila Heti, we met at a local restaurant on the south side of the street, which meant either really beautiful north light, or lack of light since the main light was behind us. After seeing the space, it was an easy decision to use natural light since the room was dark-walled, with a nice texture, so there was slight depth to it. This was my first time photographing the author, so again, we spent some time talking about books or about her work, to establish a level of ease between us.
By the time we got down to taking the portrait, I felt Sheila was much more comfortable and it shows in this portrait. The subjects of our portraits place a tremendous amount of trust in us and it’s incumbent that we don’t abuse that trust, because without it, we don’t get to walk away with work that tries to get below the surface of who this person is.
It has to be said: One of the perks of this job is getting early access to something destined to become a crowd favourite. So it was with the Art Gallery of Ontario’s exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. By the time the exhibit rolled into Toronto, it was already well-known and had become a social-media juggernaut, especially on Instagram. Photographing the various rooms was like shooting fish in a barrel – it was hard NOT to come away with a strong and visually interesting picture. Because this was a media preview, it was also hard not to show other colleagues, since everything was reflected in mirrors. We also always strive hard to make sure we are not visible in photos either, but this was a near-impossible task.
This particular installation, Infinity Mirrored Room-Love Forever, 1966/94, was a visual puzzle. You had to really look hard to define the background and foreground, which the mirrors made difficult. The faces peering through the small windows added to the layering visual trickery.
Sometimes, we get assigned to feature stories that some would photograph with a traditional photojournalistic approach. I’m extremely fortunate that the editors at The Globe and Mail are pretty open about how a story should be covered. So speaking with the editors for this story on rare-breed sheep, I floated the idea that I’d like to take formal portraits of them with a Hasselblad. On film. In black and white. This is normal enough that they didn’t bat an eye and told me to go to town.
When I do use black-and-white film, I always also photograph with the DSLR so there are colour images, and options for online and print display. After making sure the colour photos were in the bag, I pulled out the Hasselblad and waited patiently for the sheep to stop eating and hold still long enough for me to frame, focus and photograph them.
That they seemed to be curious about me and my cameras helped, and after I was done, I had four or five strong portraits of the sheep … and I was able to make sure I had the correct names.
It’s not often I have an assignment to photograph retired lab monkeys, let alone ones that are living at a sanctuary. Writer Grant Robertson was working on a feature about three macaques that were the first to be allowed to “retire” from their lives as laboratory monkeys and live a hopefully normal life away from the sterile environment they had known all their lives.
This was an easy assignment to say yes to, and I immediately began thinking of how to photograph them. The reality of the situation hit fast and my idea of, again, taking portraits, as well as photographs of them living their day to day up-close, was not going to happen. I had no idea what I would be able to see or photograph on my first visit, but it was what it was, and I was able to collect some images. Fortunately, the sanctuary was fine with me making future visits to continue photographing and recording video.
On one of my visits, Pugsley, who had gotten into a scrap with another monkey weeks earlier, was sitting alone in their enclosure, just staring out the window. Not unlike how you or I might look outside and ponder things. This image was quite poignant and leaves one wondering what was going through Pugsley’s mind as he just sat and stared, clutching the wire mesh. What he was looking at was entirely unlike what he’d seen in his previous home in a lab.
It was late at night when word began circulating that General Motors was possibly going to close the entire automotive plant in Oshawa, Ont., a Canadian car town for many years. Late night e-mails with editors had me starting my day before the crack of dawn, photographing workers heading in for the first shift of the day, possibly unprepared for what was going to be announced later that morning.
By this point, media from all over had descended on Oshawa as we tried to show the effect of this devastating news. No one was speaking, which complicated matters, and access was tight as we tried to figure out how to tell this story. The photos we’d all gotten were fine, but they were nothing that spoke to how the workers were taking the news – until they announced a union meeting for the workers, and that media could attend.
This could be the place where we found The Picture that told the story of the day. Everyone was scanning the room looking for faces that showed the strain of losing their jobs in one year’s time. The other media were photographing something when I saw one man with his head down, waiting for the meeting to start. I managed to get several frames before he noticed me and picked his head up. As much as finding a storytelling photograph, I also had to get his name, and I wasn’t sure if he’d be receptive to that or not. Names show that we try to go the extra step and get some more background.
The next day, my photo of Carl Dillman made the front page of The Globe, and along with Josh O’Kane’s reporting, fleshed out a huge story with national and international ramifications.
I always love a drive out of town and Ottawa is a favourite destination. For this trip, it was an assignment to take portraits of Jean Chrétien, the former prime minister of Canada, who was talking about his upcoming book in a one-on-one interview. I felt I had to pull out all the stops for this one and hauled lights, a Hasselblad and my Canham 5x7 large-format camera, just in case I had time to use it all.
I usually try to negotiate photographing during interviews (some writers prefer no cameras and some don’t mind), and I was allowed to work throughout most of the interview, taking digital colour photographs. My standard operating procedure is to set up lights (if I bring them) so that if I can steal a few minutes after the interview, everything is set up and the subject just needs to step into a spot and I do my thing. I try to work quickly and will chat to keep the subject occupied.
I started with the Hasselblad, then moved to the large-format camera, which is more involved. Once the camera was focused, I hoped Mr. Chrétien wouldn’t move or else the framing is gone and focus is out, but I only had a few more minutes and couldn’t keep checking focus and framing. So I ended up exposing sheets of black-and-white film knowing that something might go wrong. In the end he did move a bit, but focus was fine and I actually liked the odd framing since it wasn’t superclean and symmetrical.
I was on assignment in March with Joanna Slater, then The Globe’s New York correspondent, to cover a group of parents and their children from Newtown, Conn., who were going to attend a gun-control rally in Washington. More than five years earlier, on Dec. 14, 2012, Newtown had been the scene of a mass murder when a gunman killed 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I was trying to find a photograph, beyond the signs and placards, that conveyed the journey this group was about to undertake.
With a 5 a.m. departure time approaching and everything still dark in the predawn hours, I saw this quiet scene in one of the buses as 13-year-old Nathan Cook, probably still sleepy from the early start, rested in the arms of his mother, Ann Cook, before the group of around 400 people left for the March for Our Lives rally.