I grew up in a fairly remote spot on the Muskoka River, in a small town about 250km North of Toronto. Living in a rural place where both parents had full time jobs, my brother and I had a lot of freedom as kids.
Our time after school was spent exploring the forest, mountain biking, or building jumps and hitting them on snowboards and GTs. We would sometimes document these adventures on our Hi8 camcorder or take photos with 35mm cameras. I think this is where I first got really into making videos, which is what I originally wanted to do for my career.
So much of my exposure to photography .. was just trial and error
I learned a lot of my technical photography knowledge in high school. Even though we were a small town, we were lucky to have two levels of photography (at that time it was black and white 35mm). We were given a lot of freedom for our projects, to just go out and take photos, and then develop them in the darkroom by ourselves. We would go to the local skatepark, learn some new tricks, and then take photos of us landing them. So much of my exposure to photography at that time was just trial and error; figuring out what worked best for me.
Probably because of where I grew up, I’ve always had an obsession with the water, whether it’s being in it, around it, or on it. One thing I dreamed of my entire teen life was being able to go surfing (which you definitely can’t do in Northern Ontario, Canada). My bedroom walls were filled with surf posters, and a mural of Waikiki beach in Hawaii (which I painted myself).
My formal design training really helps and influences my photography work.
When I eventually didn’t get into film school, I discovered a whole new creative field I’d never considered: graphic design. During my summers back home in Muskoka, I started doing graphic design and photography for a local marina. I actually got a lot of really good experience over those summers — I’m now a certified boat ad expert.
While we’d only ever studied photography briefly during my time in the graphic design program, I find that my formal design training really helps and influences my photography work: using minimal color palettes, minimal compositions, and paying close to attention to art direction. With both, you’re telling a visual story — the only thing that changes is how you execute it.
My first job after graduation taught me that I absolutely hate air conditioning, fluorescent lighting and concrete offices. I knew very quickly that corporate life was not for me, so after about 3 months I quit.
My first job after graduation taught me that I absolutely hate air conditioning, fluorescent lighting and concrete offices.
I happened to quit in November 2008, nearly the same week of the economic crash. People said I was crazy and that I wouldn’t be able to get a job again. My rent at the time was only $450, so my plan was just to pull that much in freelance work in order to get by.
A couple months into freelancing, I joined forces with my former business partner (a software engineer) David to form Pilot Interactive, which became a small design and development agency. I primarily did design work but would often shoot photography for clients so they had some original content for their websites.
I’ve always wanted to live in another city other than Toronto, so after running Pilot for 6 years, I decided to move to San Francisco to finally realize my teen surf dreams. I also started my business Good Day Hairshop that year. Since moving to the states, I’ve been able to focus on our setting up and running our ecommerce shop for our product line, while our shop manager Matt runs the Toronto storefront. We wanted to build up our American customer base, and being located here has been great for that. I go back every few months and help out when I can! I do wish I could be there more though, but I’m confident about my team and all of our talents across the board.
I could sit and watch this scene for hours.
I think it was moving to a new country with an entirely different landscape is what got me back into photography. Because I had more stable hours, as opposed to freelancing or running an agency, I had a lot more time to rediscover my “off time” and what I wanted to fill it with.
Since moving here, I’ve also started meeting up with strangers (models and photographers) from Instagram to shoot creative work. When you move to a new city with no friends, you’re more open to that kind of stuff — never discredit the power of the internet and the kindness of strangers.
I can still remember the first surf photo I took a couple years ago. I had hiked up to this spot above a really big break down in Pacifica and it was mind blowing how there were still surfers out in such powerful waves. It was nothing like the safe, sometimes-sleepy lake I left back in Muskoka, but I knew I’d ridden out my own fair share of waves to get that photo, too.
I could sit and watch this scene for hours.