It’s not the age, but how you go about it.

I remember strolling down E 56th Street at 5th Avenue in Manhattan a few years back.  It was sometime in October and I was just walking the streets with my camera that day, a Fujifilm X-E2.  Which is the digital camera I carry around with me when I just go for a walk about.  I remember looking to capture what I love about NYC, that you can get a dose of all kinds of difference on the same street corner. 

But then, this struck me: an older gentleman gliding through the intersection on his bicycle.  The man was uber-stylish – a comfy and warm tweed jacket, fitted beige slacks, two-toned and textured leather boots, capped off with a green wool  ivy cap, sunglasses and scarf.  He was carrying this vibrant orange back pack. He was riding this somewhat put-together bike with a massive chain lock wrapped around the neck of his seat. Of course, it had a vibrant yellow plastic bag on it for protection from the rain I could only suppose.  It was a bike that belonged here, in NYC. The man too.  This was a man who was stylish for his own sake and not any one elses.

As I was following him in frame, he led me towards this other man, crossing the street within the lines of the crosswalk, walking away from me. This man had a long beige trench coat, which looked like it was covering a dark pinstripe suit.  He wore black dress shoes and finished off his look with wool gloves, a grey fedora, and what looked to be aviator sunglasses.

I couldn’t help but compare and contrast the two strangers. So different.  It triggered in me a pondering of how I would be at their age. Would I be hip and comfortable in my own style, alive and full of pep? Riding a bike in the middle of the city and indulging my inner youth still? Or, would I be the other gentleman, aged, controlled,  following the path and chasing proper?

Quickly, I take a snap and continue on my way. It isn’t until afterwards, after downloading and seeing the photo once again that I continue to ponder this dilemma, ‘what kind of man will I end up being? Which one of these men stand at the end of my trajectory?’    And now, I can’t help but think about it when I see this photo.  I keep asking this same question, continuing to wonder, even as I get closer and closer to that age.  

with dignity & respect…Lee

What you focus on is.

I recently watched a YouTube clip of author and speaker, Simon Sinek, telling the story of how skiers train to focus on the path and not the tree because you are bound to run into what you focus on.  I remember as a child thinking something similar to get over fears I have.

I mean as a 12 year old, there were so many things in this world that were troubling to me (as 12 year olds do) that it started to feel overwhelming.  And maybe because I didn’t know how to handle it, but one day I just decided that every time I felt overwhelmed with these thoughts, I would just force myself to focus on positive things  that I could do something about.  From that point on, I chose what I wanted to focus on.  

I mean, it wasn’t just that easy, it was practicing daily more than anything.  There were days where I was more able to focus on positive thoughts, and others where I lost this battle. But overall, this little decision gave me back control and peace of mind.  

Somehow, as a kid, I learned that I could change my perspective and that when I did, I could change my perceptions.  Perhaps that is why I connect to photography so much and why I like to emphasize aspects of humanity like dignity and connection in my images. 

I’m not saying ignore the troubles and the horrific things in the world.  All I’m saying is, if the proverb is true, that your eyes are the windows, then focus them on the things that give you purpose, life, and a path to keep going.

With dignity & respect…Lee

Getting Right In There

There are different types of photographers.  We are really a microcosm of society itself.  I don’t just mean style of photography either.  Even within the field of documentary photography alone, some photographers enjoy it because they get to be out in the field and at the same time removed from the actual happenings. They stay behind the camera, withdrawn, and not seen.  Other documentary photographers want to be right in the middle of it and fully engage in the experience alongside the subjects they are photographing.  Neither is better than the other, just different.  They tell different stories because they have different perspectives.  Knowing the type of photographer you are and being honest with your subject and your clients is important.  I know the type of photographer I am.  I like to engage with my subjects, delving in with the community, building a connection, and experiencing it first hand, I know that I take more meaningful photographs when I do this.

When the Jays Care Foundation, the charitable arm of the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club, asked me to photograph the Kenora Chiefs Advisory Fall Classic Tournament for branding and promotional images, I knew that the assignment would fit well with how I photograph.   As a professional, I know that a great final product is not enough, I also have to provide a great experience.  In this case, I knew the athletes and the community would see me as a representative of the Blue Jays brand.  This meant understanding what the brand is about and also being able to carry myself consistent with the organization’s values, which in turn, helps me to experience it from that perspective.  Which is the point - to make great photos that tell the story of the brand, I find it always better to get right in there and to be a part of it.   That means photographing for brands whose values and mission connects to mine, and lucky for me, this one does. 

I grew up watching the Toronto Blue Jays and playing baseball, and it was baseball that taught me many lessons in life. So,If you will allow me to be a fan-boy for a minute, as a loyal and passionate Toronto Blue Jays fan since I was a kid, it gives me tingles to see my images at the Rogers Centre and on the branding materials for their affiliate programs, it truly does.  My heart was full and I felt energized after our two day shoot. I was already excited for the post-production process. I guess that’s when I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.  

With dignity & respect…Lee