While I was down in Cuba with Banko Media getting work done for the documentary and helping with the “Do It For Others” team I also found myself engaging with strangers whenever I ran into them. The Cuban people are honestly some of the nicest people Ive ever met and even though sometimes there is a bit of a language barrier (I know about as much Spanish as any kid who has seen Dora the explorer.) they are always willing to try. I decided to do this post of a couple strangers I met in my travels to give a face to each of the stories.
One morning I decided to walk further down the road from where we were staying in Santa Maria. The road slowly got more run down until it was a sand road with street lights. At the end of the road was a broken bridge. My assistant and I decided to wade through the water to the other side and ended up in a small run down beach town. as we were trying to decide which way to go I turned around and saw this man walking with a 20 ft bamboo rod with a big steel hook on the end. I decided to go up and ask him what he was doing with the hook and he showed me it is what he uses to get coconuts out of the trees. We talked a bit and he pulled down another couple coconuts cut them open and offered them to us.
The women below I came across while aimlessly wandering the streets of old Havana before meeting the team to go help repair the skatepark. She was sitting off the side of a narrow road in an old rocking chair staring off into the distance. As I introduced myself I realized she had no experience with any English. My Spanish isn’t that good so we had a couple laughs while trying to make out what each other is saying. When I asked her to take a photo before leaving she said she was too old for that and laughed.
I actually met several children who were super creative with the cardboard they found. anything from using them to build little forts to using them as toboggans to go down ramps. This kid in particular made himself wings so he could fly. When I stopped him to take his picture he taught me how to do a cartwheel.
These boys spotted me from a mile away with the camera and asked me to “click” them together.
This is Miguel. The team had to cab into Havana every day with more shoes more boards, concrete etc and cabs can be expensive when you’re driving 30 minutes in and out of town every day. Miguel could speak English very well and figured out what we were doing for the youth of Havana so he gave us his phone number and offered to drive us into town for a lot less. We had a complicated indecent one of the days where we had to run all over the city and do a lot of waiting around and Miguel hung around the whole day to take us from place to place and was happy to just hang out. I snapped this photo of him the second day I met him. Because I had his contact information I printed the shot and mailed it out to him. Hopefully he likes it!
These two below were strangers when I first met them and ended up becoming good friends by the end of the trip. The first shot is “Burger.” Nathan Burger was part of Scott’s team on the “do it for others” project. He was always the first to offer a hand to the camera crew and was always around for a good laugh. The second shot is Che who is commonly known as the father of the Havana skateboard community. Che is known for keeping the active youth in check around the city and is also known for being the man who repaired the broken skateboards. In the upcoming documentary you will see what a huge roll Che plays in helping the skateboarding community in Havana stay alive.
Five years ago an old friend of mine Scott Mcdonald started a project on his own that has been recently known as “do it for others.” As a recognized name in the Canadian skateboard scene Scott has been collecting old boards and shoes from all the friends he can across Canada every year and bringing them down to the youth of Cuba at his own expense. I had talked to him several times about why he does it and his answer is simple “because I can.” He goes on to explain how the first time he saw the Cuban skate culture he couldn’t believe how big it was and how distraught a kid would be if he broke his skateboard because he would have to wait several months to have any chance of buying a new one. Not to mention there is not really any skateboard shops in Cuba. It isnt uncommon to see kids with a broken skateboard screwed to another broken skateboard so they can still play.
In the 5th year of this project Scott was fortunate enough to gain support from Blind Skateboards, West 49, Red Star and a few other companies who were happy to donate last year model brand new boards and shoes on top of the stuff he collected since the last trip.
I teamed up with my family at Banko Media and we headed down with Scott’s team to not only help but film and document for an upcoming project and to help raise awareness of what it is really like down there. On top of the 14 people maxing out our luggage weight with product for the youth Scott still fronted a couple thousand dollars to get the rest of it on the plane along with MC-crete to help repair the broken down parts of their skatepark in Havana.
Below is a couple photos from the trip. The Banko Media team is actually going back to Cuba next week and is also going to be back there one more time to continue documenting and we are hoping to have a full length documentary up in the next year or so so keep your eyes open!
Huge thanks to the team that went down to help and to Steve Wharton who last minute joined in as my assistant to help with carrying gear across half the island!
I had one day back in Canada between the shoots in Europe and shooting down in Dominican. If it had been any other shoot I probably would have pushed the date back but its always a blast working with Karl Wolf so how could I say no?
We met up on New Years eve to shoot two single covers and album artwork for Karls up and coming project. I got a chance to check out the upcoming album while I was on set and I definitely can say the images we shot reflect the new style hes going for with the new music.
Here is one of the single covers that has already been released. Ill post the rest as they get released to public!
The portrait for theater actor Nick Bijl was going to be in a small town outside of Paris called Puteaux. Knowing that everything in the Paris area is really nice and also really busy I planned to spend the first day finding a cool area that wasn’t as crowded with tourists so we could set up for a couple portraits. Oddly enough the first place I looked was out of my hotel window which ended up having one of the best views of the entire trip. Stunning considering the hotel was booked based on sticking to a tight budget!
One of the most fun shoots I did out in Europe was for the Amsterdam Fire Department. We met up on Christmas morning and headed to the fire station to gear up. The outcome of the set was way more intense than we had pictured!
Over the past year My team and I decided to film little clips behind the scenes from all the shoots we worked on. Since I had a bit of downtime at night when I was in Punta Cana I decided to take my favorite 25 or so and cut them into a little “year in review” style video to send to my mom since she always asks where I am and what Im up to. I ended up posting it on youtube so if you feel like seeing what the last year looked like behind the camera I’d love for you to check it out!
Here’s to 2014!
Ive spent the last few weeks across Europe and a bit of the UK. Aside from the photos I was out here to shoot I was fortunate enough to have some down time in some really cool places.
Here are a couple outtakes from Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
I thought I would start this post off with a recap of the entire trip In case you missed the last post or didnt feel like reading it. I will explain the tail end of the video below.
iPhone NYC Video
The next shoot I had was for Kenny Santucci (MTV, The Real World, etc) I originally pitched a concept that seemed really cool and very stereotypically “New York.” The idea was that we would wait until it started getting dark and head down to broadway with all the bright lights. The team would set up the lights based around a location dead center in Times Square. Once the lighting was perfect we would hail a cab and pay him $20+ to park in the frame (which was a no stopping zone) so we could stage the shot of Kenny getting out of the cab looking out at everything around him in Times Square.
At first everything went pretty flawless we met up on time got to the shoot spot at basically the perfect time got everything set up and lit fairly quick but as we got ready to call a cab over the NYPD showed up. The whole team was so shocked but from the mess of a day we had yesterday we should have expected that the shoot couldn’t have gone perfect.
The cop explained to me that a professional photographer setting up lighting on the ground anywhere in New York City is considered using the city as a set (which to be honest we were.) and to do that you have to file through the city and request a permit. He went on to say they do encourage photographers shooting the city but only hand held devices were allowed to be used and as soon as you start setting up generators and stands you are going beyond the typical photo.
At this time my team had already begun tearing down the soft boxes so I pointed to one of my assistants holding a battery flash and asked the cop if lights were fine if they weren’t touching the ground he said yes. This got my mind racing so I ended up handing My assistants the full light with the 4 ft soft boxes and we hooked them up to little lithium generators and clipped them on their belt loop. Now the light was ready to shoot but it was not technically breaking any laws, almost a loop hole in the system. We called over a Cab quickly and ended up rushing through the shoot but getting a pretty cool shoot. (if you watch the video above you can see Kyro filling in as a human tripod.)
The cop laughed at the way we “bent” the law and actually ended up letting me snap a quick picture of him as well. Somehow a day that almost went horribly wrong ended up turning around in our favor once again.
The original plan for the New York City shoots was planned out a couple weeks before the actual shooting date. I needed two assistants to help on a couple of the shoots we initially intended on driving out on a road trip from Hamilton to Manhattan. We would shoot a couple days and have the car with us in case we wanted to explore and see the sights. Those plans quickly changed when I had a last minute shoot in Ontario doing corporate portraits for Parada Goalkeeping a great company Ive shot with in the past.
The last minute changes put a ton of stress on everyone that ended up resulting in probably one of the most hilarious trips Ive done for photography today. My team headed for the boarder by car with my gear at about 4AM on the first day of shooting while I headed with some studio gear to meet up for the shoot at 7AM back home. I finished the shoot and got to the Toronto airport just in time to catch my flight and headed to Laguardia in Queens New York. I landed with the stress running through my mind on if my team was alright on the road and would make it to the airport in time to pick me up. Coincidentally I got out of the airport at almost the exact same time the team arrived.
As we all laughed and joked with each other about how worried and intense the last 12 hours were the stress level started to fade and we left the airport confident we would get to the hotel and even have some time to rest before the first shoot, but that wasn’t going to happen.
Not even 5 minutes out of the airport Kyro took a turn wrong and we ended up at the side of the highway with a flat tire. I think that because of how intense everything was leading up to this moment no one wanted to face what just happened so we just looked at each other laughed and pulled out the cameras. Looking back at it I am so happy we reacted that way. I remember standing on the highway looking at all the camera and lighting gear on the ground with the car up on a jack as we tried to put the tiny spare tire on. Everyone was smiling and making the best of the whole moment. If we didn’t all have the same attitude towards the situation I know that the rest of the trip wouldn’t have been as exciting as it was.
We pulled up to our hotel in NYC and parked the car with the little spare wheel on it and decided to forget about the wheel and deal with it the next day. To our surprise we still arrived with time to rest before the first shoots of the trip.
The first shoot was for my fine friends in F-Cancer that Ive worked and toured with a couple times in the past. My awesome team Kylie and Clinton covered the sold out event while I shot the founders and celebrities on the red carpet who came out to support the cause. I also had a press release shoot for Pauly D (Jersey Shore) because he was the headliner of the event.
We all had a blast there laughing and enjoying the night the event and the shoots and by the time we got back to our hotel we all knew everything was back on track and we were happy.
A while back I did a shoot for Jason Meyers (Project Runway Canada) where we had models defying gravity. I had a lot of feedback and questions on how we did the shoot and it seems to always be brought up when people are discussing my work. I ended up doing a little workshop for some local photographers on exactly how I got the shots to work. I have to say it was unreal to re-live that shoot again even more so because one of the original models I used for that shoot offered to come back for the remake!