This past spring I had the pleasure of working with the ever-inspiring contributors to society and Toronto at WoodGreen Community Services on their Annual Report, for the fifth year in a row. This year's theme was based on the concept of WoodGreen's many programs and facilities functioning as community hubs. New this year Gravity Inc. has produced an interactive microsite to go with the traditional printed piece. Every year the photography required varies in volume, and nature, and this year it required more conceptualized and staged shoots than in previous years which made it particularly interesting for me!
I have many people to thank for all their time and help including a bunch of WoodGreen staff members and clients, as well as friends who helped with things like giving me access to their condos so I could shoot the cover (thanks JC!). Even more than previously, since we had more staged shots to do this time, we had the challenge of creating happy, comfortable models out of real people who are busy doing their jobs and living their lives and in many cases don't like having their pictures taken, so patience and sensitivity were required. Not surprisingly things did not always go quite as expected, and there were some funny moments. Here are four things that I won't forget:
1) The cover shot (above) was actually a composite of several shots because I wanted the park to look like a hub of activity and there were never enough people in it, where I wanted them to be, at one time. Once I had the composite completed, weeks later, I realized that one guy looked kind of familiar and upon closer inspection I realized that I knew him. The funny thing was, I actually met him after I took the picture(s), the very next day, in fact, at a meeting with two new clients, of which he was one.
2) Another shot we had to do was at the grand opening of a new state of the art communal kitchen facility. The plan was to select three to five people and feature them in front of the bustling opening party happening behind them. Before the party started we planned exactly where they would stand and previsualized what we hoped would occur in terms of people in the background, etc. At the appropriate moment my liaison asked the selected people to take their positions while I climbed up onto the chair I'd staked out as a shooting platform. As I looked down on the little group finger poised over the shutter release button ready to shoot quickly as soon as they were ready, I watched with concern as more and more people joined the group until there were about fifteen people crammed together and almost nobody left in the background. Due to the nature of this group of individuals, and the circumstances, there was really nothing we could do except take the picture. Ultimately the shot was not usable because it didn't make sense for the story it was to accompany, so instead of five, or fifteen people being featured, nobody got to be featured, as the designers chose a 'random' shot of the whole party/room.
3) We were fortunate enough to get an opportunity to photograph WoodGreen program director Diane Dyson with Cathy Dandy of CAFE (Community Assets for Everyone), and Karen Pitre, Special Advisor to the Premier on Community Hubs -- three important and very busy women -- at Queen's Park (see below), and we were clear that we would have a very short window of time with them. We had preselected an outdoor location only to find upon arrival that it was fully under construction. The next outdoor spot we liked we were told by the guard we couldn't use. Then we were told we should expect to shoot inside, in an office area. Concerned that this might not give us a visual appealing background we asked to check out the office while we waited for our three subjects to arrive. As the scheduled shoot time came and went, with no sign of the subjects, and no access to the potential shoot areas, we despaired that the shoot was just not going to happen. Finally, the women arrived and we were led outside to an area we had been led to believe we couldn't use. Apparently under certain circumstances it might be O.K. so we should just go ahead and shoot a few different options so that if any one view wasn't allowable, another might be. I had a light to set up and no assistant, so it was a mad dash to set-up and shoot two different set-ups crazy fast.
4) And continuing with the theme of very limited time, we needed to get a carefully previsualized shot of a group of children with the director of one of WoodGreen's day care locations. In this case we had had the opportunity to scout the location so we knew exactly where we needed to set up the camera and lighting, and the children's guardians for this one group had signed model releases. We had one limited window of opportunity to shoot this group during their regularly scheduled outside time, and very little opportunity to coach or direct them. The biggest challenge was keeping the kids in somewhat the right places, not looking at the camera, while getting the lovely and patient Liz to walk through the door over and over again so that I could catch her in good looking mid-stride in the right place. Anyone who has worked with children, especially those who have no tangible incentive to cooperate, bless their little hearts, knows the numerous challenges one is likely to encounter. So it took more than one shot to get acceptable images of the inside kids. And with nobody outside to help except the person holding open the door (you can see her hand in the final shot if you look closely), we knew we would have to shoot additional shots of the outside kids to show them in appropriate spots, doing appropriate things, as well. Thank goodness for Photoshop (and designer/Photoshop whizz Brenda)!
And thanks, again, WoodGreen!