April 4, 2018

Photographic roots

Learning photography from Mike de Moree at Canadore College in the late 1980s was fun. He loved, you could tell, the craft of teaching as much as his profession.

After showing us how to handle cameras, develop film, expose prints and work the chemical baths in the darkroom, we were given a practical test: Go outside and take some photos, develop the film and make prints. You have the hour.

He then critiqued, questioned and prodded to see how he could help you become better.

He still takes fantastic photos and used to post them for his friends on Facebook but has recently got off that social media black hole. Weathered trees, old barns in a field and lake surfaces come to life when he's the one behind the lens. Texture through contrast, his specialty.

The summer before starting college in 1986, I worked at Amora Studios with Wayne Singleton. He and his wife Maureen had a place on Main Street between the Scotia Bank and old Delmar Restaurant. Mostly I worked the front desk dealing with customers who were picking up rolls that were actually processed and printed in Winnipeg. Studio and wedding photography was a big part of the business but the only other work I did was framing the portraits.

That’s where I learned that I’d probably not make a very good studio and wedding photographer. The crap they had to do and swallow was beyond my appetite.

Despite my better judgement, long after leaving the employ of Amora Studies, I tried to do 10 weddings. It probably says a lot about me to know it took that long to figure out I was correct in my initial assessment. Shooting weddings suck and I suck at shooting weddings.

Working at a 1-Hour photo processing store was a good job one summer, I think it was one of three part-time employment things I juggled in 1987-88. College was still a thing and it’s funny how there are overlaps of work places. Mike deMoree had hired me to be the photography lab monitor and there were weekends I’d finish a shift at the stinky, chemical-saturated 1-Hour shop and catch a bus straight up to the stinky, chemical-saturated college lab.

Funny story. One of the perks and prices of working at a one-hour film processing store in 1987-88 was “getting” to see the amateur boudoir photography. Sexting wasn’t available back then and porno a lot less accessible. More than a few shutterbugs decided to make their own. And there was one couple that liked it. A lot. Eventually, they showed up at the college darkroom. And they wanted the place locked up for their private use, a small tip in my pocket on the way out.

I’ll leave it to your imagination what developed while I was gone…

Who taught you photography and what are your favourite memories?

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