Nirvana: Photography, Mountains, and the Front-end Web

Kurt, it’s all your fault

My love of photography started in the mid-nineties. A classic story of late teen-dom, I received my first camera as a Christmas gift from my father. It was around 1994 and Kurt Cobain had passed away a few months prior. A grainy black and white photo of Nirvana had been circulating in the magazines and newspapers, among others of the late Mr. Cobain himself. I received the news of Kurt’s passing while listening to the radio on my Sony Walkman at about 5AM one cold early spring morning. I was just finishing my paper route in my hometown of Victoria, BC. Loving the band, and the grainy black and white rock star images of them that were now everywhere, I resolved to create images just like the ones that I was seeing in the media (hence the Christmas gift request filed with my father). For some reason my love of the black and white, high contrast, grain-filled look of mid-nineties photography has never left me. I’m always chasing it.

Anyways, dad came through and Christmas morning arrived along with my first manual SLR-style 35mm film camera. I promptly loaded up some Ilford and took pictures of the Christmas lights. My first attempts at photography did not impress me but soon, as the subjects of my work became more interesting, so did the work itself.

I don’t feel that my work has ever reached the heights of that photograph of Nirvana. Indeed, I don’t even know who took it nor could I tell you why I hold it in such regard. My work has departed and returned many times from simple black and white portraiture. However, it always returns to where it all started. It has been a large journey. I am not afraid to experiment but feel comfortable with constancy. Most of all, it’s the people that I photograph that make it worthwhile for me. They are the ones that are driving the work.

I always strive for something unique and courageous without being flashy. I think Nirvana would understand this. I’d settle for constant improvement and betterment in my craft. I would like to make some sort of contribution to the growth of the Canadian creative industries and I would like to see my work transition to more reportage and/or a more portrait-based style in the coming years.

Fashion photography happened to me by chance. As I speak fluent Italian, I made the choice to travel to Milan, Italy and ended up assisting fashion photographers from all corners of the Earth there. I also ended up shooting some of my own jobs there, too. These were some magazine jobs for clients like >bmm, and Issue One and advertising jobs for clients like Oviesse.

During my stay in Milan, I studied communication however after graduating with my diploma, I was homesick. I probably should have clarified this earlier – there’s something I love even more than grunge music: mountains. Mountains, and the freedom of the hills. While Italy had the Alps, I found them to be inaccessible on a limited budget (the train from Milan was too expensive and my language skills not up to snuff at the time to navigate the journey) and thoughts of Vancouver Island alpine meadows soon consumed me. I returned to Canada.

Upon returning, I continued photographing fashion and portraiture, as I do to this day. The year was 2008. While opportunities for these types of photographs do exist on the west coast of Canada, they were more numerous in Italy. As such, I quickly ‘found’ web design as new creative outlet. My first site design was born out of necessity. I needed a website to display my photography. So, this very domain right here was the first that received the love of my wed designer labour. Like me, this site is always changing. Indeed, it is now in version 7 or 8 (I’ve lost count).

In terms of creative outlet, photography and web design now constantly wrestle for my attention. But, photography almost always wins…

Zen Coding

Within the first 2 years of my return to Canada, my web design and development juices were strongly flowing. I started developing an interest in Linux and open source code. The idea that developers from all walks of life, all over the world could collaborate together on a project on their own time was really fascinating to me. Indeed, some never meet face to face and yet have such passion and belief in what they are doing! Many of them are ‘doing it for the love’, just like many photographers are out there – recieving little in the way of monetary payment for their hard work.

Finally, in May of 2012, I opened a GitHub account and started to take myself for a serious front-end coder. I am very appreciative to GitHub for providing the platform that makes so much collaboration across projects and borders possible. The concept is exciting.

When working on a web project, I enjoy what some may call a ‘minimalist’ style and approach to things, but in my mind I do not see myself as a minimalist. I believe in being straightforward and choosing a simple, well thought out solution over an unnecessarily complex one.

In 2011, I found the best employment of my entire life to date. Currently, I am developing projects based on the Drupal platform with the BC Public Service as a Web Admin. As this takes up most of my day-to-day time, I’m not currently booking new engagements. However, I may have time for smaller efforts, so do feel free to get in touch. :)

Finding Nirvana

For many years I wondered, “Am I in the right place?” Quite literally, I would wonder if I was living in the physical location best suited to my needs and wants on the face of this Earth. Other than Milan and Victoria I’ve lived in Toronto, Bologna, and other spots for short periods of time. I think that for quite a while I was searching around for a place that would provide me with everything I wanted out of a home. I believe that I’ve found that place now. Like my photography, I’ve come full circle in my spiritual wants and needs and I’ve come to realize that the best home for me was always right where I started, the west coast of Canada/North America. Vancouver and Vancouver Island have everything I could ever want: mountain and rock climbing, amazing people and stories to photograph, websites to code, and friends to drink wine with. The hidden treasures of mid and north Vancouver Island are enough to keep a climber happy for decades, indeed, a lifetime. There is a reason that so many people from all over the world come to live here.

I always tell everybody, I have too many hobbies (and this is true). However, I have yet to find a place that is better suited to all of my interests. So here’s to being content and happy where you are right now and here’s to the west coast! Here’s to its people; quirky and slightly overly-friendly and here’s to its oceans and its peaks and to its vistas, its adventures and its rain (yes, even its rain)…

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t settle easily. I am not and nor do I believe I ever will be 100% content. Travel, adventure, climbing, photography all make my mind wander and wonder if the grass is still greener on the other side of the pasture but this place makes me feel the most at peace with myself. It took me a long time to realize this.

Life goal: be an interesting elderly person, when the time comes.

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