Toronto through the lens of Miles Storey
Toronto is a hub of photography. In addition to being one of the most photographed cities in the world, some of the best professional and amateur photographers out there can be found roaming our streets with camera in hand. To keep tabs on all this local talent, every Saturday we feature the work of a Toronto-based photographer in our series "Toronto through the lens of."
This week I chatted with Miles Storey.
What is one thing you can't leave home without when going to shoot? (doesn't have to be camera gear)
I try to carry as little as possible; usually I'll only take one lens, a 20mm or 85mm prime. Restricting yourself can be a good thing, especially when you feel like your photography has become stale. I've started using several techniques — like creating images made up of ten or more different shots to create a wider frame — because the lens I had with me wasn't the right one for the scene.
What makes Toronto a challenging/interesting place to take photos? What are your favorite places to shoot?
There's an angle for everything in Toronto. It's easy to look at the city and see a modern generic metropolis, but beneath that there are wonderful depths to explore, corners to turn, and as you do, you realize how diverse Toronto truly is, how each neighbourhood has its own flavour and feel. A lot of people comment on how cold a big city like Toronto can feel, but when you're photographing a place you're paying attention to the details, to the things that stand out, the differences. Toronto has a lot of heart — you just have to collect enough pieces to see it.
The city is so well situated for photography. It's incredibly walkable. The downtown core is an accessible concrete jungle. A short stroll to the lakefront offers a completely different view; the open water is a vast and empty space. A quick ferry ride and you're on the Islands, which offer verdant tranquility or a snowy blanket of silence, depending on the season. There are beaches, parks, village neighbourhoods, the hermetically sealed history of The Distillery District, and always new places to discover.
One of the things that most appeals to me is the extremes of the seasons here. I grew up in a place where it was summer all year, except for a month when it did nothing but rain. It's easy to lose yourself in that kind of climate, time slips by unnoticed with nothing to herald it. But in Toronto you know when it's winter; you know when it's summer. Each season changes the city, the way bold light returns on spring mornings, the crisp sigh of autumn after the closeness of summer. I love going out in a winter storm with my camera — everything changes, textures soften or disappear, the air filled with detail. Each season offers a different city.
Tell me more about what happens after you take the photo, and how it becomes a final image.
My process really hasn't changed much in the last few years. I still have the same kind of camera, the same lenses that I started with. I always try to focus on the final image and although I use Photoshop, it's in an unsystematic way. The great thing about the application is that there are many different ways to achieve something. Once you're comfortable with it the interface, it becomes very intuitive, letting you find your own path to the end result in your head. I rarely do things the same way twice, which probably isn't something to recommend but it helps me find the right result.
Having said all that, however, I do think a change is coming for my kind of photography. We're seeing more and more attention paid to packing compact cameras with large sensors and that's something that excites me, gets me thinking about changing my equipment. The Fuji X100 retro-styled rangefinder has been such a hit it's only a matter time before other manufacturers follow up with their own versions.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in photography?It takes time to find your feet. Like anything, you have to practice, not just to learn the techniques but to teach yourself how to pay attention to the world around you in a different way, to see singularities within the life around you. Don't worry about what gear you use, whether film or digital is best, whether to post-process or not.
The most important thing is to hone your instincts, realize when you have a reaction to a scene that makes you want to bring up the camera and press the shutter. You don't have to understand that reaction, just learn to recognize and act on it. It takes time and experience but the connection between what you see and the image you end up with is what makes for a successful photograph in my humble opinion. Everything else — gear, techniques, processing — means nothing. It's about the end result, an image that captures your connection with the scene.
When I look at other people's photographs, I try to put myself in their place and see if I can feel their connection in the image. On an aesthetic level we can all feel our own reactions to other people's images, but rarely does a photograph make it possible to see through the taker's eyes, and that's pretty damn special.