Toronto through the lens of Frank Lemire
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. In light of such 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 Frank Lemire.
How long have you been taking photographs and what made you want to pick up the camera in the first place?
I started taking photographs as a teenager in 1990. I shot on black and white film and developed it myself in a basement darkroom I cobbled together. I originally picked up a camera as a way to express myself and work through some teenage angst. I'm long past the angst and now use my camera as a way to get myself outdoors as much as possible.
I find the experience of taking pictures to be the most important thing to me. Shape and form come together into interesting compositions in my viewfinder. I take thousands of photographs a year and show only a fraction of those. I try to learn with each photo I take, reviewing them later to see what works and what didn't. When everything lines up and I'm pleased with the image, I share it.
What is your favorite subject matter?
My favorite subject matter is fog. I live in the wrong city to be a full time 'fogographer,' but when Toronto gets a good fog, you'll be sure to find me out in it. I love how it shrouds the city and how objects appear and disappear in the mist. I have vivid memories of my first heavy fog, walking along Kew Beach as it engulfed the waterfront.
You went to school for photography. Would you recommend taking a similar path for aspiring photographers?
I went to school for photography because at that stage in my life, it was the only thing I had passion for. The school experience was excellent, mainly for the long days and nights in the darkroom and talking over the print wash basin with the other students. We'd talk for hours about techniques, ideas, what worked and what didn't while we reviewed our prints.
Now we have the internet. Sites like Flickr, 500px and hundreds of others have opened that discussion up worldwide. The way the internet fosters ad-hoc groups that form around interests is what makes it such a critical medium. When I started doing digital infrared photography in 2001, I was possibly the only person in Canada doing it at the time.
I think if you want to make a full-time career in photography you're best to take specific courses and business classes especially. It's not an easy business to make a living in.
How do you take your infrared photos? And what is it about the medium that you like?
I currently use a DSLR that has been converted to shoot only in infrared. This means the infrared filter, which blocks visible light, is put on top of the CCD imager instead of being on the front of the lens. The CCD is naturally sensitive to the invisible infrared light, and when the visible light is removed with the filter you can capture the world beyond sight.
When I discovered infrared photography a decade ago, I was immediately fascinated by the emotion these images communicated to me. Looking at an infrared picture of a landscape makes me feel as if I was in direct contact with nature. Taking infrared photographs is always a magic moment. I have the feeling that nature allows me to reveal its hidden side. This picture-taking process is very relaxing, an almost Zen like experience. Infrared lets me capture a world that is there, but normally invisible to our eyes.
What are your favorite places to shoot in Toronto?
My favorite places to take photos in the city are in our many great parks. Ashbridges Bay, High Park, Scarborough Bluffs and the Islands for example. We have a lot of green space spread across the city and it's great to take the time out to enjoy it with your trusty camera in tow. Lately, I've also been exploring some of the waterfront by canoe with my urban voyageur compatriots Mike Mitchener and William Self.
Frank's photo "Lone Pine" is currently hanging in the Toronto Image Works gallery until July 16th.
Previously in the series: