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Toronto through the lens of Frank Lemire

Posted by Tom Ryaboi / July 9, 2011

Frank, Lemire, photosToronto 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.

Toronto FogFrank, Lemire, photosYou 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.

Frank, Lemire, photosFrank, Lemire, photosFrank, Lemire, photosWhat 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, Lemire, photosFrank, Lemire, photosFrank, Lemire, photosFrank, Lemire, photosFrank, Lemire, photos

Frank's photo "Lone Pine" is currently hanging in the Toronto Image Works gallery until July 16th.

Previously in the series:



Scott Snider / July 9, 2011 at 10:13 am
Great article; I've been following Frank's work for a few years and each post reveals a new world and different way of seeing.
Maureen Vollum / July 9, 2011 at 10:57 am
Nice article! Toronto through Frank's lens is wonderful.
Mauricio Calero / July 9, 2011 at 11:11 am
Incredible photography, your work is truly stunning!
alan / July 9, 2011 at 11:17 am
an awesome photographer...these photos are just the tip of the iceberg...wander over to frank's flickr site for a mind-blowing experience....
Jake / July 9, 2011 at 11:27 am
This article is amazing and the photography, STUNNING! Articles like this is what makes BlogTO unique from all the other run of the mill blogs.
Ola / July 9, 2011 at 11:42 am
"Toronto through the lens of..." series is just amazing, such a great addition to the blog! Keep the posts coming
amyie / July 9, 2011 at 11:43 am
HDR is so 2002.
Analog replying to a comment from amyie / July 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm
Agreed I don't know if if is ignorance on the part of the audience but his post production software should be given credit on every image he uses
bri / July 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm
damn... always the buzzkills huh?

I like the pics, nice job!
Syncros replying to a comment from amyie / July 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm
Thanks for the kind comments, folks. I do photography because I love it and your support is always appreciated.

I was waiting for the haters to make their debut. None of the images above are HDR. Infrared is a unique process that makes everything look unreal, thats the point. Read the article to learn more :)
Jen / July 9, 2011 at 01:28 pm
I love the pictures. Frank has documented toronto in such an interesting fashion.
jonathan replying to a comment from amyie / July 9, 2011 at 02:32 pm
Its funny because you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about
Kevo replying to a comment from Syncros / July 9, 2011 at 02:51 pm
lol, I was wondering where amyie got HDR from...

I think out of the ones posted here that the Canada Malting Co one is my favourite... it looks almost like it's a painting and the clouds and fog look great with it.
Jess Bennett / July 9, 2011 at 03:54 pm
Amazing work. Thanks so much for sharing.
Michael Mitchener / July 9, 2011 at 06:20 pm
Yay Frank. Great article and collection of your images. Thanks for the ongoing inspiration.
Dublin / July 9, 2011 at 06:30 pm
First image is simply stunning. Excellent work
stinky tofu / July 9, 2011 at 07:22 pm
Very nice feature. Syncros, along with Jono, do some of the best IR photography I've seen.

May I make a suggestion to the editors of BlogTO, how about a "Toronto through the lens of"... your very own Tom Ryaboi? He should have plenty of stories to tell.
Graham / July 9, 2011 at 07:49 pm
I've been following Lemire's work for several years and enjoy the illuminating perspective he provides through these images. He can do wet work as well as digital, the link to his site is under his name above, or found here:
The Liquor replying to a comment from Analog / July 9, 2011 at 08:41 pm
wow no shit that a digital photo needs processing, you're blowing everyones minds here.

as for the HDR comment? exactly which one of these photos is HDR?

none of them, by the looks of it. perhaps infrared is the word you're looking for

The Liquor replying to a comment from Analog / July 9, 2011 at 08:43 pm
now that the snarky comment is out of the way, great pics!!

I've been thinking of turning my 30D into an IR camera since i went full frame. need to look into that again.....
Syncros replying to a comment from stinky tofu / July 9, 2011 at 09:11 pm
+1 for the idea of Tom Ryaboi. I've got to learn how he gets past the vertigo..

Liquor - I used Lifepixel for my conversion. They do a great job, its the perfect thing to do for your old camera. I had my D70s modded after I picked up a D90 for normal shooting.
William Self replying to a comment from Analog / July 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm
One thing I've always admired about Frank's work is that he is very traditional in his approach which comes from his good number of years working in darkrooms. Heck, he still maintains a darkroom on his basement to this very day. The tilt-shifting you see in the shot of the beach was achieved with a proper tilt-shift lens and the infrared you see in these shots were all achieved 'in camera'.

Frank is the real-deal and relies far less on digital technology than one might be lead to believe. Also, none of his work is HDR. Compositionally, is work is rock-solid and always has lots of wow factor.

I was thrilled to find this post on BlogTO today. As always, beautiful work Frank!
Vinyl Rules / July 9, 2011 at 10:46 pm
Thank you for sharing your work Frank. Unbelievable pictures ! I think Nathen Phillps Square is my favorite...Brent.
saltspring / July 10, 2011 at 12:01 am
"Lone Pine" is almost perfect in its communication. Lines, flow, colours, composition...amazing. FH Varley would marvel at how a talented guy with a modern appliance can make such riveting drama. Well done.
EvidencE / July 10, 2011 at 05:33 pm
Congradulations Frank this is an amazing article on you and your work.It is a real honour to not only be your friend but to see Toronto and other places through your lens your a real inspration to me and a lot of other people.Keep up the great work.Fog Alerts and
Dedication to The Beach's Leslieville Group. Tom this was a great idea for BlogTo
Way to go.
Simon Carr / July 10, 2011 at 05:36 pm
Frank is consistently awesome, I can't believe how often I say "oh that's good!" when flipping through his photostream.
Emalyth / July 11, 2011 at 11:46 am
Frank's work is stunning! If you want to keep up with it another good spot is his flickr account: or 500px account:
Bidong / July 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm
It would be an interesting dynamic if Tom were to interview himself for this series!
ta viinikka / July 13, 2011 at 01:05 pm
Great interview and a solid sampling of Frank's photos. I'm proud to own and exhibit a Lemire IR shot on my wall at home. :)
Matt / July 13, 2011 at 02:15 pm
awesome work. lots of talent in TO.
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