Toronto through the lens of Thomas Bollmann
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, we regularly feature the work of a Toronto-based photographer in our series "Toronto through the lens of."
This week I chatted with Thomas Bollmann of Seed Nine Photography.
How long have you been taking photographs and what made you pick up the camera in the first place?
Professionally I've been shooting since '99. I first picked up a camera when I was about 10 and discovered my grandfather's darkroom equipment in storage. I was fascinated by the process of being able to print my own pictures. I grew up in Berlin and back then you bought all your chemicals and paper at the drug store.
When did you know photography was your calling?
When I discovered I sucked as a painter. I was going for photo realism and it didn't really work.
Do you have any favorite places to shoot in Toronto?
Toronto's a great city; it's my second home, but to be honest, it's one of hardest cities to shoot in. There are very few great spots and they tend to be used again and again. I think there are gems that can be found in the city and it is possible to create the feeling of being elsewhere on location shoots with creative uses of angles and light. I would say Toronto demands that you put on your 'outside of the box' hat when considering locations.
What do you like to photograph when you're not working?
I love environmental portraits and shooting fashion that is more provocative conceptually.
You founded Poor But Sexy Magazine in 2009. What's the focus of the magazine? And what have been some of the challenges in keeping it fresh?
My partner, Ingrid Jones, and I founded Poor But Sexy both as a vehicle to collaborate with other artists and as a promotional piece. We wanted a publication that offers artists the chance to push boundaries and not worry about content restrictions that can come into play when choose traditional advertisers. We aren't against advertising, in fact we collaborate with ad agencies and private companies all the time, but the partners we choose are excited to push the envelope as well and showcase the innovative side of their firms. That's what we love. It's creative freedom.
In terms of keeping it fresh, we constantly mix up our guest shooters in terms of their area of concentration and don't classify the magazine as just fashion or just fine arts. We are an art and culture publication that offers what you won't see in most publications, which is work that is inspired by the artists themselves. It's not about giving artists an assignment, we only give a theme and let the artists do what they want with it. With each issue, we have been pleasantly surprised by the variety of what we get visually as a result of this policy.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out with photography?
Shoot as much as you can, and don't fall prey to just shooting what you think will get you hired. Most industry members want to see what you do when you're not on assignment, so do what makes you feel inspired. Also, don't be afraid to fail. You learn a lot more that way.
You can see more of Thomas' work on Seed Nine Photography.
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