Three Minutes with Don McCullin

“But if people like George Rodger and Margaret Bourke White hadn’t walked into Bergen-Belsen and photographed what happened there, we might have believed what the English Professor David Irving said about it all being a big Zionist plot. Instead we know that he’s talking out the back of his ass.” – Don McCullin

It is interesting to hear Don McCullin reflect on his very distinguished career as a photojournalist as a waste. I can not speak to McCullin’s experience as a war correspondent and I am certain that any speculation of the impact of such a life on one’s psyche would surely fall short. My hope, however, when hearing McCullen speak, is that when he describes this waste, he is referring to the continuation of conflict and the correspondent’s inability to put an end to it.

My best argument for why journalists continue to put themselves in harm’s way is best stated by McCullin himself in the above quote. The cost of conflict is enormous, not only to the dead, but also to survivors forever changed by their experience. My argument isn’t shaped by professional interests, but rather my history studies at university. I believe the photos made at great risk of terrible things, are the proof of our folly and our history. I believe these photos to be among the primary documents with which the future will use to help understand the past. I believe that in making some of these photos, McCullin, and others, have provided a voice for the dead and have honoured them in doing so.

I recently watched the Eddie Adams documentary An Unlikely Weapon, and what strikes me is how hard Adams worked to outlive his experience as a war photographer and the stigma attached to one of his most iconic images. I understand that he spoke rarely about these experiences instead choosing to focus on his documentary work and his workshop. McCullin has become very clear and outspoken about his career and to take what he says literally, “The majority of the last 50 years of my life has been wasted” is to dismiss McCullin’s remarkable contributions to the historical record. Perhaps it is humility or resignation that has informed this perspective or perhaps it is the sheer brutal agony of having been witness to such unreasonable behavior. Nonetheless McCullin continues to trade on this legacy, his work continues to appear in print and collections featuring photos of war and conflict.

It’s been years since I read McCullin’s memoir, Unreasonable Behavior, but I recall it being both fascinating and heart breaking and it sits on my self to this day. The value of war photography is not aesthetic, it is in the power to to provide context and to serve as a stark and brutal reference when others pervert or trivialize events of the past.


I’m going to leave you with a quote from Pam Roberts, Curator for the Royal Photographic Society, Bath, and taken from the catalogue of McCullin’s exhibition A Retrospective which toured Europe in the mid 1990’s.

“The camera gave him his eyes and his soul, his misery and his joy. It took him to places that scarred his mind and his body. It has unbalanced his life and, at the same time, given him a powerful reason for living. As we look at a tiny percentage of the images that one man saw through his camera lens, we should be thankful that he was there, and not us.”

Thankful indeed.

Pictures of the Year 2013

“Cameras in the hands of photographers with hearts can capture love – hope – passion – change lives and make the world a better place. And all it takes is 1/500th of a second.” -Eddie Adams

2013 CMTS SQ50 Joseph Chick-1

I struggle with my year’s best work. I tend to see my most recent work as my best. I tend to become a little bored of the work which I’ve spent too much time considering or editing. I tend not to see my photos the way others do because I see everything, not just the highlights. I will be working on my 2013 box set over the next week or two; my ten best of the year, as I see them. It’s been a pretty good year, and there should be lots to choose from, but it also feels a little like wading into murky water.

In the meantime I have collected links to Photos of the Year galleries. Photography is getting richer, and while it’s easy to find post after post predicting the long slow decline of both professional photography and photography as most people understand it, I don’t see it the same way. I am optimistic. I believe we are in a Renaissance period in which technology is fueling creativity and broadening the way we share images. There are more ways to make a photo than ever before and there are more ways to share photography than ever before. And while change has come and will continue to impact the traditional channels through which photography has been shared, the value of quality work is getting higher. It does, however, require adaptation. While Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made a statement early this year equating professional photography with the storage capacity one might need, the difference between professional photography and that of even the most advanced amateurs in not merely defined by the equipment or software we use. It is no more the camera that makes the photographer than it is a hammer that makes a carpenter, or a note pad that makes a reporter. Beyond risk and opportunity it is the cumulative total of experience, judgement and skill that makes any photo as much as it is the camera and this year’s best photos are a perfect illustration of this truth.


Year in Pictures

Time Magazine:

LightBox The Year In Pictures (Multiple Galleries)

LightBox The Year in 365 Pictures

The Atlantic In Focus – The Year In Photos:

Part 1: 2013 The Year In Photos January-April

Part 2: 2013 The Year In Photos May-August

Part 3: 2013 The Year In Photos September-December

Reuters Full Focus:

Best Photos of the Year

The New York Times:

2013 The Year in Pictures

National Geographic:

2013 Year In Review


PINKBIKE’S Photos of the Year

Sports Illustrated:

Pictures of the Year

Billboard Magazine:

Photos of the Year: Best Instagrams of 2013  OMG!

Happy New Year everyone.

The Burgoo Food For Comfort Cookbook Giveaway Winners!

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations” -Oscar Wilde

Thanks to everyone who submitted their food photos; I have declared a winner (winner, chicken dinner)! I received some pretty nice submissions and others who’s spirit was in the right place but who’s technique could use a little work. In the end I appreciate everyone who took the time to send me a photo, or three and hope that you’ll participate in the next giveaway coming soon in the new year. In the end the winning photo offered the most complete mise en scene, that is to say the right combination of light, composition and content. Congratulations to Steffani Cameron in Victoria who submitted a nicely composed image of Oven baked “chips” with halibut en papillotte on a bed of kale & leek with mayo dip.

food for comfort Stephanie Cameron 1

And in case you were interested there a couple honorable mentions:

food for comfort Adrienne Denham

Thanks to Adrienne Denham, Simon Whitehead & son Bryn for this team effort to capture and submit this photo of Bryn and what’s left of his first experience with cherries.

Shannon Penway Food For Comfort

Nice work Shannon Penway! Looks delicious, can I invite you for dinner, and can you bring this apple tart?

Food For Comfort Skinners Bean Dip

Getting right into the spirit of it is Tom Skinner and his pic of a recipe taken from the prize in question; Tuscan Bean dip with home made beer and bread.

Thanks to Margaret Buttner in Vancouver for her enthusiastic submissioning, Michael Payne in Dallas, Andrew Tang for his capture of his Brother-in-law’s lovely and meaty roast creation, BCBR’s own Colin Wilson for his pics of pizza and waffles, you’re welcome to stay with us anytime (as long as you bring your waffle maker!) Whistler’s Tara Colpitts @Whis_Foodie; follow her on Twitter. Thank’s to my father-in-Law, Dr. Kenneth Carty for capturing the spirit of the season in his photo of volunteers preparing meals for Out Of The Cold and finally to Phil Mowatt who’s Butter Chicken Lasagna is Tippie Approved. Finally to Bill Carty, who contests no meal is complete without three dozen sausages!

Happy Holidays

 “Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even its end.” -Joanne Harris

2013 Shaer Xmas Blog

However you celebrate this time of year, I wish you all the very best and hope that you are in good health, good company and good cheer. I hope the love you feel for the people around you is greater than the loss you feel for those you can’t be with. I will be thinking of family separated by time, geography and mortality while doing my best to celebrate the company that I find myself in over the next week or so.

I have so much to be grateful for this year and I appreciate that you’ve come through the last 12 month with me. 2013 started with some challenges, but revealed a year of successes with some amazing events, clients and photos. The successes of 2013 would not have been possible without a huge number of people.

Thanks to Forehand Foods Group/Burgoo Bistro; Justin Joyce, Stephen MacIntyre, Ken Carty, Michael Carty and their exceptional management team and restaurant staff. Peter Cocking at Figure 1 Publishing. The team at 5 Peaks; Christopher Colpitts, Chris Kennedy, Solana Klassen, Richard Bolt, Adam Campbell and Amy Golumbia who has so generously set me free to shoot her events the way I see them. Tom Skinner and Clif Cunningham at Canada Running Series in Vancouver, thank you for having me along for another great season. Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford at Coast Mountain Trail Series/Squamish 50, thanks for bringing me along on your inaugural season and the opportunity to shoot in some truly challenging weather and terrain. Thanks to Kathryn Stanton and the Meet Your Maker team. Thanks to Susan Butler, Louise Hatton, Michelle Leroux, Darren Kinnaird and the photo team at Crankworx 2013. Thanks to Erik & Kim at SUPERDROP – would be a perfect stocking stuffer! Peter van den Berg at Rollco. The whole crew at CreativeMornings/Vancouver who are working to bring Vancouver’s creative community together for thought provoking conversation and breakfast all before 10 am. Thanks to Jim and Lesley at Exhibit Connections, Brian Kladko at the UBC Faculty of Medicine, Ashley Kroening & Margaret Buttner at the Arthritis Society – BC & Yukon Division. Thanks to Rachel Johns at Greenstone Productions. Thanks to the Whistler Question, the Georgia Straight, The Vancouver Province, Canadian Running Magazine, Sheri Radford at, The Columbia Valley Pioneer, James Blackwell at Mountain Bike UK and more who have trusted my work to share with their communities and readers.

Thanks to the huge but close knit community of event pros that routinely invite me back. Thanks to the BC Bike Race family; Dean Payne, Andreas Hestler, Lisa Au, Danielle Baker, Malina Parmar & Karen Stark among many others. Thanks to Dave Clark and his Whistler-based team for having me out for Coho and the Spirit of the Shore Half Marathon. Thanks to Ken, Isaac & Al and the Scene Ideas Crew. Thanks to Coreena Fletcher who has weathered an almost impossible year with her amazing spirit intact; thanks for the opportunity to work with you, Jay and Molson. Thanks to Tim Hopkins at the Vancouver Sun Run, Marc Campbell at the Surrey Marathon and Maurice Wilson at BC Athletics who continues to invite me back to work with the team at the Whistler 50 despite my bar tab. Thanks to the dozens of photographers I’ve worked with this year who continue to innovate and elevate a challenging and changing industry. Thanks to that core group I seem to see most event weekends with special thanks to Michael Campbell Burns who is half the size and works twice as hard as anyone I’ve met and to MCJC John Crosby who not only rocks the mic weekend after weekend but has also become a great client and corporate headshot model! Thanks and congratulations to Hana Dethlefsen, whose cookbook Let’s Cooking is making the local foodie rounds and making Japanese cooking a little easier for the rest of us.

Thanks to an amazing group of athletes who have lit it up for my camera, some already mentioned, and others like James Marshall, Shannon Penway & Tom Craik who make it so much easier to make great photos. Thanks to the thousands of event participants who smile, wave and dig deep for the camera even when they see me at the top of a climb. Thanks to a year of great swag and sponsorship, most of the events I work are made possible only because sponsors believe in what we’re doing. Thanks to Salomon for keeping me in tech shirts and Kicking Horse for keeping my coffee can filled and Ryders Eyewear for great specs and some mean looking socks. Thanks to Mark Busse, Johnathon Vaughn Strebly, Nick Didlick and Rick Etkin who have fielded endless questions with good will and in good spirits. Special thanks to Patti Houston who comes in like a Fairy Godmother to make things happen.

Thanks also to the friends, family and clients who have supported my return to photography without whom my best work would not be possible. Thank you, most of all, to Ms. Leslie Carty who has pushed, supported and encouraged me through the darkness of winter and the frenzy of event season because we are better together.

Happy Holidays & Much Love.

If I have left you out, it has been unintentional and I will make amends!

Recent Work: CreativeMornings/Vancouver with Rachael Ashe

“There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.” -Wynn Dyer

CM-Van Rachael Ashe RS Personal-1

What does it mean to make something? I’ve been struggling with this most of my professional life and this can be confusing considering all the things we “make”. From Love to A Living and many in between, these are things made and depending on where you are in life, can take on disproportionate significance. On Friday morning my friend, and artist, Rachael Ashe tried to make sense of Make at CreativeMornings/Vancouver.

Years ago a mentor explained to me why he described what he does as making a photo, rather than taking a picture. It was a thought provoking conversation and one which has never left me. It also changed my self perception and how I view the work that I do. It was revelatory; the idea that a photographer makes a photo rather than takes it and with this revelation I became a maker of things, rather than a taker.

Artist Rachael Ashe is a maker. Working largely with paper she creates paperscapes of positive and negative space by carving away what has become superfluous from her canvas. More recently Rachael has produced a number of laser cuts of some of her work and if I won Lotto Max, I would have a house filled with these pieces.

More about Rachael and her work here:

Rachael Ashe

More about CreativeMornings here:


CM-Van Rachael Ashe RS Personal-7

Video: Get Off The Road with James Marshall

“When one tugs at a single thing in Nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” -John Muir

I’m excited to share this video featuring my friend, and frequent subject, runner James Marshall. You’ve seen pictures of James before, but Film Maker, Jeff Pelletier captures in this video something that is almost impossible to capture in a still frame. Both Jeff and James are accomplished runners and experienced 5 Peaks Alumni, both of whom I photograph many times though the event season. Stuck in my ‘quiet season’ I have been scouring the web for inspiration and project ideas for 2014. Any ideas?

2013 James Marshall Mtn Portaits-2

2013 James Marshall Mtn Portaits-1

Project Update: Let’s Cooking Cookbook

“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.” ~Marcel Boulestin

Lets Cooking Cover

It’s fair to admit that there are times when even I, a great observer of the world, can not see the forest for the trees. I say this with my tongue in my cheek as I’ve come out of my busiest event season, maybe ever, and into the quiet season. This transition can be difficult, it can feel like a sudden and unexpected train stop. This is the time of year when some of us have to dig deep for the discipline to make our soft deadlines, to make the necessary software updates, to review the year past and start planning for the year ahead. It is a time for housekeeping and review, and if you feel stuck at home while others are away on assignment, it can be difficult to swap the camera for the computer.

But it turns out Autumn 2013 has been pretty good, and has offered a lot more than simply hunkering down with new external drives, and software updates. The first great thing to arrive this fall was Burgoo’s Food For Comfort Cookbook, which I had in hand at the end of October after waiting ‘patiently’ for months. It is important to consider how long the process for these type of projects can take, especially if you might be used to seeing your work in print or online, a few days or hours after shooting it.

On the heals of Food for Comfort, Hana Dethlefsen’s Let’s Cooking: Japanese Cooking at Home Vol. 1 was the next great thing to land in my expectant hands. And if the Burgoo project felt protracted, Let’s Cooking took waiting patiently to a whole new level. In fairness Let’s Cooking was a very different type of project. It is a small book filled with big ideas financed by good will pot luck dinners. The principal photography was produced two years ago with the idea that if circumstances worked out, there would be a book somewhere down the road. Circumstances worked out and after a very successful summer crowd funding campaign an initial print run of 500 copies was produced with plans in the works for 500 more in the new year.

Hana describes Japanese food as more than just sushi, or chicken karage, and while these are popular, it is the shared meal that is most significant to Japanese food. It is the mixture of colour, texture and flavour that makes Japanese food delicious, healthy and beautiful. While Let’s Cooking isn’t available in wide release, if you are interested please get in touch with Hana through her website: Let’s Cooking.

I have an extra copy which I hope to be able to giveaway in the new year with a contest similar to this month’s Food For Comfort giveaway.

Hana Dethlefsen FEEDback Project

Hana Dethlefsen FEEDback Project

Hana Dethlefsen FEEDback Project

Hana Dethlefsen FEEDback Project

Photography & Private Spaces

“One of the risks of appearing in public is the likelihood of being photographed.”  – Diane Arbus

Photo by Arne Svenson

Earlier this year New York City-based Photographer Arne Svenson shared his exhibit The Neighbors at the Julie Saul Gallery in New York. The exhibit featured photographs of people, in private moments, in their homes high above city streets, shot with a telephoto lens from a neighboring building.

In the age of Social Media privacy has taken a significant leap forward in public discourse. Secrets have become public and the contents of private lives have become comment fodder for our “friends” & “connections”. Thus it is easy to be confused where the line is drawn, especially so as the boundary of privacy is ever moving.  It may be easy to identify Svenson’s work as consistent with current trends given what we see and read in our social media feeds. But I see a difference, and it is significant.

This difference is about choice. We choose which parts of our lives to share with our friends and connections, Svenson has removed that power from his subjects. Some, including his gallery representation, position his work consistent with the canon of street photography. I disagree. While I am not 100% certain that Cartier-Bresson never shot with a 500mm lens, I would find it extremely unlikely. At street level, a relationship is created in the instant of capture, whether or not the subject is fully aware of the photographer. In every photograph taken at street level there is either implicit permission or there is risk of confrontation and among the many skills of street photographers and photojournalists, this risk assessment is ever present when photographing strangers.

Photographers, street, editorial or other are well aware, or should be, of the reasonable expectation of privacy. This tenant makes a clear distinction between public and private property, between what is visible from a public sidewalk and what is hidden. In our homes, and out of public view, we possess this reasonable expectation. If, however, we choose to wander about in our birthday suits in public view we forfeit this expectation. In this distinction we acknowledge a personal responsibility for our privacy. Where Svenson and The Neighbors fall short is in how his photos were made of one private space from another. While it may be a semantic distinction, I would believe, living on the 20th floor of my building that I possessed this reasonable expectation because I was out of public view. Further, one simply does not expect to be photographed in their home from afar, especially given the constant of cameras, in one form or another, at street level. For the sake of example, shopping malls are private property, and in strictly legal terms, a photographer requires specific permission from either the property management or of the store management if shooting in a store. This is something I have first hand experience with.

Svenson has since won legal suits brought against him by subjects who felt their privacy was compromised by the photographer. Svenson sees this as a clear victory of artist’s rights and the freedom of speech, and in this I see the value of his work. It is the confrontation of free speech and the rights of privacy. I don’t think Svenson’s photos are particularly salacious or demeaning, but neither do I think they are particularly interesting or possess much in the way of aesthetic value. His photos are boring, they are uninteresting in themselves, but rather fascinating in the context of this confrontation between free speech and the right to privacy.

Consider the challenges faced by Google regarding Google Street View. All over the world privacy issues have come up for debate with what constitutes privacy and what gets captured in these images. Across the European Union challenges have been levied, reversed and relevied. In one instance which led to a ban since reversed, authorities in the Czech Republic described the photos produced by Street View cameras as “beyond the ordinary extent of sight from the street” and that it “disproportionately invades citizens’ privacy.”  In another case, while the award was nominal, a Baltimore Judge ruled Google Street View an intentional trespasser and awarded the plaintiff $1 in compensation.

This is all rather academic. I am not a fan Svenson’s work. I don’t think it rates among the guardians of street photography. I believe that he hides himself from the act of permission behind a 500mm lens. His work suggests someone with an extreme social anxiety disorder, incapable of interacting with others. While this in itself is perfectly reasonable, he insists on exploiting other people and their privacy in his work. When, sometime in the future, we turn to celebrate those who fought for the right of free speech his name, and work, will be long forgotten. In reading about Svenson and The Neighbors I came across a quote in the Guardian from another photographer who produced a similar work. In it he expressed unease at being an unaware subject of someone else’s photographs. Photographer Micheal Wolf says “I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel if I knew someone would come into my room while I was sleeping and take my picture. I think, spontaneously, I wouldn’t feel comfortable.”

Though it was months ago, I recall my first impressions on seeing work from The Neighbors, I thought of how horrified I might be had I walked into that gallery and saw an image of myself in my home, shot without my knowledge or consent, and now on display and for sale. I also wonder what Arne Svenson’s reaction might have been while looking through that long glass and discovering someone was looking back at him.

More here:

Photoshelter Bog, Are These Photos Art or Privacy Invasion? By Lauren Margolis

Arne Svenson

The Guardian Photography Blog – The Art of Peeping: Photography at the Limits of Privacy

I’d love to read your comments.

Video – Photographer Clark Little on Oahu’s North Shore

“You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.” – William Albert Allard

Hi Shredibility: Clark Little popped up on my social media radar a couple weeks ago and I’ve had it tucked away since knowing that I would come back to it at some point. What appeals to me about this short piece by Vice Magazine is the quality of the visual storytelling and the quality of Little’s photography both of which are evocative of an experience unique to a very special piece of geography in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The strength of Little’s photography lies not only in his skill or aptitude with equipment and technique, but his true and genuine love for his subject matter. It is not enough to be in love with photography as a medium, I believe it is the connection to the subject that creates truly outstanding work. I’ve always regarded my best work as that which has been driven by passion, by a strong set of feelings, whether through a personal connection, empathy or curiosity. Photographers know when we ‘phone it in.’ We don’t make pictures for the sake of making pictures, making a picture is an act of sharing an experience, whether it is yours as a photographer or that the subject’s.

Little’s photography illustrates his relationship with the ocean, it is an evolution of his experience as a surfer charging shore breaks, and it is this experience which informs his unique perspective and approach to what he does. There is a definite eye candy quality to his photographs and it would be easy to dismiss his work as such if it weren’t for the physical commitment he makes to each photograph. Getting worked by heavy shore break on Oahu’s North Shore is no easy feat. It requires skill, strength and perseverance. Little takes risks to make his photos as much or more as any photographer; getting caught inside is no day at the beach and in the end he makes photos that set an impossible bench mark for everyone else to meet.

I have to admit that finding this video was something of a discovery. I am familiar with Vice Magazine, and I have the Vice Guide to Travel DVD on my shelf, but I wasn’t aware that Vice shot these sort of short pieces. After watching Hi Shredibility I watched a few other stories and I was pretty impressed with what I saw and invite you to seek out Vice Magazine’s YouTube page.

Vice Magazine on YouTube: Vice

More about Clark Little: Clark Little Official

Recent Work – Burgoo: Food For Comfort Cookbook

“First we eat with our eyes.” – Attribution unknown


Back in January I was asked to sit in on a conversation between a client and a creative director regarding a book project that had fallen off my radar months before. It was the first conversation of many that led to more than a dozen individual shoots including location and studio-style work featuring the spaces and the food of Burgoo Bistro. Burgoo is four neighbourhood restaurants with a reputation for rich and satisfying comfort food. Soup, stews, salads and grilled cheese sandwiches washed down with Imperial pints of their signature beer, Burgoo Brew.

I am very excited, after months of work, and months more of waiting, to have a copy in my hands and to be able to share some of this work with those who have been patiently waiting with me. Having come from a background in photojournalism my approach to photography has always been fast and light. Even when I was photographing hotels, my colleagues and I traveled pretty light compared to others in the industry who traveled with case after case filled with every imaginable piece of gear. We traveled solo with a basic kit and laptop and we accomplished some pretty incredible work relative to the amount of equipment we traveled with.

When I say studio, I am stretching the truth a bit. All the work in Food For Comfort was shot on location. Most of the food photography was produced on a boardroom table in a space shared with the company’s test kitchen. The ephemeral shots, or atmosphere photos were shot in one of Burgoo’s four locations around Vancouver. Unlike my days traveling, I took more of maximist approach to this project. Surrounding the boardroom table, were stands of strobe lights, softboxes, cables & cords and a camera tethered to my iMac which I had brought in for each of the food shoots.

It was my first time shooting tethered with content arriving on the screen a few moments after capture without the benefit of any image selection or corrections. The plus side, and it was a huge plus, was though there were four of us on ‘set’, each with a distinct perspective, we were all able to recognize without negotiation that we had arrived at the right image and it was time to move to the next dish.

I remain super stoked about having this book in my hands, and I think it will take a while before the novelty of having it wears off. Though it is Burgoo’s book, it feels a little like mine and I am proud to be able to share it.

Burgoo: Food for Comfort is available at Burgoo locations in addition to online at:

Burgoo at Chapters

Gooey Grillers Page