Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
I am a photo and film based conceptual artist currently located in Toronto, Canada. I create highly constructed, staged, and digitally manipulated imagery which simulates society’s desire for an idealized, yet unattainable life. I connect this desire with social, cultural, and political issues we are faced with today.
How did you get started doing what you do?
I initially got into photography as a young teenager when my parents bought me a point-and-shoot camera. I became fascinated with the technical aspects of photography so I joined the photography club in high school. From this, I went to art school and majored in photography.
How would you describe your creative style?
My creative style is colourful, synthetic, fantastical, polished, highly stylized, obsessive, meticulous, and passionate.
What’s your inspiration?
I’m inspired by so many different things. It can range from a piece of garbage on the street to an image from one of my favourite artists. Visually, I tend to be inspired by historic items and things that are kitsch. Conceptually, I’m inspired by humans’ insatiable feelings of desire and the repercussions of those feelings in relation to personal, social and political issues.
What is art to you?
I’m still trying to figure this out, however, I think good art is art that has a message or story that will impact the viewer, make them question themselves, as well as bring about awareness. This doesn’t necessarily have to be something political or social – it can be something very personal.
What does your typical day look like?
I don’t really have a typical day. Some days I spend researching, while other days I’m doing test shoots, or shopping for props, or retouching. It really varies depending on what stage I’m at with a particular project.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
The conceptual process can take a really long time. I spend months researching, watching documentaries, taking notes, sketching, doing test shoots, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the project. I eventually get to a point where I feel it’s enough and then I’ll shoot the piece. Shooting still images usually takes a day, where as shooting for film will take a few days. I then edit and retouch which can range from a week to about a month, depending on the amount of images and the amount of editing required.
How do you keep motivated?
I stay motivated because I have so many different ideas and projects I want to work on and complete. Plus, I feel this is my way of positively contributing to the world.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I want my work to tell a story, to inform, to inspire, and to help bring about positive change.
What do you want others to take away from your work?
I would like my work to bring about awareness to the various issues the world is dealing with. I want my work to get people to question themselves and maybe the lifestyle they live. I want it to get people to think about desire and this constant need for fulfillment that we have. Ultimately, I want my work to inspire people.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to work harder, and never stop producing and exhibiting work.
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
I think it’s important for aspiring artists to experiment a lot with artistic techniques, themes, concepts, mediums, and so on. As an artist, you need to produce work that you love and not be concerned with what you think other people will like. You also need to share your work with people, listen to positive criticism, but ultimately create the work that you love, and never stop creating and sharing.
What are your thoughts on art school?
I think art school can be fantastic – it was for me. It gave me a foundation, and taught me how to work with my concepts and how to develop them. Art school allowed me to experiment with different mediums, find what worked best for me. It allowed me to experiment with concepts and ideas, and being able to do this everyday was incredible. Art school really helped me understand what I wanted to accomplish with my work. As well, art school was a lot of fun.
What’s your dream project?
A dream project for me would be producing any one of my projects without any technical or budget restraints – and of course showing it internationally.
What art supplies do you use?
My main art supplies are a computer, Photoshop, and a camera with a few lights. However, because my ideas are characters in particular settings, I use a lot of props and costumes which sometimes have to be made specifically for the shoot.
What’s your process like?
I’m usually inspired by something, could be anything really, and from this initial point of inspiration I begin to work with the concept. I research a lot, sketch, do test shoots, and figure out the best way to tell the story. I begin to shop for props and costumes which also helps direct the project in a particular way. Once I am happy with the concept and how I want to execute it, I’ll shoot it. During the shoot, I experiment with lighting, posing, facial expressions and so on. I then spend about a week or so choosing the images. I might even take a couple images and do a quick edit on them to get an idea of what the final piece will look like. After I’ve finalized the images I want to use for the series, I begin retouching. This takes a few weeks to a couple of months depending on the amount of images. During the retouching phase, I tend to composite many images together to make one. I guess my work is somewhat of a collage, but maybe not in the traditional sense. Once the images are done, I leave them. I’ll then go back, take a look at them and see if they need any changes. By this time, I’ve had enough with the images and am thrilled they are done.
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
It would be great if collectors stopped spending millions of dollars on Picasso’s and supported more emerging artists. As well, I think photography and photo-based work is still undervalued in the art world. It would be great if it was on par with more traditional mediums.