Tag Archives: Darren Eedens

End of an Era: This Blog Ends Here

While speaking at the 2014 CITE Conference about the way that blogging has changed my writing style, how this blog has reached over 100,000 views all over the world, and what topics I have written about, I realized that now was the time to end the blog. Maybe it is that I have changed, maybe it is that the theme of If Not Now, When? has become removed from where my life is: I fulfilled the expectations of doing whatever I wanted over these past five years, and I have translated that into an amazing life in an amazing world. My reality is that the now is constantly in play, and I have the momentum to continue to the end without looking ahead or behind.

For this final entry I wanted to write a summative piece; I have avoided writing for the past two weeks to ensure that what I wrote was strong. In the end, I decided to reflect on the people who I have met in the past two years, and who changed what I knew to be true. Each one is a creative genius, an artist, connects deeply with my photographic work, and is an inspiration to work with. First…Graeme Cameron of Base Camp X.

Wendigo Blades

I met Graeme through a series of random events. Over two years I have shot about 200 images for him. His tools are beautiful, rugged, and connect to an inspirational narrative. I now own four axes, two canoe paddles and a few lethal, zombie-worthy knives, and I am always impressed by what he pulls out of his bag at each photo session. This week had me photographing his new series of Wendigo Blades, a slingshot, and a few clothing items. These new blades, especially the middle size, are prime examples of tools that not only make sense to own, but also feel like an extension of your body. The work I do for Graeme is personal, and money never changes hands; some work is simply worth the doing.

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When I began going to to hear music two years ago, we came across a local banjo picker at Cameron House whose music became the soundtrack of our lives. Darren Eedens has since become a friend and continual inspiration. I seem to recall taking a few shots at a show at Cameron House, and then at Lee’s Palace. I never tire of the songs “Waiting For the Freeze”, “Darlin'”, and Footprints in the Snow”. Darren’s music inspired me to pick up my guitar again for the first time in years. I ended up writing and recording an album about my life over an intense three month period. I began going to hear music at local bars even when I was exhausted from work. I found the music in life again. I found myself in the places between a pint of beer and a steel string guitar.

Paderno Nature Pan

The third person who altered my being is the most important. She is the person I am going to marry. She is the person who awakened me from a deep slumber. She is the most talented, adventurous, and kind individual that I have met. Our life is full of joy and challenges, but the balance keeps us moving forward together, and I know that I have found the love of my life. She keeps me in the now. I care little about the past now, and the future is not as important as what we do in the present together. We move into our new house in July, and I am happy. What does this have to do with the photograph of me dragging a sled?

I chose this photograph because she took it, and it represents a full circle coming around in the past year when I took a similar photograph of her with Paderno’s first Nature Pan. That photograph was widely published, and represents the highest point of my success in commercial photography. Our life is filled with passion and art; I need for nothing while I have her by my side.

Anthony N. Chandler

So here we are. While I continue to work as an educator, photographer and writer, I do so now because the work offers artistic and personal opportunities. While I continue to travel the world widely with a summer trip to Bangalore and Paris, I have a deeper desire to stay close to home and America. Instead of writing for this blog, I want to turn my talents over to a novel that I began two years ago. In it, I bring the mythical sirens to life in magical world beneath the one we all know too well. The idea of writing a longer, fictional piece feels like a logical progression. Thus ends If Not Now, When?  and the rest of my life’s story begins now.

“Teach me to hear the mermaids singing…”

~John Donne

The Mockingbird Session: Photography For Darren Eedens

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Getting down to business is difficult for the best of us; making a solid living in any business these days is starting to sound like a country song: “can’t pay my bills, no food for my table, hope you got a way forward cause I just ain’t able.” Fortunately, I am quite able to take care of the tasks required to make a go of it in the big city. I have been able to forge a superb career as an educator at one of the best schools in Canada so the bills do get paid on a regular basis. It never hurts that I also work hard towards becoming a better photographer just in case those bills slip out of control due to unforeseen circumstances. Photography is my art form that I could fall back on in times of need.

One of my favourite aspects of photography is that I am able to work with musicians. Music is a major force in my life, and I know how hard professional musicians have it in these days when bars seldom pay bands to play, and when the tip jar is filled at the mercy of a drunken audience. Musicians provide the soundtrack of our memories. My best memories have come from my past year of living in downtown Toronto, and many of my favourite soundtrack scenes have been scored by local banjo evangelist, Darren Eedens. Working on a new set of promo photographs with Eedens was last night’s business.

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Finding ways to shoot compelling portraits is always a challenge. The hard part is not physically taking the photo, but rather finding a way to convey the personality of the subject while still creating a mythical persona is the obstacle. Great photography takes elbow grease and a sense of humour.

For Darren’s session, I wanted to reflect the musician whose music brought me close to the love of my lifetime, while not being so personal that these shots could not be used for simple promo posters as he travels across Europe in the Spring. I needed a few shots where there is negative space that could be filled with text about a show, I needed a few up close portraits that could be used online or in a magazine, and I wanted a few 4×5 film shots for my portfolio and that would stand out from what millions of others in the business have in their kit.

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For my first few shots I simply wanted to make Darren feel comfortable with the camera. No small feat when one never knows what the other person is going to hope for, how he is going to dress, and whether photography sessions are old hat for the subject. These shots are good, usable and were generally easy to take technique-wise.

My second set were taken with the Hasselblad CFV 16 medium format back. As one can see from the smooth tones and photographic quality of the first shot, the CFV excels at portraits. I shot tethered to my Macbook Pro with an 80mm f.2.8 CFi lens, and was able to crank out one shot every three seconds with my Profoto D1 lights. It is the type of photograph that stands up against anything else in this genre. It has depth, the lines of the shirt and tattoos flow beautifully, and the eyes betray a million words of love gone wrong and riding the rails.

The third set was shot in 4×5 tim with my 1960s Linhof large format camera. I won’t have those developed until next week, but I expect them to be photographs on a whole other level. The best part of the night was a ten minute jam in the key of G with Eedens on banjo while I banged out a blues on my Martin guitar. The ProTools recording is absolutely beautiful, especially given that microphones were haphazardly set up and we had no plan to even play. Moments like that make work worth the effort.

I labelled last night the Mockingbird Sessions; mockingbirds mimic the songs of others in an attempt to find love. On our morning walk with the dogs we came across a pair outside of the studio, so the message was clear and fortuitous. All creatures sing for different reasons; some for love and others for money.

Before Solstice: Engage, Sing, Dance, War

Desert Dawg Tomahawk

Life is meant to be joyous. Whether it is in passion or war, humans were meant to engage in the moment; to thrive in the ecstasy and sway with the wind. In my life, I have missed the point in so many ways. I had attempted to build a fortress around my soul to keep it from the constant attacks of those who out of spite and anger love to destroy our faith. Since September I have pushed hard to rebuild my life approach, and since September I have found the journey to be so rich that the outcome has lost all meaning. In the moment there is nothing else; outside of the moment there is nothing.

While it may sound like I have been spending my time philosophizing, my time has been spent surrounded by the amazing kindred souls I have found once I opened my eyes to seek them. My photography has refocused itself on such kith, and for that I have been rewarded with work that reflects what I have found: art, love, warfare and jubilation.

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Last night had me photographing Graeme Cameron’s latest work of genius: the Desert Dawg Tomahawk. Made for Ace Kvale, I think, this piece feels so raw yet refined. The blade head is rough hewn, but the lines are more delicate than my own Hellfire X Tomahawk, and the leather strap makes it feel much more secure when swinging it about. Two of these used in tandem would make quite a formidable deterrent. There is more to come from Base Camp X this week. One piece is especially exciting: the Superman Titanis for Zack Snyder.

Last night also had me processing a series of photographs I took for banjo player extraordinaire, Darren Eedens. While none of these shots are tack sharp, nor are they technically perfect, the feeling and motion are honest and beautiful. I feel like I was able to capture this artist’s vibe on digital and then warm it up with analogue processing filters. I drop off the disc to him tonight at his big Indie artist show at Lee’s Palace tonight. I am always thrilled to hear his playing and picking.

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Last week I also had the honour of viewing an Estonian dance troupe perform a series of pieces at The Distillery District’s Christmas Market. What I loved about the show was the joy that they could express through their movements and in their faces. The unique brocade and trim on each costume pulled the audience in as it swirled though night air under the stage lights. For anyone interested in supporting my plight to gain a bit of recognition within the Toronto community for both myself and this troupe, then you can always click a vote on the Distillery Contest site : every vote helps me get closer to making the top ten and be judged by the judges.

Engaged

Finally, on Sunday I had the privilege to shoot a series of engagement photographs for my close friends, Scott and Amanda. Portraiture is perhaps the most challenging genre to do right, because every participant hopes to look a certain way, to have certain emotions present in the best photos. What I had hoped to capture was how much my two friends love each other, and the role they play in supporting each other on a daily basis. While I will not describe how I see their love, I think that the preceding photograph captures an emotional connection that might not often be communicated for others, and may even be impossible to show unless captured on film. We spent three fun hours walking along Queen Street West capturing who they are together, and not four hours trudging through a series of lame preset poses with fake smiles. I still have 24 Hasselblad photographs to scan tonight to complete their set, and I think those shots are even closer to what I was aiming to procure for them.

The truth: Love is a balance between Passion and the Warfare; it is what makes us cry, makes us laugh, prompts spontaneous singing and dancing until the time when we lose ourselves to its beauty; when we submit to its power willingly.

Charcuterie 101: Brine and Smoke With The Healthy Butcher

ImageFew things are more beautiful than learning traditional skills lost to our generation because we no longer have the time to spend practicing them. Over the past few months I have made a concerted effort to take in workshops that focus on food preparation techniques such as butchery and mead-making. The sense of accomplishment that I feel from having made my own mead is palpable, and the anticipation of drinking my own mead on the solstice with friends is brilliant. During the previous months, I was able to take butchery classes from The Healthy Butcher, and those classes completely altered how I came to understand both the prep and the cooking of different cuts of meat.

This week found me and two colleagues from school at the Eglinton location of The Healthy Butcher for their introduction to charcuterie. The area of concentration for the class was to explore brining and smoking as ways to both flavour and finish various cuts of meat and fish. Executive butcher, David Meli, was in command of the ship, and I have to admit that he steered us confidently through a myriad of fascinating topics with ease and humour. When you have three teachers from Canada’s most prestigious private school in your audience, and you can sweep us along through the compelling narrative that you weave, then you should be proud of your narrative talent: David has such a talent and gift.

Dave at Smoker

As we moved through the history of brining and smoking, we were also treated to lessons in chemistry and culinary techniques. Our class would follow us through smoking beef, chicken, duck, salmon and pork in an industrial smoker, but we would also come to understand why to smoke food and how it might make use come together with our family and friends. Again, the narrative spoke to me as much as the facts.

Ham

Next up was David’s thoughts about brining, when to use it, how to follow through with successful brines, and what the flavour implications would be when applied to various types of meats. Now I had successfully brined both a turkey and pork chops before, but never really thought about it beyond the idea that it kept my portions moist throughout the cooking process. As David explained the chemical breakdown of the process, I began to understand how I will apply all of these techniques when I return home at Christmas. Strangely, I also imagined the wicked smoker that I could build on the property I end up buying on Prince Edward Island this year. The imaginative possibility of harvesting food for preserves and smoking a supply of meat while home in the summertime was profoundly appealing.

In the Smoker

The smoking section of the class was no less informative. David spoke about blending apple or cherry woods to hickory or oak. He warned of the temptation to smoke at too high of a temperature, and he backed up his words by providing a large sampling of meats fresh from the smoker to support his dialogue. We began with smoked brisket. Let me begin by asserting that I lived in Montreal for four years and smoked brisket is only perfect there…except if it comes from Dave’s smoker. I had to admit that this was the best brisket I have ever tasted, and that I would have happily run out the door with the entire piece. The flavours were rich, the fat was perfect, and the warmth was comforting.

Smoked Beef

The beef did take eight hours, so it was prepped before we arrived and finished during the workshop. The meat resonated with a deeper primal love of the campfire and the smokey realness of flesh cooked in this manner. I felt parts of my brain soften as the tastes took over and insisted that I take more than my fair share. The beef was that good.

We then moved along the salmon, which had a poached texture, but tasted fresh and light. Next came pork, with its belly, its loin and a few other options. While I loved the loin, I was not so content with the belly; I prefer deeply braised pork belly, and we just did not have time to prep such a thing in a two hour class.

Smoked Meat

Final thoughts on the class? I would have stayed all night talking with Dave and the others in attendance, but I had to run to catch Darren Eedens at The Cameron House to capture his show on camera, too. I have another class schedule for February on sausage making, and there might be a chance that I can gain access to  other ones by providing an exchange of photography for workshop access, but we will have to see on that front.

The weekend has me sitting in a dental chair for two hours, marking assignments, cleaning the condo, rebuilding my recording studio, photographing an absolutely wicked tomahawk for Base Camp X and maybe catching a show of Estonian dancing on Sunday to photograph the event. Life feels like it is ramping up towards the final days before Christmas holidays, and school will only intensify until one week from now. Life is good, life is great, and I am happy in a way that I could only pretend to imagine before. Game on.

Charcuterie on Bread

Banjo Beyond Bluegrass: The Music of Darren Eedens

ImageMusic can change our lives. A song heard in a car can lead you onto different roads. A beat felt outside of a club can alter the stride of your walk. Romance can begin when the words connect with personal emotions. For the past week the music that has moved me forward has come from the Toronto Indie scene and the man who might be its first authentic evangelist: Darren Eedens.

I am not a big fan of either hipster scenes or of shallow musical sets. When I walked into The Cameron House with my friend last Wednesday, however, we were transported to a strange new landscape; it was a landscape of the narrative, and that narrative was spoken like the Gospel from a broken down preacher. As Eedens swept the room with the sheer force of his rhythm, we fell into a trance of rapture as he pushed through “Murder”, and “Lord Knows”. It takes a lot to pull me into unfamiliar songs, but Eedens has a manner about him that hearkens back to the Depression-era. He has a soul and fervour that drips from his music.Image

Last night had me back at The Cameron House. The audience was not as great, but Eedens was on fire as he spread his word from tabletop unplugged to the middle of the room to the stage. I was so moved by this young artist that I offered to shoot what I could capture without lights and on the fly. Perhaps what was so beautiful was that the second time around the songs hit me like a freight train, as I now knew the tones, the fluid notes and the wails of a believer that came forth from the faithful’s mouth.

If you have not had an opportunity to check out Darren Eedens, then his next big gig will be at Lee’s Palace on December 12th. Be careful who you go with though…you never know where music will take you into the night. You can find further information about Darren and listen to his music at the website  www.darreneedens.bandcamp.com.

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