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Photographing Urban Vancouver

In September of 2010, I moved from Toronto to Vancouver. Becoming a permanent resident on the West Coast was to fulfill a dream that any scenic and landscape photographer would envy.

Although I love shooting in the countryside, I also have a penchant for shooting urban scenes, both documentary and journalistic in tone. Since I settled in dynamic East Vancouver, I challenged myself with a photo series bringing me closer to my neighbourhood through the exploring of established and popular shops on the “Drive”.

I began photographing the entranceways of the shops and restaurants on the Drive. I photographed them from both inside and outside views. It was fun chatting with the owners and letting them know that I wanted an unconventional view of this very popular shopping area. Everyone was intrigued with my quirky angle.

That “quirky angle” got even stranger, late at night while editing. I rather absently positioned two vertical doorway shots flush up against each other and was amazed at the powerful symmetry and balance that resulted. I realized that somehow my intuitive sense of composition rang true in each of my vertical shots and if I played with them (as puzzle pieces) I’d find more exciting matches. Surprisingly, I was creating diptychs to be matted as two images snug beside each other in a single frame. And that’s how it goes. The creative process is a magical moment of impulse and wonderment for me. It happens when I’m shooting – viewing potential subjects – but also when I’m reviewing results and planning how images will look in frames and on walls.

The next urban theme to captivate me was the look of our neighbourhood in the rain. Sitting in my parked car, looking through the rain-soaked windshield … one swipe of the wipers provided an abstract and surreal blur that fascinated me. The shots show parts of the car’s interior including the rear view mirror, giving viewers a sense of time moving backwards and forwards. I’m still working on this series and will probably highlight it during November’s Eastside Culture Crawl (www.eastsideculturecrawl.com).

Another theme that I try to capture is the nostalgic tone of an older neighbourhood. These kinds of images are the ones that often lend themselves to my artistic practice of creating original hand tinted black and white photos. It’s wonderful seeing these soft colours warm the images, giving them extra dimension. I’m preserving a time-honoured tradition from the days before colour photography.

All in all, I can say that if you’ll allow the specific atmosphere to guide you and inspire you, the urban location you discover will reveal its character through the lens of your camera, forming your own unique interpretations.

Join artist Janet Sadel at Opus Downtown Saturday, May 19, 2012, 2–4 p.m. for her demonstration Create Hand Coloured and Tinted Photos.