The release of the music video I shot for Safe to Say comes almost 2 years after I set out on my own to become a full time filmmaker. It feels amazing to look back and see how far I’ve come from the early music videos I’ve shot to now. When I basically had no experience, just rolled with the punches and hoped to get an image somewhere near where I wanted.
In the production of this video we had a very specific idea of how we wanted the image to look. Brad Garcia (co-director and singer of Safe to Say) and I had many references to Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Virgin Suicides’ floating through our imagination and wanted to recreate that eerie feeling created by the dreamy-vintage image when juxtaposed with less fond memories. This style of image is something I’ve been pitching for a while but never had a chance to do. With Cooke lenses (my dream) out of the question for the budget, we had to figure out something else.
We ended up shooting 85% of the video on a Zeiss Distagon 35mm F1.4 with a Schneider Classic Soft 1/4 filter. The remaining shots were captured on vintage uncoated Zeiss lenses allowing the sun to blow out the image and give us that creamy/warm feeling in close-ups. The Schneider filter bloomed the highlights and softened the modern Zeiss lens just enough to match it. In the end I feel like the images match what we had in mind from the beginning which is an incredible feeling.
Jet lag got the best of me and I ended up passing out after the flight and waking up at an ungodly hour. Every other time I’ve been to Tokyo I either lived in Itabashi or stayed with friends there. It’s about a 45 minute subway to Shibuya so I’d never seen the area in the true early morning. Usually the streets are packed with people going to work, shopping, hanging with friends or tourists checking out the neighbourhood. It’s truly jammed beyond all belief.
In the early morning hours the streets were deserted. Cleaners moved to clear the piles of the previous night’s trash while passed out salarymen coaxed themselves off the ground, it was a pretty peaceful time. I saw the neighbourhood in a way I’d never seen it before. As the trains began to rattle into the station and fill the streets with workers filing to their offices I began to appreciate just how insane a job the transportation network does in this city.
In 2011 I bought my first DSLR to document a trip I was taking through South East Asia with my friend. It was a Canon T2i, one of the most affordable options for good video at the time. I worked two jobs through the summer to buy a flight and a camera in order to document, what for me at the time, was an absolutely monstrous trip. I was half way through my History degree at the University of Toronto and I had no idea that that purchase would completely change the course of my life.
Now it’s 5 years later and I’m soon to be traveling back to one of the first places I ever shot: Hong Kong. Most of the photos I took on my original trip are complete shit; overexposed, out of focus, framed in the weirdest ways imaginable, but I had a lot of fun shooting them.
Over the weekend I dusted off an old hard drive containing the photos I shot and gave some of them a reedit for fun. Although I never thought I had a “style”, seeing the way I used to interpret photography really changed the way I saw my “style” today. There are inklings of the way I might shoot today in these photos, yet the vast major were shot in a completely different way. I guess if you just keep shooting you’ll find your style whether you like it or not!