Photo Exhibit: Zun Lee, Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood, BAND Gallery, Toronto

In his personal project Father Figure: Exploring Notions of Black Fatherhood, opening today at Toronto's BAND Gallery, Toronto based street photographer Zun Lee aims to explore and present another side of Black fatherhood.  For more than three years he has developed intimate relationships with Black fathers and their families, sharing moments of their lives and at times even living together with them in their homes.  His images, visually striking as they are, capture the ordinary or quiet moments of everyday life.  The photos show the men for who they are, fathers in a variety of circumstances doing the best they can to parent their children.  Regular dads doing regular stuff with their kids doesn’t seem like much, until you consider what these photographs are standing up against, Zun Lee’s project calls into question and challenges the dominant ideas around who Black fathers are, ideas that are deeply rooted, widely accepted and consistently reinforced by the media.  This is powerful and important work.

Photos from Zun Lee’s Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood will be on display at the BAND Gallery in Toronto until April 2nd 2015.

Date(s): February 19, 2015-April 2, 2015
Location: BAND Gallery, 1 Lansdowne Ave, 2nd floor, Toronto ON
Price: FREE

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Featured Photographer: Bryan Mollett

Vancouver based Street Photographer Bryan Mollett started his career in 2007.  Since that time street photography has brought him some very unique opportunities, such as travelling to New York for a reality show where he met Howard Greenberg and was invited by Joel Meyerowitz to go out and shoot his favourite spots on 5th Avenue!  He has exhibited his work several times and currently maintains a Tumblr blog where you can see his work.  

CS: How did you get into street photography?

Bryan MollettI first got involved in street photography through a close friend of mine, Scott Alexander. He invited me out several times to go and shoot, and I became instantly obsessed. I came from a background of skateboarding, so the idea of looking and searching for moments/photographs was the same for me as that of looking for skate spots in my early days. I felt there was some sort of connection there for me.

CS: Tell us about what you shoot with.

Bryan Mollett
I shoot with a Leica M6. I feel like having multiple cameras is unnecessary and a nuisance, as I would get confused on which camera to use and just kept going back to my Leica. I am a simple person, I like basic things. I don't feel the need for complexity, or the stupidity of waisting money on gear that will just sit in my bag or on a shelf. Maybe down the road I'll look into a Mamiya 7ii to scratch my medium format itch, but for the time being I am content with what I have.

CSYour comparison of searching for photographs as a kid to searching for skate spots is really interesting.  For street photographers, I think the idea of searching - the quest for that one photo can be a source of great value and meaning, and frustration too; is this still part of what keeps you going today? 

Bryan Mollett: Oh definitely. There's times that I'll go out and shoot through a whole roll, and there's other times where I will only take one photo and that's ok too. A lot of it just comes down to being out there and just visually taking in everything that you see. Vancouver can be dull to me at times but I also take for granted what little gifts Vancouver has to offer as well. There isn't a day off that I'm not out going for a long walk with my camera, and I'm talking sometimes between 10-20k walks. The best part about it is you can walk around the same area one day, and return to that area a few days or a week later and you will always see something different that you maybe didn't connect with before. Also with Vancouver changing so much and so fast for such a young city, there are scenes in photographs I now have that no longer exist anymore.. So that whole process is very special to me. 

CSPoet Philip Larkin once said "Silence is preferable to publishing rubbish and far better for one's reputation”.  You post a relatively small selection of photos each month.  Given the amount that you might be shooting on your long walks through Vancouver, do you have a process that you use or any advice when it comes to culling photos and holding yourself to a certain standard as to what you put out there?

Bryan Mollett: Hah, it's funny that you bring this up. The most important thing as a photographer in my eyes, especially with the endless stream of social media content these days is to shoot for yourself. If this reason means nothing to you, you should probably focus on shooting holiday themed baby portraits or people's dogs and cats if your on the get rich quick scheme.. You are right though, I tend to horde my photos, what for? I am not exactly sure. I just like going back to look at them from time to time. I still have a fair amount of Vancouver stuff which has never seen the light of day, as well as stuff from my last trip to New York and California. I feel that being patient is a key to success, everyone's always in such a god damn rush these days. Slow down and enjoy the now, because it won't be here forever.

CS: You say Vancouver can be a dull place at times, I'd say this true of anywhere from the perspective of the photographers living there.  Familiarity bred contempt might actually begin as boredom.  Yet you have a way of helping viewers to see the dull spots in a new and beautiful way. Your blog would be a great reference for movie location scouts. Not sure who was first to say it but I've heard it said that street photography is about capturing the beauty in the mundane. Is inspiring others to see their world differently as much a part of the bigger purpose for you as the viewer might assume?

Bryan Mollett: 
I just want to show life today. Everyone will always have a different interpretation and connection to a photograph, that's the beauty of photography.

CS: In terms of connection to a photograph, has there ever been a photo or photographer you’ve felt connected to or that you go back to to look at often?

Bryan Mollett
Oh all the time. I am constantly looking at photographs every day, whether it's in photobooks or if I'm at work browsing the web, or even just in my tumblr feed. There are a lot of photographers doing great stuff on tumblr daily. I've accumulated a fairly large library of photobooks over the last few years that to me, are the best source for inspiration. I am regularly re visiting my Eggleston, Meyerowitz, Shore, and Sternfeld books to name a few. There are some great Japanese photographers out there too that I've gotten into lately and enjoy. Atsushi Yoshi's book Provincial City is one of my favorite Japanese photobooks so far. Well edited and great quality, I highly recommend checking out his work.

There are too many good photographs and photographers out there, it's really difficult just to single out one photographer or one photograph for me. With the amount of content on the Internet these days constantly in our faces, and with photobooks, I am and will always be returning to look at photos. 

CS: Where would you recommend visiting street photographers go to shoot in Vancouver?

Bryan Mollett
Vancouver as a whole is a very accepting city photographically.  Apart from the central downtown core, East Vancouver is probably my favorite area and where I spend a lot of my time drinking coffee and just going for long walks with my camera.  East Van has has this classic age to it, as it still hasn't fully been replaced yet with glass and giant high-rises.... Strathcona is my favorite neighborhood to walk through. There is alot to be found here being the oldest neighborhood in Vancouver. Commercial Drive is also good at times, busy with people, and generally no matter the time of day, it usually has great light right up until sunset. Main St and Broadway St are great areas as well. Everyone will have different feelings as to where and what will work for them, but East Van is definitely an area worth a visit if you're in Vancouver.

Canadian Streets thanks Bryan Mollett for taking the time to talk with us. Please visit his Tumblr blog
 to see more of his exceptional work.  

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Sub-Zero Street Photography in Canada

Over the last few months I've had my camera out in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius.  Shooting in freezing cold weather is a reality for most Canadian street photographers; learning how to manage in extreme temperatures isn't a choice, it's a must.  Either this or take a hiatus and miss out on months of shooting.  Fortunately, when you're shooting street you won't be carrying loads of gear so it's pretty a pretty simple process but there a few things you'd do well to keep in mind while out shooting in the winter including the following:

Warm Gear Gradually

After a sub-zero temperature photo walk, it's important to warm your camera gradually.  If you can leave your gear in the garage or another spot with an in-between temperature like a window-sill for an hour or two before bringing it in the house, you'll minimize the risk of your camera fogging up inside and potentially killing the internal electronics immediately or causing other long-term issues.

Keep Your Batteries Warm

Even brand new fully charged batteries can get scared and play dead after a few minutes at -30.  If you find your batteries die out faster than usual when you're shooting in the cold, warming them up will often bring them back to life for a few more clicks.  An extra battery is helpful here, while one is in the camera the other stays warm in a pocket.

Wear Long Underwear

Not much to say here
Stay warm

Do you have a winter photography tip or story to share? - I once had a memory card(a sandisk) go missing until a couple months later I discovered it at the end of the driveway incased in ice; I chipped it out, dried it off, plugged it in, and it still worked!!  Unbelievable, that spot on the driveway had been driven over hundreds of times, the ice actually saved the card!

Share your winter photography experience in the comments below.

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Featured Photographer: Michael Ernest Sweet

Michael Ernest Sweet, is an award winning Montreal based educator, writer and street photographer.  Michael's second full length photography book Michael Sweet’s Coney Island is scheduled for release on February 1st, published by Brooklyn Arts Press along with his first book the Human Fragment released in 2013. Michael blogs at the Huffington Post where he writes on various topics of interest to both street photographers and the photography community at large.  Canadian Streets is pleased to have had the opportunity to speak with Michael and to have him as our very first featured photographer.

CSHow did you get into street photography?

Michael Ernest Sweet: I have always been "involved" with photography. My aunt, whom I lived with on our family's horse farm, was an artist and photographer. She mostly paints now, but in those days she was quite involved with photography and I had access to everything. I was always attracted to the camera, the equipment, as I found it quite magical and alluring. In those days I shot everything with a Pentax K1000. Great camera. As for the move to street photography, that was an organic evolution I guess. I didn't have easy access to a studio and models when I began shooting again, in a serious way, in 2009. I did, however, live in Montreal and New York City. Given my access to these major urban cities and the ease of grabbing a camera and wandering the streets - street photography just seemed natural. 

CS: Tell us about what you shoot with.

Michael Ernest SweetI'm not really committed to any camera or equipment. There was a moment when it looked as though I would team up with a major camera maker and be sponsored with their equipment. I backed out because I didn't want to be restricted in that way. It was a high price to pay considering I was only getting free equipment. So, I want to be clear I am not attached to any camera company. That said, I use and love the Ricoh series. The GR Digital IV was and is the best they've ever made. Most of my "famous" work was produced with that camera. I also still shoot a lot of film - 35mm - and for that I use (most of the time) an Olympus MJU II. The MJU II (stylus epic in America) is a fantastic camera, really ideal for the street. They are also cheap and very durable. I still buy them new from the Asian market. Great camera. Finally, I have a book coming out from Brooklyn Arts Press in New York which is called, Michael Sweet's Coney Island. All the images in this new book were shot at Coney Island Beach using a cheap little plastic camera called the Harinezumi. So, as you can see, I am not big on fancy or expensive gear. I own a Leica, of course, but it's done very little for me and it weighs a tonne. One might say, as a matter of fact, that my work has received a lot of attention specifically because I use cheap little cameras. I even have quite a bit of published work produced with disposable cameras. You have to dominate the gear and make it submissive to you, not the other way around.

CSThe Harinezumi would certainly add to this effect, but your images have a kind of dreamlike feel, they're familiar yet strange; especially your recent work with the coloration and distortion, the composition that sometimes seems a bit broken or incomplete, the viewer might feel a bit disoriented and wish to stick their head inside the frame and look around the corner for more information.  Is this something you're conscious of when shooting?

Michael Ernest SweetCertainly I am aware of this in terms of my work as a body, but I don't really focus on it while shooting. I just shoot what I feel is right at the moment - my eye and my camera communicate. There really isn't too much brain involved. Indeed it would be interesting to duck into some of my frames and take a look around, I too feel this urge quite often - especially in retrospect when I cannot recall the scene from memory. I do like leaving things out though, it adds an air of mystery to the work I find. I like that. Much of the work that I admire has this quality, a hint of something unknown, something mysterious. 

CS: Not being too tied up with deliberate thought or composition is something you've noted about your shooting process before, yet there must be some reason or intent in the moment you choose to raise the viewfinder to your eye or press the shutter.  Could you describe what if anything you look for when you're out shooting? And - I suppose on a related note, what in your opinion makes a great street photograph?

Michael Ernest SweetI normally raise my camera and snap a photo when I see something that appeals to my sense of human interest. That is, I am interested in people - how they look, act, distinguish themselves from others, and so on. If I see a woman, otherwise commonplace, but with huge flying saucer type sunglasses I might first the shutter. I liked the glasses. This doesn't mean that the photo will be any good though. It just means that something caught my interest - my attention - and provoked my shutter. I edit very carefully after a day of shooting and likely only retain 6-8 photos from maybe 100. Although people refer to me as a  machine gun photographer, I'm not, actually. I rarely take more than 100 photos in a day - I shoot digital like film, because I grew up in the analogue era. I still shoot a lot of film too and cannot be trigger happy there. So, if shooting 100 frames and keeping 8 makes me a machine gun photographer, so be it. But I do know people who shoot 100 frames a minute - a second. 

I think a good street photograph is a photograph that provokes interest, attention, and intrigue from the viewer - you, as the viewer, want to know more, see more. I think good street photographs are like stills from films. It's really hard to pin down what a good street photograph is actually. I do know what is not good however, and that is the vast majority of the work I see out there labeled street. Pictures of people walking down the sidewalk taken with a long lens from the side don't impress me. What are you, some kind of private investigator? Who cares about a photo of auntie Sue leaving the dentist or grandma Betty buying melons. This kind of street photography is invasive and irrelevant. What I cannot figure out is why so many people praise it online. Perhaps they do this to somehow reaffirm their own work in the same vein. I'd encourage people to try and attain an artistic vision before operating a camera. Look at Hendrix, would he be Hendrix if he merely picked up the guitar  and strummed away like every other elementary school music teacher? No. He had a vision, the guitar was merely a tool, and one which he made submissive.

CSIn terms of attaining that artistic vision, for me it’s a bit of a contradiction but I’ve found that the more time I spend looking at and pondering other people’s work the more I feel I’m moving closer to attaining that unique vision and style of my own - knowing what I like, how to find it, how to shoot it and so on; who are the street photographers past or current that helped inspire your vision?

Michael Ernest Sweet: I definitely look at other photographers, but I didn't really develop my style in this way. There are, of course, a few that likely had some sort of direct impact - Mark Cohen comes to mind. But really I developed my style from experimentation. In the last six or seven years I have owned over fifty cameras and countless accessories. I shot film, digital and every variation of both. My style really came from my making photographs, looking at them, and then deciding what I wanted more of and what I wanted less of etc. Cameras also played a role. The Ricoh GR Digital IV was a big camera in my style development. It was specific features of that camera - namely the lightening fast hybrid focus - that allowed me to work the way that I do. A camera with shutter lag - any shutter lag - is a total wash for me. I'm happy things developed in this way - some, not all, but too many people look to other photographers and then copy elements of their style. This doesn't really produce art, it produces copies. Hence, all the Bruce Gilden's running around New York. I'm glad I kind of avoided that trap.

CSFor readers who may not know, could you tell us about how shooting in Montreal is different from other places, and creative ways you’ve found to still make great photographs there? 

Michael Ernest SweetI do most of my photography in New York. I do shoot in Montreal, but it's a different game here because of the privacy laws. When I shoot here in Montreal I am usually more careful not to depict people's faces. I know many street photographers don't worry about this too much, but most of my work is published in books (rather than prints etc.) and that opens up a lot of new legal problems. Publishers are also very strict about having things in order and respecting laws. Again, most of my work is in New York City which has very different laws. Basically you can photograph anything or anyone in public so long as it is not being used for commercial purposes.

CSAny recommendations for good street locations in Montreal?

Michael Ernest SweetIn Montreal I would recommend that photographers spend some time around the old city and in Chinatown. These areas seem to be more hospitable to the street photographer. Do be aware that a lot of people in Montreal can very easily be offended by having their photo taken. I find it amusing as they allow the state to photograph (videotape) their every move, but fear the "artist" who most certainly does it more gently. I digress. I also know a lot of Canadians find themselves in New York City and I would also recommend some places there too. Broadway is a great street. Just walk up and down Broadway and snap away. Quintessential New York at its best. Also, remember, Coney Island is only a subway ride away from downtown. Coney Island is famous for street photography - think Weegee, Model, Gilden, Frank and many others. Get out of the "tourist" spots though. Although I have made photographs around Times Square - some which have become well-known - it was no easy task. In the place like this you are competing with thousands of tourists and cameras and phones. You won't have this problem at Broadway and 148th.

CSSpeaking of Coney Island, you mentioned earlier that you have a book coming out?

Michael Ernest SweetYes, I have a new book coming in late February from Brooklyn Arts Press in New York. It's called, "Michael Sweet's Coney Island" and is my first foray into color. All the photographs in the book are taken over one summer at Coney Island using the Japanese toy camera "Harinezumi". The crappy little sensor over-saturates the colors and slightly distorts the images. The resulting photographs turned out quite unique. This little camera really shines in full bright sunshine and where there are a lot of colors - this made it idea for the beach. I also did a series of photos with the Harinezumi in Manhattan also, but the results were not that fantastic. The little sensor cannot handle the dynamic range created by all the giant buildings etc. The book is available from Brooklyn Arts Press as part of a deal with my first book or you can also find it online at 

Canadian Streets thanks Michael Ernest Sweet for taking the time to talk with us. You can purchase his new book Michael Sweet's Coney Island together with his first book The Human Fragment for a special price here at Brooklyn Arts Press, visit his site - and follow his blog at the Huffington Post

Here are a few images of Coney Island that appear in Michael's first book The Human Fragment

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Street Photography in the News: Garry Winogrand in the Guardian

New York World’s Fair, 1964. Garry Winogrand
This article in the Guardian introduces people to the work of one of the twentieth century's great street photographers, Garry Winogrand and credits him with introducing a bolder more open in-your-face style to the art while still maintaining a minimum level of respect for his subjects.  His shooting methods were more intrusive than that of his predecessors but not yet cruel or frightening like some of those who followed after him.  However in the later years just prior to his death it is said that Winogrand's photography turned increasingly darker corresponding with his increasing disillusionment and disappointment with life in America.  The idea that you can tell a lot about a photographer by looking at the images they produce and how their worldview, personality and character impacts their photography is something I hope to explore further.  The things they are able to see is shaped by the way they are able to see things. 

If you happen to be in Paris, his work is showing until February 8 2015 at Le Jeu de Paume.
Here's a great video introduction to Garry Winogrand and his work put together for the show:

GARRY WINOGRAND at JEU DE PAUME from Jeu de Paume / magazine on Vimeo.

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Nearly There!

Over the last week or so I've been reaching out to Street Photographers from across Canada. The response has been extremely positive. The number of people who've expressed their interest and support for the project is really encouraging and says a lot about the street photography community. So far, street photographers in Canada have proven to be open, collaborative and genuinely interested working together. It's already been an honour and a privilege to get to know so many great people!

Interviews with the first featured photographers are on the go as we speak.  

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Test Post

Having a look at the form and feel of the blog, basic image gallery coding looks pretty good. Black, greys and whites seem to be working nicely. Still a few additions and tweaks to take care of, but we're nearly there!

 If you've happened upon the blog whilst clicking through from social media, welcome! We're glad your curiosity led you here, have a look around. As the blog is in a beta stage, there are certainly improvements to be made and we appreciate any suggestions or catches you may have for us.

If you're here in response to an email message from us, thanks for visiting the blog, we hope you'll consider taking the next step and follow up with us about featuring your work on the site. Look forward to hearing from you soon.

 Best Regards,

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