Brad Marsden calls – I’d met him a few weeks back when he presented a gut-wrenching and powerful workshop about residential schools. Not something I was particularly excited about attending, I knew it would be difficult to hear, but I decided it was something I wanted to do. The workshop was being put on by the Richmond School District for their staff. As a thank you for allowing me to participate, I offered to document the experience. I went along and captured his passionate delivery with my still camera. It was such an emotional and informative session. This is the truth part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report. Now Brad’s calling to say he’s in Yaletown, five minutes from my studio and he wants to take a look at what I captured. I’m not ready to show him the imagery from his presentation, getting the studio ready has consumed so much of my time. I decide to try and capture an impromptu portrait of Brad when he arrives, even though I have nothing set-up. I run around and place my lights in a traditional clam shell pattern. I use a honeycomb web on the upper three foot Octobox to focus the light with a little more punch. Brad arrives and I immediately persuade him to stand in front of my camera. He’s slightly reluctant – he is not prepared for this. I explain my desire to see if I can set-up the studio with little notice and still deliver. Brad’s a good sport and we capture this image on the second shot. I instantly know I have what I want. We enjoy each other’s company, talking about the presentation and his branding needs. He’s an interesting guy with some tremendous skills. The word resilience comes up a few times during our conversation. I feel comfortable chatting with him – we’re fast becoming friends.
When creating a portrait, I’m trying to capture the authentic essence of the person, not just what they look like – it’s more the feeling I get in their presence. Standing in front of a camera with the lights, large soft boxes and ‘V’ Flats can make a person feel vulnerable. It’s the same for the photographer. There is pressure to get the shot, to get the subject to expose their true self to me. I recently heard Brené Brown say there can be no creativity without vulnerability – I often feel vulnerable trying to capture something beyond just a picture. I want an image to speak to a viewer, to tell a story about the subject – to preserve that essence forever. What a challenge and privilege to capture the raw beauty of a person this way. I’m calling Brad’s portrait Resilience.