Have you ever wondered where a river could take you? I sat on the bank of the Ottawa River several years ago and wondered just that. I made a decision that day which changed my life and opened my eyes to a whole new world, a world I learned to see through the viewfinder of a camera.
I was working long weekends guiding white-water rafting trips on the Ottawa when I decided to quit my job in a synthetic rubber factory in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley. Three generations of my family had worked in The Valley, but it was time for me to go. I left the good paying, but mentally stagnating job and went to Algonquin College in Ottawa to study print-journalism. It was at Algonquin that I developed my love for photography. After graduating with honours I completed an internship and freelanced as a photojournalist with the Canadian Press, where I covered politics on Parliament Hill. During this time my images were published in major daily newspapers like the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star. After a few years in Ottawa my wanderlust got the best of me and I decided to use my skills as a river guide and kayaker to travel and work in Mexico and South Africa. When I wasn’t working on the river I was out taking pictures.
It was the rafting business that took me to those countries, but once I was there the doors of opportunity swung wide open. In Mexico I spent two months volunteering with a group of Mayan writers and photographers in San Cristobal del las Casas, Chiapas. I taught them desktop publishing skills and collaborated with them on their first fotonovela (photo-comic book).
In South Africa I was welcomed into the tribal community where I lived for five months, and I experienced the true meaning of the Zulu word Ubuntu, which means “largeness of spirit”.
Traveling and working as a rafting guide was a wonderful experience, but after several years and more than a thousand river trips I decided to dry off for awhile and pursue my passion for photography on a full-time basis.
Like many photographers, I shot a lot of different things while searching for my personal niche. However, my life eventually came full circle when I re-discovered some of my interests from high-school: architecture and design.
As a high-school student I excelled in drafting, design, and the arts, and often thought about studying architecture in university. That wasn’t in the cards for me, but architecture and interior design did become a big part of my photography business. In addition to architecture and design, food photography also became one of my passions and I enjoyed exploring the proportions and perspectives of a carefully constructed meal just as much as the built environment.
Changing careers wasn’t always easy, but it’s a decision I have never regretted.
When I was working in the suffocating heat and stench of the rubber factory I never imagined that I would one day teach computer skills to Mayan Indians or listen to wondrous African drums and voices in a tribal church in Zululand. I also never imagined I would build a career as an commercial photographer, but I put my faith in the river, learned to trust in the flow, and it carried me toward my dreams.
“I would love to live
Like a river flows
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.”
~ Irish poet John O’Donohue
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