I’ve often been asked what my favourite music streaming service is and I’ve never responded with a uniform answer. I’m lucky (or some would say poor) and scam off the benefits of my best friend’s Tidal account. You have the option of logging into one person’s account from a few different cellphones, so she happily has leant me this courtesy for the past year or so. We curate monthly playlists as a team and it’s the perfect balance (Tidal, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry and please don’t change you’re regulations, we are broke 23 year olds).
While at different parties or pres with friends with a dead phone (like it usually does the first half an hour of me getting there), I would often stream off their Apple music accounts. I am often the resident DJ at most outings with friends due to my apparent knowledge of music and my own pretentiousness.
Overall, my favourite music streaming service to find new artists on is Soundcloud. I connect with a lot of my other friends who are also very into music, and combing through their “likes” is one of my favourite pastimes in order to find new tracks I can bump for the remainder of the week. Usually, I ultimately get sick of them from overplaying, but I know I will return to it within a couple of months, eager as ever.
About a year ago, I was combing through Soundcloud and I stumbled upon a new artist under the same label as BANKS who goes by the name SKOTT. She has a very sultry voice, and a very interesting story about growing up in a remote village, raised by fellow musicians. I was intrigued, and after learning that she would be coming to this year’s Wayhome, I had to get to know her.
We had the opportunity to sit down with SKOTT and discuss her touring process and the importance of taking a step away from the light in order to keep creating music.
Kimberley Drapack: This was your first North American show. What was the experience like?
SKOTT: When people sing along, it’s really hard to describe…. ㄷEverything is still pretty new, it was less than a year ago that we had our first show. To come to this stage, it was huge, by far the biggest we’ve played. I was a bit nervous about the size, but the audience had so much energy. I’m really happy.
K: Although you just started your career, you are currently on tour with Phantogram in the U.S. Do you have a certain item, or something you need while touring that you can’t live without?
S: This may be nerdy, but I like to play video games as soon as we’re on an airplane, or when I can’t sleep. Right now I’m playing Faster than Light, it’s sort of like a space ship type of game. I think that helps me. It clears my mind. If I have a lot of things to think about, or things that are stressful. It’s been the same game for a while now so it’s comforting and I can zone out for awhile.
K: Your latest single, Mermaid, dropped last week. How is now playing it live for the first time? What was the inspiration behind the single?
S: Mermaid is very special. It is the oldest song of them all, I just hadn’t released it yet. I wrote it on piano a few years ago, and, before that, I was certain that I wanted to become a songwriter.
I think I wanted to be an artist for awhile but I didn’t want to admit it to myself. When I wrote ‘Mermaid’ and recorded a basic demo, I was really feeling like I wanted to do this. I wanted to be the one to sing the song. That song made me realize admit to myself that I wanted to be an artist, and I admitted to another people as well.
After that song, I began to write with myself in mind. It’s a pretty old song but I was working on it for a long time because I wanted to make the production work. For some reason, the song always felt like it wasn’t there yet. I needed to get help with this, bring in other people and try to get it where I wanted it. In a way, it took three years to finish this song.
K: Three years is a long time.
S: So much has happened since I wrote this song. Since it’s so old, it was extra hard to release it, because it’s been with me for so long. It’s almost easier to not get too attached to demos or have too much history with a song because you don’t dare to release it. You want it to be so perfect, that you can never achieve that. There is no way to ever be finished. It’s tricky to know when to understand that now it’s only in my head.
K: Now that you have told yourself you want to be an artist, what has that been like for you to be playing shows all over the world?
S: There’s a lot more that came with it than I expected. I didn’t have Twitter and Instagram before, a simple thing like that. I barely knew what it was. I’ve never been active with social media and I’ve been known to forget my phone.
Apparently, all artists have to have a social media platform, and not only one. My manager and our team have told me to post more often, and I had to learn that from scratch.
The touring and the interviews are new, from being in the studio, (I call it my cave) where I’m only focusing on the writing on the music, is very different from then being out in the light.
The most important thing, and the biggest challenge is to find a balance so you still have time to go into the cave sometimes, and continue writing music. All of it is because of the music, it has to be the core of everything. Sometimes I feel with companies, it feels like music is second hand. That’s a thing you have to battle, to keep that as the main priority and focus.
K: Do you feel that there are moments while you are performing that you can feel that intimate moment similar to what you had while you were in the studio writing the song?
S: You share something that can be very personal, but what I’ve found fascinating is that it kind of completes the song when you go out and perform it. The song is now in a new light when you share it with an audience. You almost rediscover your song and you understand new sides of it.
When you have something on your mind, and you talk to your friend about it and hear your own words, you understand something new about it. That’s kind of what happens when you’ve been sitting with a song and yourself and you go out and perform it. It’s almost like you understand new parts and sides of it.
Let’s face it: Wayhome can be an overwhelming experience. With an onslaught of new artists being featured each year, it’s often hard to know which set to choose and you can easily get lost in the chaos. Once in awhile, if you take a break from the Bacardi tent and head over to one of the three stages, you can experience something magical.
This is what I noticed when I, along with our editor-in-chief, Drew Brown, skipped a round and went over to check out Charlotte Cardin’s set. I’ve been a fan of Charlotte’s for the past year, after hearing her debut EP, Big Boy. I quickly became a fan of her soul-enriching voice, and lyrical genius. I felt I related to a lot of her music — her stories of heartbreak and love lost, and wanted to meet the genius behind the music.
We were lucky enough and had the opportunity to sit down with Charlotte for a few minutes after her Wayhome set, and learned a bit more about her process and what is next to come.
Kimberley Drapack: How is your Wayhome experience treating you so far?
Charlotte Cardin: I love it. We got here at 11. I haven’t seen anything yet, but we were the first show. I am definitely looking forward to seeing more acts. Solange, for sure.
We had a show yesterday in Quebec, and it was a two hour drive from our house, so we got home at like 2 AM and woke up at 4 AM to catch the flight, so we had no sleep.
K: You expend a lot of energy on stage. Your show is really live and fun to watch, you must be really tired afterwards.
CC: There’s a bit of a crash, but we’re going to eat and then take a nap.
K: Is this your first music festival?
CC: No, we played a few. This year we played Bonnaroo, the Montreal Jazz Fest. We also played one in Quebec, and last year we played Osheaga, and the Winnipeg fest this year.
K: Do you have any special prep you need to do before a festival performance vs. a show at home?
CC: Not really. I see both performances the same way. The only preparation I do is I go through the setlist with the band and if we have questions, we bring it up. That takes like seven seconds.
K: By now you must know your set so well.
CC: We played it a lot, so definitely. Sometimes I sort of visualize when I’m more nervous. There’s no crazy preparation.
K: I always wondered how you remembered your setlist so well, because the transitions in between songs are so seamless.
CC: Sometimes you’ll just skip one, and think, “Oh, I forgot to play that one.” The first year and a half, we always had a written setlist, but now we just know.
K: When did you first learn that you loved music and started to write your own?
CC: I started singing when I was very young. I started singing lessons at eight but I had already been singing with my mom and my sisters for fun. I started writing when I was sixteen or seventeen. I had written a few songs before that, but just to try something new. I’m twenty-two now.
K: You’ve done so much already.
CC: Yeah, it’s been really great. I’ve been working hard and a lot of really cool opportunities have presented themselves.
K: Who are some of your musical influences?
CC: I love Radiohead, very much, although we have very different genres, I just love the atmosphere they create. I love old jazz. Nina Simone, Etta James… I listen to a bunch of different stuff… Celine Dion. Those are my main influences.
K: Your EP, Big Boy, was released in 2016. Can you tell us about the prep behind it and your writing process for it?
CC: I wrote the songs over three years. It was my whole life’s work. It was six songs, but I threw a bunch away in the process.
I took the songs that I liked the most and put them on an EP and it’s sort of this story linking the songs together. I don’t always write from personal experiences. I put myself into a certain zone and sometimes it’s even a certain character that writes.
It’s not always me talking in my songs, sometimes it’s someone else. I sometimes pretend I’m a boy writing myself into a bunch of different characters, and it’s a really fun exercise to do. People always ask, “have you been heartbroken a hundred times or are you a super dirty person?” I’m a normal person, I just like putting myself into character to write songs.
K: People often assume that there is one really bad breakup in your life and that each song is about that one person.
CC: Yeah, like Adele’s ex-boyfriend. People always ask me about that. I’ve had experiences, but I don’t feel like it’s important to talk about them. I say a lot in my songs but what’s true and what’s not true is up to people to take what they want.
K: At the 2017 SOCAN Songwriting Awards, you were a nominee in the English category for “Big Boy” and in the French category for “Faufile”, becoming the first artist in the history of the award to be nominated in both categories in the same year. What was this experience like?
CC: It was really nice. I was nominated in the French category last year. It’s nice to see that people recognize what you do and it’s not the same board judging the English part of the contest and the French part, so it’s pretty cool to see that it just sort of happened, they didn’t necessarily talk to one another. I’m not sure of that information is correct but it’s really flattering.
K: Do you have a different process when you’re writing a song in English or in French?
CC: Not really, it comes out. I don’t overthink it. I just start playing and whatever comes out is French or English. I try not to limit myself and I don’t want to censor anything. I’m not able to write on command and to write all the time, so whenever something comes out I just let it.
K: Do you ever have late nights where an idea pops into your head and you write it into a journal beside your bed?
CC: In my phone, usually. That’s way less romantic. Sometimes I’ll be on the bus and write a sentence or some words that inspires me.
K: What’s coming up for you? Do you have any new music coming out?
CC: Yes, new music really soon. We have a new single coming out called Main Girl. I don’t know when it’s going to come out but we are going to release it soon.
We’re touring with Nick Murphy, for two months, leaving in September and October so it’s going to be fun.
K: You’re a great duo because your voices really compliment each other. Do you think you’d maybe get a song out of that collab?
CC: That would be really cool. I’m not thinking about that, but I’m super grateful to be on that tour.
What happens when the love of your life — the best friend who’s also sexy, funny, tall with slicked back black hair, the kind the casting agency sends over when asked for “the One” in a romantic comedy — turns out to be a series of lies weaved together into a shape of a man? What does it say about who you are? And what kind of a life can you lead afterwards? These are the central questions in Jen Waite’s raw memoir, A Beautiful, Terrible Thing, a gripping account of her marriage to and freedom from ‘Marco,’ her husband and father to their newborn daughter. When Waite discovers an email that suggests her husband is having an affair, she tries to rebuild their relationship. Instead, what comes to light in her search for the truth are more irreconcilable lies, betrayals, and deceit.
Aside from the riveting narrative of the destruction of her marriage, Waite’s memoir is remarkable in its immediacy of feeling; she is unafraid to show ‘Marco’ at his worst or to reveal herself at her most vulnerable. That she started writing what would become the memoir soon after leaving her ex-husband perhaps lends to its undiluted quality, something often lost in memoirs written in retrospect years after. A Beautiful, Terrible Thing is triumphant in spirit as it chronicles not only the loss of faith and destruction brought on by ‘Marco’ but also Waite’s rise from its wastes.
Novella had a chance to meet and chat with Ms. Waite regarding her memoir and her creative process.
Michelle: When did you start writing?
Jen Waite: I have always loved to write ever since I was a kid. In college I took a creative writing course and wanted to major in it but ended up spending a year abroad in France, which led to me majoring in French. I didn’t write professionally until I wrote my memoir. I started writing it soon after I discovered the email that set things in motion in January of 2015. I moved home to Maine in February and I was writing by May or June. At first, it was about getting everything out on the page because I felt that I needed a release. Then after probably a month of writing, I realized that I was writing a memoir.
M: Tell us about the writing process. Was it a cathartic/healing experience?
JW: Definitely, it was extremely healing. I’ve come to the conclusion that even if I didn’t sell it and decide to share my story, it would still be healing. Writing it in and of itself was a huge thing — everything else is kind of like icing on the cake. The writing process was like an exorcism. It helped me understand everything that was happening and what I was dealing with, what I was going through.
I think that my particular writing process is pretty atypical from what I’ve heard from other people in the industry. I sat down that first day to start writing and didn’t stop for four months. My daughter was three months old when I started and seven or eight months old when I finished. There was editing left, still, for another couple of months, but otherwise it was a really quick process.
I just wrote feverishly for about five months and every sentence, every scene — I felt like it was already in my head and I just needed to get it down on paper. People ask, ‘Was it in the editing process that you went and did the before and after structure?’ The structure came out completely naturally, not that I had experience writing a book or a thriller before.
M: Was it hard for you to write your book while you were taking care of your daughter?
JW: Practically speaking, I remember there were some times when it’d be difficult. She was a pretty good napper, so she would nap for a couple of hours and I would write then. Sometimes I’d hear her waking up and I’d be in the middle of a scene, so most times I would try to finish before she woke up. And after she went to bed, I would be pretty exhausted from the day but still feel the need to just get some stuff out. Physically and mentally it was a bit draining but I felt so compelled.
“Ultimately, that was what allowed me to become
resolved with the whole relationship:
figuring out the thing inside me that needed healing.”
M: What advice would you give to someone in an abusive relationship?
JW: First thing first, if you’re planning to leave or if you’re seeing these signs that you are in a relationship with someone who is somewhere on the psychopathy spectrum or with a narcissistic personality disorder, you’re not dealing with a ‘normal person.’ If you can, try to get a support network in place. I am extremely fortunate to have really supportive parents, so I was able to leave and move in with them. I know that is not an option for a lot of people, but if you have any kind of support network, try to get that in place. And if you can, go no contact and be as boring as you possibly can. I think that is the smartest advice I can give. I know from my own experience that being boring is what made my ex-husband stop wanting to bother me because he wanted to move onto something with more drama or more excitement.
When you are going through the kind of heartbreak and devastation after this kind of betrayal, be really gentle with yourself. I was really judgmental about my own process. I just wanted to ‘get better’ and go through the process and was angry with myself for not being ‘recovered’ — whatever that means — sooner. You are dealing with your reality getting completely shattered, so don’t judge any feelings that you might have, be it of anger, grief, sadness, etc — feel whatever you have to feel.
I had an amazing therapist who helped me figure out what drew me to someone like Marco (that’s the name I use in the memoir) and what insecurities and issues I had. It wasn’t about how I was to blame but about the issues that we all have, like the need for validation, ignoring some red flags because we want to be a part of a fairy tale romance. Ultimately, that was what allowed me to become resolved with the whole relationship: figuring out the thing inside me that needed healing. It led me to feel that I was really well equipped to move forward and not have it happen again. When people go back out the gate ready to find someone again without doing the inner work, that’s when really bad patterns can form and you can end up getting back into the same kind of relationship as before. But it takes a long time to get to that point and it’s really scary to look into yourself.
M: What was the most difficult part of writing A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal?
JW: Editing it after I sold the manuscript to the publisher because I was in a different place then than when I was writing it. I had to go back, especially to the “Before” sections. When I was writing it, I was still very much in love with my husband and I hadn’t been able to separate my emotions from what I knew logically because it was almost a real-time process. I wrote it at a point where I could go back to the first time we met and when I truly believed that he was who I thought he was. I found that editing the before sections was very difficult because now I was much more resolved and I completely understood what my ex-husband was, a black void of a person. It was hard to take myself back to that place of being in love with this guy because now I saw through him so clearly.
M: What do you want your readers to take away from A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal?
JW: It depends on the reader, but I hoped that anyone who has experienced this kind of relationship before feels like they are not alone and maybe has some comfort in that and some validation.
It depends on the reader but I hope that anyone who has experienced this kind of a relationship will feel like they’re not alone and maybe find some comfort and validation in that. It happens all the time and this is a common story, which I myself did not know before I wrote the memoir. The people who end up in these relationships tend to be very empathetic, kind people. It is not their fault. Yes, it is very important to do some inner work, but at the same time, just know that usually you have been preyed upon because of your empathy and because of your vulnerabilities. Psychopaths and narcissists are extremely manipulative and charming. And I hope that a reader who has not been in this kind of a relationship before could maybe pick up on some the red flags and avoid that type of relationship in the future.
Jackie Boyis a recently-released Canadian drama written and directed by Cody Campanale, starring Alino Giraldi and Shannon Coulter. It tells the story of Jack (Giraldi), a self-destructive womanizer in a working-class Canadian town, who tries to change his life when he meets and falls for Jasmine (Coulter). Unknown to Jack, however, Jasmine has a hidden agenda.
Cody Campanale is an Ottawa-based director, writer, producer, and filmmaker. Jackie Boy is his first feature film.
Adina:There seems to be an implication that Kal is attracted to Jack, but it is never confirmed or fully articulated. Was Kal trying to keep Jack from changing, or trying to keep Jack for himself? Or is that implication simply not true?
Cody Campanale: I think Kal’s in love with Jack, but he’s too confused and frustrated by his own distorted notions of masculinity to comprehend that his admiration of Jack’s ‘manliness’ is actually a closeted love he feels for his best friend. With this in mind, many of Kal’s actions in the later part of the film can be seen as those of a jealous lover. A lover completely rejected by someone they never saw themselves living without.
A:Throughout the film, I noticed that the men tend to deny the severity of the violence the women face. Jack and Kal excuse Jack posting photos of Sasha without her consent, Jack tries to dismiss Jasmine’s fear after Kal chases her, and so on. Was there a deliberate point you were trying to make about this?
C: I would define the characters in this film as emotionally disconnected youth living in an emotionally disconnected landscape. This emotional disconnect allows all the characters to act in ways that are insensitive, violently destructive and just plain nasty. I chose to focus our lens on the men because I wanted to further explore the dangers that living in this emotionally disconnected landscape can have on ‘conditioned’ male notions of masculinity when left unaddressed.
Also, one could probably argue that throughout human history, great destruction and harm has come from the actions of men. This is a pretty scary thought and something I think influences my work as a filmmaker to some degree.
A:Were you afraid that the brutality and explicit nature of the ending would turn any viewers off? If so, why keep it in the movie?
C: We always knew the ending would be polarizing. And to be honest, I rather enjoy films that tend to have polarizing endings. It’s important to note, as difficult as the ending was for people to watch, it was just as difficult for us to shoot. The actors were emotionally drained and destroyed after each take (and there were very few takes). The crew members who were on set when the cameras rolled, left the set in tears. It was one of the most difficult things I ever had to create. While writing it, I kept asking myself if the scene in question was needed to articulate the film’s ideas and I kept concluding that it was. I could have written another ending, one that was less violent perhaps, or possibly more optimistic, but it wouldn’t have captured the ideas I wanted to get across with this story. I believe the destructive nature of these characters is a big concern, and by witnessing the full extent of their behaviour and the lack of awareness they have, an audience can understand how dangerous this emotional disconnect really is.
A: Would you consider the movie a feminist piece, or at least a film with a “message” of some kind? Are you okay with others making those assertions? What might that “message” be?
C: I wouldn’t consider the film a feminist piece, and I don’t suspect a lot of people will. However, I do consider it a critical view of conditioned masculinity in modern times. I think the film examines the conflicting and destructive ways that men cope with insecurities surrounding their own male identity. Beyond this examination, I think the film explores many other thematic ideas, such as: man’s inability to change, the removal of personal agency, and the using of others for pleasure or personal gain.
A well-made film should ask lots of questions and demand that the audience draw their own conclusions to those questions. I’m very happy if audiences see different things or ‘messages’ in my film. It means I’ve made you work, and good art should make you work a bit.
A:In the film, Liz and Tony are the only ones who seem to have even a semi-healthy relationship, however this also breaks apart. Are the problems of these characters individual issues, or was this a commentary on the state of modern relationships in general?
C: I think the tragedy in Liz and Tony’s relationship comes from Tony’s self-defeatist attitude. He’s incredibly self-loathing and blames all his own problems on his surroundings, rather than attempting to change his environment or his attitude. Instead, he lives in that feeling of being ‘wronged’. In his mind, he did nothing to deserve what he got from life. It makes me sad, actually. Of all the male characters, Tony probably had the greatest chance of escaping his personal hell. He was so loved and supported by Liz, but didn’t know how to reciprocate that love. It truly is tragic.
I’m not sure I would consider this relationship a commentary on the state of modern relationships. It’s definitely a commentary on a particular type of relationship.
A:Jack undergoes a serious change in the film, at least from the audience perspective. However, he never makes an effort to make amends to Sasha or any of the other women he has presumably also hurt over the years. Does this mean that his general attitude toward women hasn’t really changed at all?
C: Interesting point you bring up here. If the film didn’t take the nasty turn it does in the last act, perhaps Jack would have shown more growth and decided to right his wrongs. Or, perhaps, he would not have had the courage to…that’s really for the audience to decided. Having said this, in the film I presented, I don’t think enough time passes for Jack to grow to the point that he would want to correct those wrongs.
A:Was any part of the film based on your own life or experiences?
C: Not exactly. I mean, I knew people with similar attitudes and patterns of behaviours, but not to the same extent or to the level of meanness portrayed in my film. Also, while writing the film, I was close to the age of these characters so I was living in a similar landscape, or in a ‘hookup culture’ if you’d prefer to call it that. I think a lot of the film came from my interest in exploring masculinity or the challenges with understanding your own masculinity.
If you are a photographer with many years of work under your belt, you often can accredit your success to a specific genre or a type of photography. Photographers such as Frank Horvat have exceeded these expectations and brought forth a degree of experience and talent that anyone in the industry can aspire to. Frank has worked as a photographer for over 70 years and has photographed a variety of subjects, landscapes, and objects. He began his career when he was fifteen when he swapped his stamp collection for a 35mm Retinamat camera. Through the years, Frank has had a variety of exhibitions. In the 1960s Frank travelled between Paris, London, and New York, and worked for publications such as Vogue, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar.
Through his career, Frank experienced the ever-changing landscape of photography and reflected them in his work, switching from film to digital imaging. In 2010, Frank created HORVATLAND, an iPad application dedicated to his works.
Most recently, Frank has brought his exhibition, ‘Please Don’t Smile’ to Izzy Gallery in Toronto. The exhibit is an amalgamation of his favourite photos from his 30-year span as a fashion photographer. Izzy Gallery represents a variety of established photographers, and through Izzy’s close collaboration with the artists, he is able to display the best of their works by hand selecting from the artists’ archives. Izzy has worked closely with Frank on bringing ‘Please Don’t Smile’ to Toronto, and it is because of their relationship that Frank has attended one of his first gallery openings in North America in the past 14 years.
“Izzy, with you I understood what it was like for Picasso and Matisse and Braque to have the art dealers they had: people who cared as much about the work as they cared about the money, to the point that they often kept the best for themselves. All my life I was hoping to find that dealer, and now I found you.” – Frank Horvat
We had the opportunity to sit down with Frank and discuss the exhibit, his career, and the importance of “tiny miracles” within his work.
Kimberley Drapack: What does the title, ‘Please Don’t Smile’ mean to you in regards to the exhibit?
Frank Horvat: I like it when something means more than one thing at a time. It means two or three things, and people get a bit lost. “Please Don’t Smile” is one thing I told the models when I photographed them, not because I didn’t want them to look happy, because I didn’t want a phony happiness of smiling for the photograph. If someone smiles because he or she is really happy, that’s fine, but if you smile just because you produce a smile for the photograph, I don’t like it.
When you say, “Please Don’t Smile,” you suggest that it is something to smile about. So, there’s this suggestion, and it works in several ways.
K: You’ve been working as a photographer for over 70 years. Can you tell us a bit about your experience?
FH: No, I became a fashion photographer by accident. I was a fashion photographer for about 30 years, and now it’s been more than 30 years and I haven’t taken a single fashion photograph. I don’t really wish to be labelled as a fashion photographer.
In spite of what is true, my fashion photographs are the part of my work which sells a lot. Many people like and use them and put them on their walls. So yes, I live off that reputation of being a fashion photographer, but I often like to insist and underline that I am not really a fashion photographer. I’m interested in other areas of photography, and other areas of life. It’s not my main thing.
This being said, I am very happy with this exhibition here with the fashion photographs, [Please Don’t Smile] because they are consistent and well exhibited, and I like the idea of my work being shown in Canada. So, I am very happy. I have no criticism at all.
I think the main reason I became a fashion photographer was because I was interested in photographing good looking girls and I loved directing them. On the other hand, my idea about photography has always been this: a good photograph is a photograph that cannot be redone. You get it once, and you never get it again. A good photograph is a kind of miracle.
Which is very much the opposite of fashion photography. In fashion photography, you have a situation: you choose a model, you choose a dress, you choose a location, and you go there and you take not one, but three or twenty rows of photos to get it exactly right. There is something where you say, you’ve done it, but it can be done again. It’s prepared and directed.
I didn’t want that kind of fashion photography. I always found a way of creating a situation where things happened that could not happen again.
(Frank refers to a photograph on the wall where a model stands next to a horse) This was my first fashion photograph when I was less than 20 years old. I didn’t know how to direct a model. She did very well, but the dress wasn’t particularly good and the composition was ok, but not more than ok. But that horse, the movement, and the profile with the silhouette against the sky — that will never happen again. Which I didn’t direct. The reason why I like that photograph is because something happened that I couldn’t get again.
I like to say that it was a tiny miracle. These kinds of miracles became more and more difficult. As I was getting more clever, things started to become more preconceived and things didn’t just happen by accident. In a way, the further I got, the more clever I became, the more difficult it became.
The conclusion, is that I in fact, didn’t take many good fashion photographs. There may have been 30, maybe 40 but certainly not 60, because those miracles didn’t happen as often.
Izzy made this exhibition with my fashion photographs but if he wanted to make a secondary exhibition with other fashion photographs, I wouldn’t have any to give him… not any that I really liked. They are really special in that sense and it’s through that logic that I care for my fashion photography.
K: How would you describe ‘Please Don’t Smile’?
FH: For a time, I was almost ashamed of being a fashion photographer. I thought it was something futile, to the point that there were a lot of photographs that I destroyed. Now that I see them together, I am bit reconciled with them, because I do realize that, in the case of these photographs, each one is a little bit of a miracle. I am thankful for these miracles.
To give you an example, look at this photograph, with the feather. (Frank points to a photograph where a small boy is holding a feather that covers a models face) When I started this sitting, I didn’t have any idea that I would do this photograph. The model was wearing a dress that I didn’t think was very interesting, she wasn’t particularly beautiful, and maybe I wasn’t particularly in the mood. I was trying to find something that would make the situation interesting. My son was around and I told him not to come close to the model, and that he could maybe play with his feather. The photograph was made because of a lucky moment when he had the feather just in front of her face, so that you didn’t see her face very clearly, but you saw it just enough. One second, not something that I set up, or that I could have set up, but something that just happened, and I caught. This was, a little miracle.
K: Do you remember your earlier years of photography?
FH: That’s the advantage of photography that helps you to remember. There were a lot of things that happened in my life, different points, which I have completely forgotten. When they’re photographed, and if I’ve handled them, printed it, or sold it or published it, I of course remember them.
K: I notice that the entire exhibit is in black and white.
FH: They were in black and white, because at that time, film was in black in white, and magazines published photographs in black and white.
Later, colour came, and I used colour. There was no preference.
K: On that note, it wasn’t until the ‘90s until you started working with digital imaging. Was it a big transition?
FH: I’m all for digital imaging, but it wasn’t so much the digital that changed, but Photoshop that changed. Even before, people used to manipulate images, but with digital, it became easier and you had more control. At the same time, it became more necessary with colour. With colour, there were more things that could be disturbing. If you’re on a street in New York, and there is a yellow cab, and you didn’t need the colour yellow, you could weaken the brightness. Manipulating photographs became a necessity.
K: Did you find that was a big aspect of your fashion photography in general?
FH: It was a big aspect. The interesting thing is it was the kind of opposite of my research of “the happy accident.” On one hand, I was waiting for the happy accident, and on the other hand I was trying to get rid of the unhappy accidents. To make a selection between what I considered a happy accident to what I considered a not-so happy accident.
K: The colour distortion is then to focus on certain aspects of a photo?
FH: I would say that every photograph is a choice among millions of possibilities. When there is so much that happens around you and you decide to frame one part of it, and take a shot of one moment among others, so you always choose. If I photograph in the street of Toronto, I pick my angle, my frame and my moment, out of a million more angles, frames and moments that I don’t pick. It’s always choosing.
K: If you’re not forced to have an emotion, it can create a more range of emotion, or natural state.
FH: It’s certain that the conventional smile is not something that you are pleased about. If the person has a conventional smile for you, you don’t really appreciate it. If I know it’s a conventional smile, it doesn’t mean anything to me.
K: You had not only a great success within your fashion photography, but your work expands to multiple genres, perspectives, and subjects. Was this something that was important to you within your work, or did it happen naturally?
FH: I think if I can see or show something that is meaningful to other people, it’s satisfying. If what I see or show, is just a repeat of something that has been said or shown many times, its less satisfying. To give an example, at one point, I made an exhibition about trees. There was something a little different about the way I showed them, and someone said to me, “after seeing your photographs, I look at trees in a different way.” That was positive. I thought it was worth doing.
With everything I photograph, I try to find a way of doing it as it hasn’t been shown before. If I take your portrait, I’ll probably take it in a way that you will think you look ugly in the portrait. You would mean it, because you don’t look the way you like to look when you look at yourself in the mirror. It may happen, that three or thirty years from now, you look at this photograph I took of you and you think that after all, you didn’t look so bad. That would make me happy.
We all have a way of looking at yourselves in a mirror and criticizing what we think is not perfect, or what we have a complex about. The woman I love said to me the other day, “I really have a big nose, you shouldn’t show my nose.” I said to her, “your nose is exactly what is interesting about you, and maybe one day you will realize it if I show it, because I love it and think it’s beautiful.” So that’s for me a good reason to take a photograph.
K: You find the beauty in people that they don’t necessarily see in themselves.
FH: Not only people, but you can find beauty anywhere that people didn’t see.
K: How do you choose the subjects of your fashion photography?
FH: When I was doing fashion photography, models used to telephone and come to an appointment and show me their book. If I liked their voice, I said yes, come. I thought that if I liked their voice, I thought there must be something beautiful about them that I could show.
K: And for your portraits?
FH: For me, if I photograph a face in the street of a person that I don’t know, I wouldn’t call it a portrait. It’s a close-up of the face. I call it a portrait when I have a definite idea about a person, and I try to show this at the end of the photograph.
If I photograph you, I wouldn’t call it a portrait, because I don’t know you. If I knew something about you, even a small thing, something I can find in a small conversation, or something you’ve told me once, it would mean that I have some idea about you and if I photograph, I will try to show my preconceived idea about you. To me, that is a portrait.
K: In the ‘80s, when you were in New York, you released your series, ‘New York, Up and Down.’ What was that process like?
FH: That was a product of New York. It could have just been a patch of dirt on the pavement. For some reason, I associated that exhibit with what I found to be important about New York. It could be anything – not just the beautiful landscape, but the setting.
It was mainly a feeling in New York where everything is really dense, a lot of things become really close together. Very often, they mix quite well.
I came to New York for a few weeks and it made the exhibit into an emotion. If I had stayed there all the time, it probably would have been less of an emotion.
K: Do you have a different processes when photographing a model as opposed taking a personal portrait of a family member or friend?
FH: The thing with photography is that it’s made out of two very opposed elements and sources. On one hand, you have your own imagination of what you think about the person or situation, and which you would like to express. For instance, there is a young child which is born to my wife, which is my child and I see them for the first time. I have all sort of expectations and imaginations before I photograph that child. On the other hand, the actual face of the child says something that has nothing to do with my expectation and brings something which I didn’t expect and I didn’t even want to show.
When I think of photographing my grandchild as a newborn, I thought he looked like a little old man. So, it brings something that wasn’t what I wanted to show and comes into the photograph. I then look at the screen, and say, “this maybe how he will look 50 years from now.” There’s what I want to show, and what people, things, or situations will show about themselves. What’s so fascinating about a photograph is that the two come together.
In the photograph with the girl with the horse, there was a girl who was there to show her dress, and was paid for it. There was the horse, who was there for his own reasons, and brought another message. It’s this meeting of two things, which is interesting.
Don’t forget to check out Frank Horvat’s exhibit at Izzy Gallery, located at 1255 Bay Street. You can see more of Horvat’s works on his personal website, HORVATLAND. Continue following our arts & culture coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.