Photographer’s Q&A – Tory Zimmerman

This week’s Q&A is with Tory Zimmerman, videographer/photographer at The Globe and Mail in Toronto. Her web site is


The Canadian National Institute for the Blind runs an Intensive Rehabilitation Therapy Course (IRTC) for individuals who have recently lost their sight. This class was for young teenagers and adolescents. The youngest was 14 and the oldest was 22. It is led by a woman named Sumreen Siddiqui who is over 90% blind. Photo By Tory Zimmerman/Toronto Star


What were your first steps in the industry?

This is a bit of a story.

Unaware that there was even an industry called “photojournalism” but curious how images ended up in the paper, I started an Internet search and then e-mailed and cold-called a whole bunch of photojournalists – some in Canada, some in the States.

Doing some research closer to home, I eventually cold-called Erin Elder at The Globe and Mail. Graciously and patiently, she first spoke with me on the phone about the profession and then invited me to come down and show her some of my work.

We met in the front hall of The Globe in March of 2004. I was carting this huge 16×24 portfolio of prints from an art school show I had years earlier, (most of the images were shot in the late ’90s), along with a few streeters and wedding shots thrown in. Erin was beyond kind as she told me that she didn’t think I was a news photographer and she suggested that I might look into shooting weddings full time.

I left feeling a mixture of “Ewww, I don’t want to be a wedding photographer!” and “I’ve never tried to be a news photographer. I wonder if I can do it?”

Back home, I resumed my Internet search and came across this amazing three-day workshop in Rhode Island called the Northern Short Course (NSC). At the time, I was a full-time employee at my friend’s jewellery business, so when I filled out the NSC application form, I dutifully wrote “Myles Mindham Jewellery” as my employer. Needless to say, when I got to NSC, everyone else’s name tag said “New York Times”, “Washington Post”, “Dallas Morning News”, and so on. My name tag? Well, it was embarrassing.


Emily Haines, singer/songwriter and the lead vocalist in the indie band, Metric, is launching a solo album to coincide with the publication of a book of poetry written by her late father, Paul Haines. The book was printed at the unique Coach House Books on the UofT campus, where Emily has been photographed. Of the book and her father she says, “His sense of humour is alive in his poems…I can continue the conversation that ended when he died by reading his book.” Photo by Tory Zimmerman/Toronto Star


While at NSC, with my huge portfolio and SJP-styled-Powerbook, I stood out. But I got into some great debates about art vs. journalism and came home determined to get into this industry.

Having been accepted to the Brooks Institute in California, I have to thank Tom Braid (Edmonton Sun photo editor) for sending me to Frank O’Connor at Loyalist College, where I fast-tracked and saved myself hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So, my timeline is this: lightbulb moment at the end of February, Erin Elder at the beginning of March, NSC a week or two later, Frank O’Connor the end of March, told my roommate I was moving out in April, moved to Belleville in May. The rest is history.


When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation and are you where you thought you would be now?

When I was at Loyalist, all I wanted to do was work. It didn’t really matter to me where, I just wanted to find a home at a paper and keep shooting and learning from the pros. I never dreamed I would actually get hired at The Globe and Mail but from day one, it was the goal.


Pat Green, 20, shovels the nearly 8 tons of rockweed that had been gathered that morning into the back of the dump truck. Rockweed is harvested for its carrageenan, which is used in everything from toothpaste to gum. In addition to the dulsing industry, rockweeders – who make $47.50 a ton – hit the shores in the spring and summer, when lobster season ends.  Photo by Tory Zimmerman


What or who are your biggest inspirations?

The people I am surrounded by on a daily basis are my biggest inspirations. My fast-track classmates from Loyalist – all of whom are working, all of whom are doing something different – I am still motivated and inspired by their eyes and their passion.

My colleagues at The Globe, some of whom I have looked up to for years and some of whom I met only this year. Their dedication and love of what they do is totally inspiring.


Did you have a mentor? How important are mentors?

I did. I do. I think they are very important. In my case, some of my most important job decisions have been bounced off (Globe and Mail photo editor) Moe Doiron’s level and industry-aware head. I am grateful for the constant guidance he has provided. But truthfully, I have been mentored by everyone I have ever worked for or with. I think it is really important to seek guidance, to ask questions, to pick the brains of those who have come before and who will have a direct role in the path your career will take.


What was a pivotal point in your career?

I went out for drinks with Moe on a Tuesday in February to discuss video – namely, why I wasn’t doing it. I was so hesitant and yet when we began talking, it became increasingly obvious that my resistance was just me wasting time.

Moe stated the now-familiar refrain that there would be no staff positions offered in the future that wouldn’t require video experience.So, I bought all the gear on the Thursday of that week, called Moe who told me to call Jayson Taylor (Globe and Mail’s multimedia producer), and by week’s end, I had my first video assignment. Everything I am doing now stemmed from that decision.

But that is the career side of things. As far as pivotal point in my work, I think it would have to be landing the contract that started my work in Regent Park, Toronto. Though on the back burner for a little while, that project continues to be an important part of my development It also focused my intentions as a photographer and journalist.


Austin Bingleman lies on the couch in his family’s home in South Regent. The eldest boy in a family of five, he is being raised by a single mom on disability who suffers from anxiety and depression.  Their house is slated for the last stage of demolition in the five phase revitalization process, and in the meantime they are dealing with collapsing roofs, cockroaches and mould. Photo by Tory Zimmerman


How important is multimedia to you?

Considering my job title, I best answer this with “very important”. I am still trying to find my way as a story-teller but am thoroughly loving the hybrid and the pure video work I am doing.


How do you ensure that you are progressing as a visual journalist?

I go to work every day, learn every day, shoot or edit something every day, and I am determined to keep growing. A metaphor I have always used for this profession is that plenty of people are writers but only some are authors. It is my goal to evolve into an author, to move beyond simply putting pieces together.


What are some of the must-see websites you visit? Please include why you visit these sites (e.g. inspiration, guidance, information, education).

New York Times – amazing hybrids of video/still/programming/motion graphics. Total dream to be that good at doing it all.

Magnum – the work, the presentation, the variety.

VII – same as above.


What is your favourite way to unwind?

Yoga. Listening to music either on its own or while cooking.


What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?

The more you shoot, the better you get. If you don’t shoot, you have nothing to look at. Keep working, keep shooting, keep asking, stay curious.



Category: Photographer's Q&A

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