Photographer’s Q&A – Veronica Henri
This week’s Q&A is with Toronto photographer Veronica Henri (Sun Media).
Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun
What were your first steps in the industry?
I learned everything about the newspaper business and made contacts.
When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation? Are you where you thought you would be now?
I had planned to be at the Toronto Sun for only a year and then go back to university. But, the paper was evolving quickly and I stayed for the next 28 years. I was caught up in a movement.
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
Books and photographic exhibits. Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer who was considered to be the father of modern photojournalism and the creator of the “decisive moment.” I am still fascinated by the fact that there were a group of photographers through this century who had enough influence to change the course of history. Today, it seems like self-promotion has more influence than the quality of a body of work.
St. Michael’s College’s Scott Burns is tackled by Lakeshore Catholic High School Gators Josh Nelsdon, left, and Nick Boulard at the Metro Bowl on November 29. 2006. VERONICA HENRI/TORONTO SUN
Do you have a mentor?
Many. Some were local photographers who had more experience then me at the time. Some were editors and others came from books. I studied every book on photojournalism, including World Press publications. I went to weekend seminars. I knew who took every great photograph either in the world of photojournalism or in the photographic art world.
What was a pivotal point in your career?
There are a few including winning a number of awards all within a few years, among them a National Newspaper Award.
Another pivotal point was when I could finally could go to any kind of an assignment and create a professional image. The panic was gone. The lighting, the lens and my approach to my subjects just worked. In my day, editors were very critical. Your work was looked at with a fine-tooth comb. There wasn’t much room for mistakes and the competition was intense.
Members of a South American highwire act are silhouetted against the big top during a rehearsal at the Garden Brothers Circus on February 23. 2000. Photographers’ picks – our photo crew choose their best shots of 2000. VERONICA HENRI/TORONTO SUN
How important is multimedia to you?
Multimedia is not as important to me but it should be to every student out there. Without nailing this part down to an art, your chances of employment are not good. Anyone entering this profession better know how to multi-task. There is no turning back. Video is here to stay.
How do you ensure that you are progressing as a visual journalist?
Keep “seeing” images. Never stop. This also relates to the multimedia question above. Being a visual journalist is no longer about staying back like a “fly on the wall” and trying to capture the moment. You now have to know all aspects of the story: video, stand-ups, plus, of course, everything there is to know about still photography.
A homeless man sleeps in the arms of his dog on Queen St. W. in Toronto, on a freezing day in November 2006. This photo was runner-up in the Feature category at Sun Media’s 2007 Dunlop Awards. VERONICA HENRI/TORONTO SUN
What are some of the must-see websites you visit? Please include why you visit these sites (e.g. inspiration, guidance, information, education).
What is your favourite way to unwind?
Unwind? What is that?
Being in the media world usually means shifts, hours of waiting for a subject, and spurts of intense work. It is a roller-coaster ride. It’s a life of extremes.
If and when I have time to unwind after my full-time job as a mother, well, the dream is to sit by the fireplace and read a book for longer than 20 minutes without interruptions.
Alzheimer’s Disease – Beryl laughs as she shreds cabbage for supper. The task takes her an hour, but it’s an activity that’s important to Ewart Angus Home residents, who make their own meals. VERONICA HENRI/TORONTO SUN
What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
Always produce the best image possible no matter what the assignment is. Keep your personal standards as high as you can.
Remember that in the newspaper business, your photos are handed off to editors and layout people. So sometimes, the final product is out of your hands.
In my day, you could not survive without being completely passionate about photography. You had to live it, breathe it. It was all-consuming. We always had a travel bag packed in our cars. We were ready to go anywhere, anytime.
Unfortunately, I have watched the quality of photography drop over the years. It seems to be the price you pay when newspapers become more about business and the final product is more about profit than integrity.
And then there is “citizen journalism”. But that’s another topic. Without training, can a reader always believe what they see?