Photographer’s Q&A – Blair Gable
This week’s Q&A is with Ottawa photographer Blair Gable. His web site is ottawaphotographerblairgable.com
Ottawa – Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff with his “generals” in his office on Parliament Hill on February 3, 2009. (Photo by Blair Gable/ Maclean’s)
What were your first steps in the industry?
I was shooting for my high school’s yearbook back in Woodstock, Ontario, and then Sentinel-Review photographer Jason Ransom (now the official photographer for the Prime Minister’s Office) approached me and asked if I wanted to do a ride-along and learn about newspaper photography. I ended up apprenticing with Jason and shooting with him every Tuesday for the next five months (until Jason accepted a staff position at the Ottawa Sun).
By the time I left high school, I had more than 50 published pictures. Jason took me to my first photojournalism conference, a Northern Short Course in Buffalo, and I could hardly contain the amount of info that was poured into my brain.
When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation? Are you where you thought you would be now?
In my final year of high school, all I wanted to do was to get a staff job as a newspaper photographer. I was on the straight and narrow. Loyalist College was the only school I applied to. I am nowhere near where I thought I would be right now. I thought I would be a happy staff photographer at a newspaper that immensely cared about the final product.
Ottawa – Kristin Booth poses for photographers after receiving the Genie Award for Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for the movie Young People Fucking. April 4, 2009. (Photo by Blair Gable/Reuters)
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
When I was going through school, my biggest inspirations were Jason Ransom (obviously) and photographers such as Peter Power, John Lehmann, Kevin Van Paassen, Dave Chidley, Andy Clark and all those big cats! Now we all go drinking together.
I get inspiration from photographers like David Hobby, Joe McNally and Chase Jarvis, who encourage creativity and community among many photographers. All they care about is that you learn!
I am new to this wire photography stuff and getting to see the work of all the Reuters and Canadian Press shooters around the country (and world) provides non-stop inspiration.
Ottawa – U.S. President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at the Canada Reception Centre on February 19, 2009. Obama was in Ottawa on his first trip outside the U.S. as president. (Photo by Blair Gable/Reuters)
Do you have a mentor?
I have had many teachers along the way but my main mentor was, and is, Jason Ransom (see question one). I would not be where I am in terms of photography, business savvy and being able to approach strangers, without Ransom. When he left for Ottawa, he handed over the reins of the Eastern Canadian News Photographers Association (ECNPA) web site to me, which was a way to get my name into the industry.
What was a pivotal point in your career?
When I picked up my dad’s Nikon F-401 and shot my first frames – it was a sunset but it was the beginning. Also, when Peter Jones (Reuters) approached me at CP photographer Fred Chartrand’s retirement party last year and told me that if I wanted work, I would have work – that was huge.
I decided to leave my staff job at the Ottawa Sun later that year and purse an unstable freelance career working with Chris Wattie at Reuters in Ottawa. I was always working towards a staff job at a newspaper, now I am a freelancer working for news wires and magazines.
Ottawa – Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay is treated for a dislocated elbow he suffered while playing rugby with the Forces Rugby team against the Ottawa Irish Rugby Club on the front lawn of Parliament Hill on May 27, 2009. The Irish beat the Forces 6-5, and $25,000 was raised for the Military Family Fund. (Photo by Blair Gable/Reuters)
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on expanding my own business in Ottawa and paying the mortgage. My main clients are Reuters, Maclean’s magazine, The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. I am not a “personal project” kind of guy, never have been.
How important to you is multimedia?
Honestly, not really. The way the big bosses at Sun Media tried to shove multimedia in our faces without understanding what to do with it left a very bad taste in my mouth. I must say that I am excited about cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II and RED One that allow for a distinct style and feel to video, more like shooting film. You can establish depth that you can’t get with a TV-style video camera without adapter lenses and all that.
How do you ensure you are progressing as a visual journalist?
I am my own worst critic. I hate shooting the same image twice. My work made a big change when I started using more prime lenses, and I imagine it will change again when I start shooting video. As long as you are shooting semi-intelligent pictures often you can’t help but get better, unless your head isn’t really screwed on.
Ottawa – German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber waves to cameramen during a break while testifying at the Oliphant Commission on April 17, 2009. The commission is probing Schreiber’s business dealings with former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. (Photo by Blair Gable/Reuters)
What are some of the must-see websites you visit? Please include why you visit these sites (e.g. inspiration, guidance, information, education).
I look to photographers that are doing amazing work in other areas of photography. I take in their work and try to find a way to evolve my own style. Often they are using big studio set-ups or a lot of post-production that is not practical for newspapers. There is a huge list of photographers that I look at and have linked to from my blog, blairgable.wordpress.com/required-surfing.
Make sure you check out:
What is your favorite way to unwind?
I snowboard, rock-climb, sit in my hot tub and play liberal amounts of video games.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
Only show your best work. Don’t take shitty pictures. If you miss a great photo, don’t tell anyone. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. There is always someone better than you.
“Look behind you” – Andy Clark