Photographer’s Q&A – Nick Iwanyshyn

This week’s Q&A is with Nick Iwanyshyn, York Region Media Group. His web site is


Guelph, Ontario, October 10, 2008 – James Greville walks around the mess of cow parts on Gordon Street. The innards and assorted skeletal remains were thrown onto the road after the truck driver had to make an abrupt stop at the traffic light at Harvard Road. (Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn/Guelph Mercury)


What were your first steps in the industry?

When I was in high school I took a trip to Loyalist College, in Belleville, Ontario, with friend, Ottawa photographer, Ashley Fraser. She showed me the school and I sat in on a seminar. It wasn’t too long after that I returned to Loyalist as a student. Without Ashley I would have never fallen into this industry. That was my first real encounter with the world of photojournalism. Everything has been a first step of sorts since then. I’m relatively new to all of this, so I feel as if I’m still learning.


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

When I first started at Loyalist (in 2005, I believe but I may be wrong about the date), I wanted to be a rich and famous skateboard photographer. All my school assignments seemed to be pictures of skateboarders. I think I’ve grown up quite a bit since then.

I knew I wanted to take pictures. I certainly didn’t think that by the age of 22 I would be employed by a community news group (York Region Media Group) with two daily newspaper jobs (Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune, Guelph Mercury) behind me.


Belleville, Ontario. December 8, 2006 – Quinte West firefighters are silhouetted in the smoke from a house fire on Montrose Road. No one was injured in the blaze, which is believed to have originated in the family’s woodstove. (Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)


What or who are your biggest inspirations?

I’m inspired by the everyday work of the people around me. The Toronto scene is out of control right now, with so many people producing quality content. I spend a lot of time reading blogs. I like to see what people are up to – co-workers, friends from school and so on.


Do you have a mentor?

I don’t really have one single mentor but there are a ton of people who’ve helped me out in the past. I owe most of where I am today to a handful of editors across the country – John Major (ex-Ottawa Citizen), Tom Braid (Edmonton Sun), Rod Frketich (Waterloo Region Record) and Phil Andrews (Guelph Mercury). I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have a job right now without the trust, guidance and time those folks invested in me. And I can’t say enough good things about my former co-worker in Guelph, Ryan Pfeiffer. He’s been a great mentor. It was awesome having a like-minded shooter to bounce ideas off of on a daily basis.


Guelph, Ontario, October 21, 2008 – Dr. Hamid Nasser looks up while performing a vascular surgery on a patient at Guelph General Hospital. (Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn/Guelph Mercury)


What was a pivotal point in your career?

I’m only 22, so I hope I have a bit of time left for pivotal experiences. But, I feel as if being let go from my position at the Guelph Mercury has been the most pivotal point to date. Before that, I would have said being hired on at the Mercury. Things change.

Earlier this year, as part of big layoffs in the Torstar chain, our newsroom was cut in half, moving most of the page layout and production to the Waterloo Region Record in Kitchener.

Because of the glorious bumping process, my co-worker Ryan Pfeiffer was also let go, leaving the Mercury with no staff photographers.

It was a terribly eye-opening experience. I was sitting back, watching all the madness in the industry and this economic shitstorm twirl around me, thinking I was totally safe. It wasn’t the case at all. That experience has taught me to always be on my toes – you never know what’s going to happen. It gave me a very uncomfortable feeling, like I had just finished school again. I’ve come to learn that a kick in the pants like that isn’t all that bad.


What are you working on now?

I’m just trying to keep calm and carry on. I’m still getting settled into my new job, shooting for the York Region Media Group, so I haven’t had much time to sink into any projects. I try to cut one or two fun videos a week, just to keep my video-editing senses tingling. I’m also going to be helping a local cinematographer shoot a ski and snowboard video project when the snow flies, so that’s just around the corner.


Kitchener, Ontario, July 23, 2007 – Loyd Nyland, 93, who has been involved with Scouting since 1928, poses in his original Scouts uniform. Nyland will be joining the Waterloo Scouts to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Canadian Scouting this year. (Nick Iwanyshyn/Waterloo Record)


How important to you is multimedia?

Multimedia, on a personal level, is very important to me. Multimedia on a journalism level, not so much. I love making films. I love finding nice light. I love capturing great audio. I love storytelling. But I have yet to integrate everything I know into a news piece I feel really good about.

I started making short films at the age of 14 and I grew up with a video camera in my hand. When I showed up at Loyalist College with $6,000 in video equipment and a Nikon D70, I was greeted with a ton of weird looks. Some people questioned my interest in filmmaking and suggested that I should invest more time in picture-making. I guess that made sense at the time.

Five years ago, multimedia from a journalism standpoint wasn’t something anyone knew much about. From viewing some of the “videos-for-the-sake-of-videos” that are out there right now, it sometimes feels like journalism people still don’t much about it.


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

I think getting feedback on your work helps keep the fire under your bum. I’m my own worst critic but I absolutely love when someone will trash my work better than I can. People are too nice most of the time. I hate hearing that my work is “good”.

I’m a big fan of keeping busy on my days off. I’m always shooting off frames or making fun videos with my friends. I also try to pick up as many freelance assignments as I can.


Beachburg, Ontario, May 1, 2007 – James Rowlinson of Australia paddles the Bus Eater wave during the 2007 World Freestyle Kayak Championships. (Nick Iwanyshyn/Ottawa Citizen)


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

I frequent the usual spots:

The Globe and Mail
Toronto Star

I also have about 40 blogs I check on a weekly basis. Some of the more interesting are:

Tony Fouhse:
Matt Roth:
Ryan Jackson:
Chip Litherland:
Brett Beadle:
Casey Templeton:
Ryan Hughes:
Finn O’Hara:


Guelph, Ontario, December 27, 2008 – Three pedestrians walk through Royal City Park on a foggy Saturday afternoon. (Nick Iwanyshyn/Guelph Mercury)


What is your favourite way to unwind?

I love getting out of the city. I spent the first 18 years of my life in Arnprior, Ontario, a small town of 7,000 people, so I feel at home in the middle of nowhere. There’s nothing better then spending a few days out of cellphone reception range, hanging out with friends at the cottage, making movies and shooting photos. I also have a very healthy relationship with red wine.


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

“Every sport is news when a dog does it” – Ian Willms. Very valuable advice from a good friend.

I’m not sure who this came from but someone once told me to “go where no one else is” at an event. If everyone is shooting wide, shoot long; if everyone is shooting long, throw on a wide. I guess this might just be common sense, but it’s helped me a bunch.

I constantly challenge myself: show up at an assignment with only a 20mm or tell myself I’m going to shoot everything in a day with a 300mm.

That being said, I was also told, during my time freelancing in Ottawa, that when shooting anything on Parliament Hill, find Reuters photographer Chris Wattie and stand exactly where he is (haha).


Grande Prairie, Alberta, May 30, 2008 – Dave Sandilands gets thrown in the air by Happy Feet during at the 2008 Stampede Rodeo in Evergreen Park. (Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn/Daily Herald-Tribune)



Category: Photographer's Q&A

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