Top photo: Sarah, Ayla, Nekky, Hannah and Noah Jamal and Catherine Skinner live under one roof north of Toronto, Sunday, March 2, 2014. Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail
Last Sunday I was sent a few hours north of Toronto to shoot an assignment about a polyamorous family. I was told where to go and when to be there and the general gist of the subject matter but apart from that I had very little information. I had no idea what to expect and, undoubtedly, this family had no idea what to expect of me.
I was scheduled to be there from 10 a.m. to noon. I ended up leaving around four.
This isn’t my story but I will say that it’s been a long winter. Both literally and figuratively. The last months of 2013 and onward have been cold, dark and often emotionally taxing. My work, which I find solace and relief in when the inside of my head gets too busy, slowed almost to a standstill. I felt low too often and struggled to find a way to emerge from under the ice. Then I started doing yoga again and work picked up. I spent more time with people that made me feel like myself. And then I met this family.
As I walked up their long, rural driveway, I could hear sheep yelling away from the next property over and something about being in such a different environment was immediately uplifting.
It was probably a combination of things: The brightness of the home; the enchanting, gregarious children who sang songs for me (since when do 8-year-olds know how to harmonize?) as I ate pizza made from scratch that the family had all prepared together; the time I spent watching them play outdoors in the snow; the family’s incredible openness and willingness to go along with my ideas; the general feeling of love that pervaded their household.
I left that house feeling happy and lighter than I had in quite some time. It’s a gift - being given the chance to walk into the lives of people you would never otherwise meet. I’m not sure there’s any other job quite like it.
The formal portrait that I shot and that ended up running in the Globe was my favourite frame. My editor had suggested maybe doing a modern American Gothic and so I managed to capture this serious, quite dignified photo in between Ayla’s little fits of laughter. But I think those might have been the only serious moments of the day.
But as I said, this isn’t my story.
The Globe story here:
Catherine’s blog (and her thoughts on the story) here:
The Aga Khan speaks with Globe and Mail Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse in Toronto, Friday, February 28, 2014. (Galit Rodan for the Globe and Mail)
Yesterday was one of those rare days where I took a moment to take stock of where I am right now. Thursday and Friday were both busy, stressful work days. The kind of days where you feel, to borrow a phrase from the service industry, perpetually in the weeds, and yet somehow everything works out in the end. I had worn a hoodie to my 12:30 assignment because I thought I was going to be shooting outdoors. On my way there an editor called with another assignment - shooting the Aga Khan at the Four Seasons Hotel at 4. In between assignments I filed, drove home, walked the dogs and changed my clothes and then literally drove back to almost exactly where I had just come from. Made it with a minute or two to spare.
I get caught up in the little stresses of this job: wondering whether I’m going to make it somewhere on time; find parking; freeze outside; how I’m going to deal with the crappy yellow light in this windowless room; the overhead light that’s creating highlights where I don’t want highlights to be; how often I can get away with pressing the shutter without being too much of a distraction in the interview; should I stop shooting altogether after a while; the person who keeps leaning into my frame; and on and on and on. Realistically, those little stresses ARE my job.
Somehow, though, while I was rushing to get to that second assignment, I sat back in my car and thought “I am shooting the Aga Khan for the Globe and Mail.” And in spite of my tendency to feel like I am constantly underachieving and that I should be doing more and doing better, I realized that the assignment I was on my way to was something that would have been unfathomable to me not even three years ago, when I was still a student at Loyalist. And I felt really, really grateful for being where I am now.
Here’s hoping for something unfathomable in the future.
Air Canada President and CEO Calin Rovinescu speaks to The Canadian Club of Toronto at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Tuesday, February 4, 2014. Photographer: Galit Rodan/Bloomberg.
My friend Van Sheen on stage at the Mod Club in Toronto. January 25, 2014.
Three Speed patio. Wee hours of January 26, 2014.