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Ryan Bolton – Photographer (Ep.38)

December 8, 2021

Ryan Bolton is a Toronto based photographer who has won awards and travelled the world capturing stunning images of people and places. His client roster includes Apple, Red Bull, Spotify, Gucci, SickKids and many other category leading institutions and commercial brands.

Journalism originally led Ryan to photography as a career and in this session we discuss the backstory which developed his lens on the world plus tips and tricks for improving as a career creator.

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Podcast Transcript
Qasim Virjee 0:29
We are live. It’s recording. We’re all good.

Qasim Virjee 0:34
All right, welcome back to another installment of the star Well, podcast once again, it is me Qasim in the studio here on King Street West in downtown Toronto. This time joined with a creator. That’s the shittiest word. We’re gonna delve into that a little bit. The YouTube culture Hills kids. But basically Ryan Bolton, a man of many cameras, is here to share knowledge, from his experience engaging in creative work,

Qasim Virjee 1:07
you know, as his profession, and we’re going to talk about all sorts of stuff. We’ll see where the conversation goes. Thank you for joining me in the studio today, Ryan. Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here. Right on. So let’s get started by you introducing yourself to our audience in whichever way you would like to amazing.

Ryan Bolton 1:28
So my name is Ryan Bolton. Thank you for getting that out there. And I’m a photographer. And

Ryan Bolton 1:35
I like to photograph a little bit of everything, which makes me a little different than your common everyday photographer. So I started with actually writing I was a journalist, and I was paid to travel. And as soon as I started working was actually

Ryan Bolton 1:57
in Ghana, I was at a refugee camp and I was with a organization called journalist for human rights. And I was working in this Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugee camp, and I just started taking photos, portraits. This is 2007 2008, in that ballpark. And

Ryan Bolton 2:18
there was an attachment that I immediately had with putting the photos with the writing. And it just started to click. And, sorry, pun intended. Yeah. And shoot was one of the things too, that other people started talking about editors would then want me to take a photo to go along with that, that piece that was written, which I thought was weird and broke rules at first. But then I saw saw that it was about, like, tell a full story that went hand in hand and kind of get to a crux of something, right. And I fell in love. And so I started shooting more so I started going to music festivals. I eventually became a photographer for like Way Home festival and Boots and Hearts and field trip here in Toronto. That then led to travel work. So I started working with organizations like intrepid travel, who I still work with, which is like small group adventure travel. Oh, cool. And like, like documenting groups, trips, exactly. adventure stuff. Okay, so mash up shoe climbing mash up shoe with all my camera gear. Yeah, that was one. Iceland, Morocco, sleeping in caves in the Atlas Mountains,

Ryan Bolton 3:27
Southeast Asia through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Africa, Egypt,

Ryan Bolton 3:35
across the United States, you know, and really kind of exploring,

Ryan Bolton 3:41
you know, just that relationship with the camera, and documenting what anybody would be like, This is amazing. You know, I just had that opportunity that I knew was an opportunity. I always knew it was an opportunity to be like, This is amazing.

Qasim Virjee 3:52
I’m guessing this is in your 20s.

Ryan Bolton 3:54
Yes. Yeah. And then from there Wedding photography became a big part of it. I just kind of naturally fell into with like anything like helping a friend out right public, another friend out being like, Okay, if you’re a photographer, and you’re in a day surrounded by moments, where everybody’s looking the best, everybody’s happy. That’s a photographer’s dream place. It really is it really like if you if you have a creative mind, and you want to create something, it’s literally a blank canvas. Once everybody’s ready, they trust you. You are directing how you want those shots to look. So like it’s worth taking pause to actually analyze this because there’s a big stigma of course, in photography, where traditionally it’s considered that that’s the starting place. You want to be a commercial photographer, you get your chops in weddings, you get enough bride Zilla guru under your nails, and then you could dig your way through the commercial contracts that you’ll get after that, but then you never talk about it again. And that’s an interesting thing. A lot of photographers exactly will undermine it. And to be frank with you. I’ve shot a lot of products.

Ryan Bolton 5:00
For it’s just get your lighting done. And you’re just sitting on a tripod. It’s not breezy. Yeah, very easy to be honest. Yeah. However, a good photographer can work in every lighting scenario, people scenario, environments scenario, where there’s 15 people looking at you, you’re in the middle of the street and go, what’s next? Yeah, you have to direct it, you have to know where the light is, you don’t have to know get people in mind. And you have to create something that nobody else is creating, you know, you have and then how are you going to do that your own? How are you going to separate yourself, that is something that nobody talks about, but in a world, I also love so and not to say I’m just a, a wedding photographer. But what I like is that I use different creative tools that I’ve learned from other types of photography, I do a lot of like long exposure stuff here in the city and around the world as well. Yep. Which, you know, really teaches you the ins and outs of how aperture works, how shutter speed works, how ISO works, etc, etc. You take all of that, and you put it together and something like a wedding, or music or product shoot makes you stronger 100% Because you’re learning just different components of what makes something work. And even my favorite thing now is I’m lucky enough to have a few really, really top end like video friends, I just love and I do a little video here and there. But I love just watching how they light something. How do they work with motion?

Qasim Virjee 6:16
Well, let’s talk about it because it’s really interesting on the lighting thing i Okay, personally, until start with Studios was founded, right? recently.

Qasim Virjee 6:27
I would always consider myself a hobbyist, I never really knew the difference between being a professional photographer and hobbyist, or even filmmaker outside of in my brain professional filmmaker makes like linear narrative scripted, you know, things that take oodles of time and effort to plan around, right, in terms of being in the moment to capture something on camera. I hadn’t specifically thought of the difference of lighting that flash photography for stills in studio, how different that is from constant because in my brain, I see everything as constant light. So I’ve always been drawn to film, but taking stills. So I’ve never really played with flash photography, even if I was doing photography until very recently,

Ryan Bolton 7:13
strobe lighting is another world it is best.

Ryan Bolton 7:17
It is because like there’s, and I say that too. I have like, just like go doc strobes and they’re they’re good. They’re like 430 They’re great. Yeah, yeah. When you have those power of those things, like you’re never at full power. You’re never good. I mean, like that. And I have the two light system. And I use a third light here on there. But honestly, what you can do with that and just go to one light and how you can play with it like that strobe. Yeah.

Ryan Bolton 7:40
Moving it around playing with experimenting with that thing. You can create the most dramatic, beautiful, clean, whatever kind of photo you want. And it’s different from continuous because continuous, you’re seeing what you’re getting, you know what I mean? Like you, you know it, but there’s something about tapping into something getting all your exposure. Correct. And then, you know, just perfect strobe, I don’t know, it’s just, it’s the cleanest purity. Yeah, it’s like, especially I have been playing a little bit not enough. I haven’t had enough time. We have three of those go Doc 600. Pros. And what I love about them again, this is a whole, like, professional versus prosumer question, right? Like all these,

Ryan Bolton 8:22
I don’t know, I don’t want to throw sticks. But like, you got all these people with their, like $50,000 Pro Photo writers for shoots. And they a lot of people like that they come here and they rent from neighborhood studios or whoever. And they don’t own their own equipment, and they rent it and I find that interesting. But anyway, they come in with that the Profoto stuff, and you can’t like some of the equipment you can’t use with a battery. So they’re they’ve got wires everywhere. Or you’ve got this like pack a power pack that needs to be plugged into, you know, a nuclear reactor to be powered. Yeah, where’s the GoPro stuff? I could grab it. I could put a battery in it. It’s gonna last like eight hours. I could take shots that are like studio lighting in the back of an alley anywhere. No, yeah. There’s something to be said to with, like walking in and having $50,000 equipment. And I got it from when I was younger skateboarding. And the idea that I wouldn’t, I had to learn a kickflip before I got another skateboard. I had to learn heelflip forgot the next skateboard. And then you know, I mean, like I it was about learning and then putting money into something. Right. And it taught me that skill, like at a young age that it’s not always the equipment that makes you great, you know, photographers worst nightmare is that’s a great camera. It takes good photos. And my favorite thing to say is what kind of basketball did Michael Jordan Yeah, exactly. Does it matter? You know, the tool does. I think it was a spa thing. It doesn’t matter. It’s not exactly it’s a tool. It’s what you do with it. You know, racecar drivers, you know, like I’m really into like Formula One has ever grown. And, you know, it’s the Mercedes cars and Red Bull cars are just they have better engines, they’re better cars. But it’s the driver that really takes it to the next level. Right? I mean, it’s

Ryan Bolton 10:00
right they do with it. Same with photography. And it’s something about like learning as you go and then putting your money into grading, you know, like, and that was something I did too is like, do this get, you know, do this big gig get a new lens? Yeah, do this next gig Get that camera body always wanted, get your lighting Next, get your tripod, you know, get your

Ryan Bolton 10:20
Lightroom you know stuff like yeah, and 1000s on Final Cut Pro at some point. And it came in like 20 DVDs in a box. That was like the last version, you could buy it for the release, final Pro X and nothing was backwards compatible. And then I, you know, kicked Steve Jobs in the face, my mind? But like, yeah, no, I know you invest in these tools, because they allow you to challenge yourself. And the suite is I mean, there’s Okay, something to be said also about like building your toolkit. Yeah. And you want to kind of like have the tool set to be able to use Well, there’s a natural growth that happens with that, too. As your skills get better, your tools kind of can get better with it, too, you know, and it’s like, you have all the same all if you have all the best tools at once, it’d be just too overwhelming to even grow with it. Right. But when you like, kind of piecemeal and learn those things, is that what it’s like learning, like, we use cameras now. We can’t, we’re not really using the full potential of how powerful these things really are. You know, I mean, like, even like a Canon like TTI rebel, like there’s like, there’s a lot of power in those cameras that aren’t even utilized fully, to be honest. But of course, like the sensor, and this is like the bag full frames, but

Ryan Bolton 11:32
the, you know, with a full frame camera, there’s so much potential that people aren’t even fully getting to that, you know, we then move on to the next body because it’s mirrorless. And it’s new, and it’s sales cycle sales cycle flux everyone up, right. And then of course, you know, I love canon, so I’m not dissing cannon, but, you know, there is a massive, massive marketing,

Qasim Virjee 11:55
you know, engine amongst all these consumer electronics companies globally, to push product on, particularly YouTubers for reviews. And so the free product comes in the door, it is a new one, and they got it for free. And they have to reciprocate by kind of like making a video to tell everyone how awesome it is. Yeah. So it’s very interesting. The hype machine is, is part of the industrial complex. Well, that’s been there for forever, forever. Get stronger over here, maybe. But yeah, it’s, I had I had someone in the studio. Last week, we were talking about tools, and we were talking about how this kind of throwaway culture with consumer electronics can affect your sense of peace as a creator, because you have to reinvent your toolset, right? We’re done engineered redundancy can can affect the work that you use, or that you do on those tools. I still somewhere in my house, I have a Dell laptop. I probably paid like $8,000 for this because I leased it at the end of university when I had no credit rating. And it is like 58% interest is a crap. Right? They lock us in at some stupid they took me years to pay off and but I still kept it for the fact that I had SoundForge and acid so a waveform editor and a audio sequencer program.

Qasim Virjee 13:18
Back when this company that made that software was independent, before it got bought by Sony, because the Sony versions of that stuff, were trying to integrate it with their video editing suite. Vegas, maybe at the time, I don’t know. But it got really cumbersome. And it didn’t do the same thing. So I couldn’t make beats in the same way. And literally when I last made my last track that was released on DJ Spooky ‘s album in 2004 or something 2009 2009.

Qasim Virjee 13:49
The track that I put out on that album was made on this crusty old laptop by dusted off, I put away my MacBook Pro. And I brought out this thing. And I sat with it. And I was like okay, how does Windows work? I remind myself what the hell is Windows, each find it was a different experience creating going back to an old tool versus it was yeah, it was awesome. It was because it was it felt simpler in the sense I didn’t get like I feel free on on my MacBook and I do audio and I do video and I do photo editing and everything. But it felt like whipping out your keyboard, you know whipping out a MIDI controller, and you only have 10 buttons to play with kind of thing.

Ryan Bolton 14:29
So it’s interesting, like there’s something to say that even now with all this unlimited control that software hardware integrations allow for, especially with GPUs being so crazy powerful these days.

Ryan Bolton 14:40
There’s something to save for even restricting your creativity in the production process, because then you can focus on your immediate envisaging but yep, a clean route to creating like I was saying earlier, it’s that we put up so many roadblocks in creating you know, we procrastinate we say we don’t have the right tool. We

Ryan Bolton 15:00
are waiting for an excuse. But when we have those clean systems to get in and create something, yeah, it’s easier for the mind to do to it mean and like it’s less resistance. Now that’s not to say for anyone listening, who’s new to video editing? Who uses solar flares? Is their fucking transition every single time on a video that they should keep doing that. No, but, you know,

Ryan Bolton 15:25
you got to experiment of course, like, and that’s something too for anybody. Yeah, young creators out there listening to is you have to experiment like you. How do you know what you like and style? How do you know what works for you in even starting to create? How do you know what works for you in your, you know, Favorite music or what however you’re like putting together like you don’t know yet. And you have to experiment and you have to play and you have to get into the playground. And that’s the best part. You’re gonna make mistakes, you’re gonna fuck up. But like, good, good. Learn from it, take it, use it. Have some fun, yeah, yeah. And then you might, but even in all those, you know, mistakes or whatever along the way, you’re gonna find the gems, and you’re gonna find your voice, and you’re gonna find your style that actually works for you. And that’s a win. And that’s what you should celebrate. And I think that’s a lot of creators journeys in that too, like, nobody’s going, you know, just opening up their MacBook and creating the next best song or, you know, video or photo. It’s like, it takes time. And that’s, that’s the best part about it on it. I think. I think if you’re not enjoying the journey, then why are you on the ride? You know? Yeah. Well, I also think that this is kind of especially the, the we’re in a time where the pat on the back comes from not peers, but from consumers. And commercialization of art is like we were just saying off Mike was at an all time high, you were telling you about NF Ts, NF TS I was reading are going to be the real currency of the future. And I think, you know, I’m, I’m still hesitant on the NFT world because we just don’t fully understand it. But to get on a streetcar in these NFT to, you know, buy a bag of milk, it’s gonna be the same and that is going to be the normalized currency from creators. Commercialization, right? Like the biggest NF T’s right now we’re all those like monkeys with the, like, all the art of it is shit, in my opinion, a lot of it, a lot of it, I registered, so I registered, we had Okay, so at some point, we had a, we have a

Qasim Virjee 17:21
I don’t know how to describe this. It’s a curious person. But we had, let’s say, a Bitcoin billionaire from the UAE, he moved back to Toronto, and set up a temporary residence for his work at start well, and before I knew it, it was this chaos whirlwind of 20 3040 hangers on to this chap, you know, coming in and starting new companies, and no one was paying us a rent and then they kept saying that we’ll get a bag of cash. And I’m like, okay, but that’s going on my accounts, and then the cash never came. But this guy’s worth billions and billions of dollars. And then supposedly phone calls for partnerships would be whipped up out of thin air. And then I was invited to dinners with these like crazy, seriously connected and wealthy fellows that didn’t make their money in crypto and you know, got swept up into that whole crypto thing for I don’t all have one month or something last year. But in the process, I registered a domain name Mr. Crypto with a que and I was like, I’m gonna, I’m gonna make and I made an animated GIF art on my phone using the giffy app. Just Crap, crap stuff. Crap stuff. And I was like, I’m gonna list it. And you know what I this is only until this conversation Do I remember? Yeah. Since those couple come party sodas in the backyard when I made those that I should post those and see,

Ryan Bolton 18:42
Just to see, again, the experimentation? Yeah, just trying it. I think that’s where a lot of NF T’s even began in the art on them. Right? Is that? What will what are we going to create, like I saw that, Wikipedia, they just put up the first page of, like, if T the first page says like, hello, world, it’s not even like a typical Wikipedia page. It doesn’t look like it any anyway. And that’s an NF t. Now, that’s great, because it’s definitely on the Wayback Machine for anyone who can afford the NFT.

Ryan Bolton 19:13
You know, but it’s interesting of like, commercializing

Ryan Bolton 19:17
piece of digital history. Right. And that’s currency.

Ryan Bolton 19:21
The question I have about that whole space is the … I’m always one, you know, and I don’t know if it’s right, but I always question who the audience is not in the process of creating something. But as soon as that thing is done, because I want to show it, I don’t want to share it. And I always think, Okay, well, who’s going to enjoy this and how do I get it to them? And I’m finding that we’re in a really fractured

Ryan Bolton 19:46
era for a media distribution, where we have so much media available for people to consume, and the means of consumption are typically, you know, add short timeframe based consumption

Qasim Virjee 20:00
patterns on social media apps, Instagram, and so on. And in this kind of question of like, okay, well, how does my media have lasting? Not even, it’s not even, like post consumption lasting impression on people, because their attentions on something else after they consume it, but even during consumption, like, you know, it’s always heartening props to, to all of you who fit in this category, when we get a message from someone, after enjoying one of our podcasts, because they’re like, You know what, I saw that you posted something. And I was like, I’m gonna make time for it. And I sat down on Sunday, and I watched the video, and it was such a great conversation, and I don’t even I don’t hear conversations anymore.

Ryan Bolton 20:43
Well, I think podcasts had their have and continue to have their heyday in the pandemic, but I turn on the Pandemic, like, in the pandemic, I turn on it so many different podcasts that oh, yeah, I love them. Love them. Because that’s it, especially with editing, I used to always edit to music and you know, have something playing but listening to people talk, because I wasn’t having those conversations in the way that it wasn’t before interest was even more relaxing when I was editing.

Qasim Virjee 21:06
So you’re listening to conversations while you’re Yeah, cutting video or editing stills?

Ryan Bolton 21:11
Yeah. All the time. And,

Ryan Bolton 21:15
yeah, it maybe it’s a human nature thing. It’s about just hearing other voices, hearing conversation, hearing ideas, maybe just mixing it up from not hearing, you know, music. But there’s a there’s a lovely

Ryan Bolton 21:29
point to have just like, connecting one another through another means exactly. podcast is just part of another ecosystem of broadcasting information. But it’s still relatively new that I don’t think has fully even hit its full, you know,

Ryan Bolton 21:46
running pace yet. I think it’s still it’s still getting there. And people are still finding it like even like smartlace, right like that podcast. Oh, it’s so I don’t really know. What’s going on outside of my own walls. Yeah. Jason Batem an and

Ryan Bolton 22:02
what is what’s his name? Sean, Sean Hayes, and Arnett

Qasim Virjee 22:08
Will Arnett

Ryan Bolton 22:08
Will Arnett, and they they literally decided in the middle of the pandemic that goes like mid 2020, maybe spring 2020. They bring on different guests every week. One person brings them on the other two don’t know who it is. Oh, I like that. It’s all stars. Right? It’s like, they’ve literally had everybody, you know, the biggest names out there. Other than Ryan Bolden cousin, of course, of course. Yeah. They’ve had, you know, Ryan Reynolds, the other famous Ryan but not me. Anyway, they. Yeah. And they just they just talk and I bet you he brought a bottle of his God down heavy on June. Yeah. Yeah, he’s, well, that man’s brilliant, because he can do he’s done it at all. Like he continues to do it all. Absolutely. He just got the Governor General’s Award. I think it was like last week. Anyway, proud of him. We’re proud, very, very proud of you, all of us hit that thing where he’s telling Americans, you know, stop threatening to come to Canada when something goes wrong in their country, which is ever continuing. No, but the idea of podcast and just hearing people talk, I think helped a lot of people last year. Yeah, it will continue to help. Yeah.

Qasim Virjee 23:12
Yeah, it’s been tough for so many people being in isolation, because they haven’t had, you know, opportunity to engage themselves in conversation. And, you know, look, I’m a parent, you’re a parent. Yep. My daughter’s three and a half. And it’s so funny, because, you know, young toddlers, obviously,

Qasim Virjee 23:32
they want to share, and what they share a lot of the time is just the short snippety. I’m doing this now and do that now and do this and you know, but it’s such a joy to hear that even if you tune it out once in a while, or you know, my spouse or parents or whatever, we’re talking to Ava and I just like listening. And I think on the flip, you know, it’s reminded me being a parent of what I experienced as a kid in a house where you’re hearing cooking happening. This is happening, someone’s upstairs conversations in the other room. It does connect us to each other, even if it’s a passive, you know, means of consumption, right? I love to like listen to stuff

Ryan Bolton 24:08
well even like, yeah, like, younger and around Christmas time, you know, exactly like you have your grandparents in and yeah, you know, someone’s making cookies, and there’s the smells and there’s a chatter. Like, there’s a feeling that comes with that, you know, I think a lot of people were starved for and continued to be starved for. Yeah, one of the saddest things, the pandemic to that continues to be, you know, obviously, the, you know, the real deaths and illnesses. Yeah, but it’s the law. It’s the lack of opportunity, loss of opportunity. I Oh, like That’s so sad. That’s hard. For creatives. That’s truly hard for creatives, especially like,

Ryan Bolton 24:41
you know, extroverted crave is you know, is a crisis for extroverts as well but extroverted creatives that that’s it seriously tough because

Ryan Bolton 24:50
you’re always looking for your next opportunity, especially freelance creators that that’s kind of the bread and butter it’s you have you are a risk taker in the sense that you don’t always know what you’re

Ryan Bolton 24:59
next two weeks are going to be your next month, your next year. Yeah, all the time. Sometimes you do not all the time. Oh, and there’s an there’s a willingness to, you know, to put yourself out there on the line. And then something global pandemic comes and you got it crushes you ..

Qasim Virjee 25:15
no gigs. And it’s like, okay, well, is it because of me?

Ryan Bolton 25:18
Right? And that’s exactly. We always internalize. Yeah, we all add to natural, I think like, it’s my fault.

Qasim Virjee 25:25
Yeah, we take too much responsibility on our shoulders. Right? For sure. And the industry is, is also constructed that way. You know, and that’s the one of the big failures of the mega agency model totally, is the slave driver, you know, kind of mentality of pumping as much out of creatives as possible,

Ryan Bolton 25:45
the burnout, creative, you know, just take them and chuck them out when they’re done. Yeah, yeah, that’s, that was ways keep them away from the client. That was always, always keep away from the giant don’t show them that. If we can, we can do anything for the client that they want. Back in the basement. Get go. Yeah.

Qasim Virjee 26:01
And you’re right, those days are definitely rapidly grew rapidly, rapidly, like the big guys will still stay around a couple of them, you know, the whole, they’re going to slim down. Well, we’ve seen this inflection, and I think is a really exciting time. Because aside from the pandemic, and I hope post pandemic we can,

Qasim Virjee 26:20
there’ll be a larger dialogue about this era that we’re in where

Qasim Virjee 26:25
consumers become creators, and the media that they want to consume, in relating to a brand would be something that’s part of a larger dialogue. You know, and I mean, obviously, the biggest examples, the most obvious ones are, you know, maker culture in general, you look at Indy media for food, you know, and there’s this whole thing of like, people want to see food being made, but they also want to make it and they want to share their thing. And there becomes this like feedback loop, and the media facilitates dialogue. And the smart brands are understanding this and saying, well, we need to engage and empower our consumers to be part of our brand experience. And so that’s happening on social media. And then you know, consumer electronics are doing it, especially for capital C creators on YouTube, blah, blah, blah, you’ve got cooking things, even car people, automotive industry. So I think that’s working its way throughout the global economy, which is interesting. But But yeah, there’s a big revolution going on and cutting out the middleman and a lot of questions about well, what does that mean? Because, for better or for worse, the middleman structure of things, has been the status quo for so long, that as the middleman gets cut out in agencies lose contracts to, you know, young kids with cameras.

Ryan Bolton 27:48
Their relationship may not be informed by experience through an agency of how to keep a client, how to build a relationship, how to offer new types of products, that they might do go out of business, development mindset, and all that kind of stuff. Totally. And I said, I was saying that off Off mic to earlier is that the only way I think I’d be able to be a full time photographer now is that I did 10 years in marketing agency world to your point, because I learned I learned that I learned how to you just sit down with a client for a meeting? What kind of questions are you asking? What’s the etiquette?

Ryan Bolton 28:22
How many edits should even have on on a piece? What like, how does that work? How do you price those things? Like it takes time to learn that? And exactly, if you’re thrown in cold, you know, again, there’s part of it, you’re just experimenting, you’re learning as you go. But having a little bit that guidance and just seeing how how it is done is paramount and helping you move forward. And I honestly, I those 10 years in marketing world, that’s what helped me get to where I am today. 100% 100% So let’s go back to that career history story. Yeah. I think we dropped off when you were

Ryan Bolton 28:58
where do we draw Thank you journalists, you’re taking photos? Yeah.

Ryan Bolton 29:03
That led that led into traveling with weddings, portraits, and now commercial stuff. So I had the opportunity to work with brands from Gucci, Red Bull, Apple,

Ryan Bolton 29:18
you know, GM, Canada, Uber, Spotify, etc, etc.

Ryan Bolton 29:24
And that whole that whole world that commercial world, yeah, I’m loving just as much and again, it’s kind of it’s, it’s just different tools in the tool belt that are helping create better like a bigger better, you know, body of work. Sure, and I’m not worried done. I’m nowhere close to being satisfied. But each one of them kind of plays into another so that’s what I mean by just not being your typical, you know, photographer and I and I still do videos with that too. So like real stuff. So with Appleton a couple months ago, we shot all their new reels like obviously all the products. The Rembrandt Yeah, Appleton Estate, sir and

Qasim Virjee 30:00
Yeah so shooting all their like video reels of like, you know, you know making cocktails and how to do it and that kind of stuff which I love as well and just learning shit you did some cocktail stuff with mixologist and everything they brought in the full show you my cocktail stuff. No. Never told you about that. Oh, oh, that was a crazy trip man. I love cocktails. We met, there was a dude who worked for a company here, and really nice guy. But he was a mixologist and was kind of at a crossroads in his career. So we cooked up this project to like just film some recipes. And I was like, it’ll, it’ll give me a chance to like, take my you know, four BlackMagic cameras. Yeah, feed them through an ATM switcher. And live edit something so fast paced as making a drink. I wanted to live out of that stuff like boom, boo, boo boo boom video. Yeah, not live. But yeah. And, and it turned out beautiful. And we did 30 recipes. We I killed the project, because it didn’t work out business wise to like, build a brand out of this stuff. Was this upstairs here? This isn’t actually in the kitchen at several studios. So funny of all Yeah, it’s beautiful. Yeah, so the cabinetry is nice. And then I have that live edge tables, the island that we were filming on top of. So I had a C stand for a Top Shot. And then I used 10 to 18 looks super wide for a wide angle on the table.

Qasim Virjee 31:21
Pretty much like this setup. And then I had to cross angles from the sides with the 50. Mil to get that kind of like lots of blur. bokeh. Yep, bokeh. And then another one that was like, medium wide. But the content looks amazing. And then that was a shoot that that whole series really kind of like pushed me to say I’m going to use natural light. But I’m also going to like, even out our studio lighting. So you got a sense of place with these shots, you’re near a window.

Qasim Virjee 31:50
But I needed to make sure that it didn’t like when the sun shifted, the whole thing didn’t get thrown off. That’s the first time you’ll learn that you’ll learn that yet. So you see, I’ll send you the thing you see from the beginning to the end, the quality changes immensely. Yeah. And we shot some of it at the bar here. Yeah, King Street as well. Yeah, that stuff had a more speakeasy vibe. So I didn’t like it for this topic matter. I wanted it to be more tropical and fun, right. Um, but what a joy it was to shoot that content. I loved it. I loved it. Yeah, yeah, I miss doing that. Yeah, there’s actually a lot of fun. And there’s even just creating, like,

Ryan Bolton 32:24
you know, these small little guys, that’s where a lot of like video stuff is today with social writers that quick, you know, you know, 30 seconds, two minutes stuff and to make to make something so attention grabbing enough for you to actually watch it, like it takes that full team from like, and we had a really good art director on it. And she really kind of brought her name is Christina, she’s lovely. But she really brought out like, a sense of that, like the brand to like the opposite estate brand, like how it, you know, the elevated touches kind of thing. And just even that the font changes and like how the music flute flute like, I don’t know, when you, when you’re creating some like that you need a full team that like, even from our mixologists it was a lion who’s just tremendous, but like, everybody’s got to be in the same flow. And I always say that, like when I’m, when I’m creating, I’m doing like a photoshoot. It’s got to be all hands on deck. It’s it everybody’s together. And it’s not one person’s not a king on my photoshoots never.

Qasim Virjee 33:18
And I want that, you know, everybody’s in it together, there’s any quality, because you need to create together, right? And when when when it works, I call it being in the pocket. That’s the best feeling in the world, it will truly for any creator. Like it’s when you’re in the pocket, not even thinking about what you’re doing. You just you feel it, and the team feels it and and the output is there. You know, I mean, like everybody’s judging the output, you can see it live. But there’s that magic that starts happening when all the all the pieces are there together. And that that feeling is intoxicating. So a couple episodes ago, I had Adam Vitalina from astrolabe studios. And, you know, he, he’s been a photographer, but he hasn’t really kind of like jumped down the road of doing commercial photography until very recently, even though he owns the studio, and it’s like stuffs happening everyday there. I think he’d been sitting on the sidelines for a number, not long, but a couple of years saying wow, you know, this is so much fun. And I’d like to do this stuff. And then he started doing and he was like, Oh my God. And he’s really fulfilled by the work. So I had him by even before this podcast, but we I think earlier this summer, I got some product from novice because they’re our friends and they use our studio. So I was like, Okay, give me some jackets, send me a couple models. I just want to play for a day and I’ll invite Adam over, we’ve never shot together. But we’re gonna just do a shoot and give me one concept and they gave me the concept of the the brand manager, novice was like, Okay, I understand this totally experimental.

Qasim Virjee 34:45
Try and give me nature, movement and stasis in the same shot. And we’re like, Okay, we’ll play with it. So we did projected visuals because it gave me a lot of control to like throw stuff up on the screen, etc.

Qasim Virjee 35:00
how it felt with the with the different garments. And that was, first time I’ve done that, really in this space was, you know, setting up the right angles with c stands and everything so that it would the arc of the projector would just like, Be perfect behind where the subject was standing in the foreground. How long did that take? Five minutes. 10. Okay, I’m pretty quick to shoot man. Yeah. Well, sometimes it’s hard with projectors, because you’re exposing for that. And then the product. Yeah. So no, no, no, it’s very tough. It’s very tough. Because also, we decided very early, setting it up was quick, but then deciding what aesthetic we wanted to replicate through the shoot, right? Took like, yeah, an hour and a half before we were comfortable. Yep. And it was we had to make a decision that like, the background is going to be blurry, and we’re going to celebrate that. So we’re doing long exposure with couple flashes, to get that crisp, product shot.

Ryan Bolton 35:54
But we wanted the dark room with the bright background. And then we did a spot from above. So it’s like subject was illuminated from above, and then a little bit of kind of uplighting from the ground. So we’re really happy with what came out. They were very artistic shots, not something that’s typical product. Yeah, and definitely not like on brand. So at the end of it, you know, sure out the brand manager was like, these are amazing, but I can’t use any of this. And I was like, that wasn’t the point. This is for your inspiration. Totally, totally. I’ll even like I love looking at like a Vanity Fair. And going through the first 50 pages of ads, and I’ll go That’s a good one, or that’s a bad one. And you quickly start studying why. Right? Right. And, and a lot of these shots are done outside, you know, like, they’re sure, like, your Chanel will be like, you know, on an Italian, like, a bridge looking at like a ravine, you know, but like, they are like a lot of them aren’t even in Studio, you know, it is so interesting to always think it’s always studio, and sure a bunch are but a lot of them are just kind of in the wild. And a lot of them use harsh light, which is so interesting to look at to like some brands that like, you know, middle the day that are using some harsh shadows, like, just interesting in that fashion world to like, they always look the same, you know, like, you know, you know, a fashion ad every time you see it, but it’s just interesting how they, like, you know, try to continue to make it new. And I think that’s now kind of getting them out of the studio more, which is I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s a good thing because the formula especially for like I did a, I did a couple weeks where I was playing just for my own testing, but I was playing in studio with

Qasim Virjee 37:29
fragrances and it was a really interesting exercise because I was looking at really when you’re looking at favorite fragrances you’re you’re really considering for me two things, the muse on sand wood, for me, you wanted to represent the aesthetic that you can obviously smell through an ad still ad. So the missile scent was representing the smell. And the enlighting played also very much into that in the emotional response that smell elicits.

Qasim Virjee 38:04
And, and yet what I found was a limitation in the expression of that the product packaging. And the packaging is two things that were limiting me and I was playing with product from Balenciaga, as well as from Tom Ford. And there are a couple of reasons why but the Balenciaga stuff, super interesting fragrance. It had a great theme when they launched it, it was about a kind of hidden jungle, where the most beautiful flowers was the ugliest. And it was about kind of like inflecting the soft you know, feminine touch with the really jagged edges of is that like their shoe?

Qasim Virjee 38:44
Their shoe with spikes on it? All of that are those like giant oversized Oh, sneakers, that sneaker shoe thing. Yeah, that was supposedly that was the sneaker that saved the brand, right? They were going bankrupt. And then the young the flower, apparently, yeah, it’s terrible. I was not not for me, but it worked. It totally worked. I forgot I saw an interview with him, the brand manager or does wherever you call them in the fashion world. And my friend Imran Ahmed from business of fashion, who started a new show, video show where he travels in he’s trying to unveil through the show, the current state of the industry, and what fashion kind of in 2022 will look like, interesting. But anyway, so yeah, I played with this. And I was like, okay, so plastic wrap is stupid. In terms of a brand expression, it takes away, you know, from the aesthetics, and then the box everything’s about the box, if you don’t know the sense, you’re gonna go into a perfumery, you’re gonna ask for that box. If you’re not a Chanel lady, and you’re looking for a new number, or your old number, you’re gonna look at what is that? Is that cool? And how does that, you know, relate to me. So it’s a classic branding thing, but it’s at odds with the bottle I found. And then you know, there’s all this it’s not like an Apple product. You open it up in

Ryan Bolton 40:00
There’s tons of garbage in the box, and packaging that makes the experience of looking at the bottle cumbersome. So it’s not like suddenly there’s this beautiful bottle. Really all the packaging. I think you should start doing unboxing video. Yeah, yeah. And just comment on all this shit. Is that what babies are? Oh, absolutely. I don’t watch. But I think to your point, though, like you actually, for any, again, young creators out there that are looking for something to do in their house that you don’t need a big studio for right? Yes, watches and fragrances? Oh, yeah, there are so many cool, very challenging. There’s so many cool videos out there like, and, you know, Instagram reels and that kind of stuff that show you behind the scenes of how people do it in their own home. And it’s amazing the creativity that comes out of their, you know, using water, and they put like dyes in the water and the products in there. But I’ve even seen them use like, you know, an IMAX screen to put the product light and they use the back? Yes, that’s brilliant. And they can do it anywhere. Yeah. And it’s like, again, coming back to like, you know, the democracy of creating a little bit like kind of the same thing that, you know, someone can make beats anywhere these days. And you know, as long as you have like a MacBook, but the idea that, you know, are people that are like, how do I work on creating that body of work that if I want to go into commercial or whatever, just do it, do it at home,

Ryan Bolton 41:12
use natural light maybe to start if you don’t have proper lighting, you go by a window,

Ryan Bolton 41:17
setup a little like studio spot and start experimenting, because you’ll get to your point like it’s hard. It’s really hard. This how do you how do you match the the elevated elegance of a beautiful bottle? You know, and I think this is the other thing is like

Ryan Bolton 41:36
I don’t know, I’m not up to scratch with how schools are teaching creative pursuits these days.

Ryan Bolton 41:43
But definitely in the old world, even in fine art schools. You know, I know some people I went through some really good schools, one of my clients back in the day was actually

Qasim Virjee 41:52
CalArts, the California Institute of the Arts, he was founded by Walt Disney, and, and all these art schools, which if I know of course, OCAD have worked with OCAD as well here in Ontario and Toronto.

Qasim Virjee 42:05
There was historically this very formulaic method, and you’re kind of like teaching by example. And you replicate, replicate until you can speak in the medium, and then you can you know, be free. And then you can be an artist. And no great artists went to school. But anyway, that’s a whole nother. But the thing is, yeah, you’re right. You’re right. I think it’s about deconstructionism. If anything is what I would kind of recommend to people is to say, take some shit. Like you’re saying the ads in a magazine, tear it apart, mentally, tell yourself why it’s not good. and rebuild it in your own language.

Ryan Bolton 42:42
And use that, do that and do that until you feel free doing that. Absolutely. And one little trick on that, too, is, uh, you know, to do as a tool is

Ryan Bolton 42:50
look at how they light it, you know, lighting is so important and everything right? Even like right here right now. It’s perfect lighting. But um,

Ryan Bolton 42:58
look at the catch light in someone’s eye. They’ll tell you, right, and so the catch light, what that means is like, you know, a cartoon, you see that big ball, you know, you can see it right? The light, you can see it in really good photographs, too. So that’ll tell you how they lit it.

Ryan Bolton 43:14
And looking at that, like why how did they light it? Why did they light it that way? What is that doing? Like was that a mistake was on purpose and start just doing you know, looking at all them as you go. And you’ll find yourself doing it in movies and TV shows and everything. And it’s is the kind of thing I can’t turn off now where I’m always just seeing it, right? It’s like, how did they do it? You know? How do they light it? And even my friends to will. If he’s on set, he’ll send me a still of video they’re shooting and they go How did I like this. I love it. I love it. I love it. And usually I’m wrong. Because because it’s funny because like a lot of it’s just tricking right or a lot of it for video. It’s like bouncing light, bounce light, biggest.

Ryan Bolton 43:57
But I love that and that’ll teach you and I’ll teach you how to make yourself better and your own work better. And it’ll teach you how to see light. And that’s one of the biggest things photographers always say, I never understood at first, like you’ll How do you see light? What are you talking about? Like, and you know, you’ll start playing with it in your hand, you know, just like how does light hit your hand and even you’re out in the wild do that if you’re like, you know, looking for a good place to shoot, obviously find shade first, but then put your hand up to the sign and see how it works reflecting and they’ll show you.

Ryan Bolton 44:25
But doing that like doing that continuously continuously will make you just better, way better at what you’re doing on all the time. And then like I was saying, like for me anyway, it’ll help you in different forms of photography and different forms of video because you’re you’re really learning what is making that shot good or not good, you know? And then you’ll finding your own styles because of that too, because you’re critiquing what you’re seeing. And again, Off mic like you and I are saying and we you and I are from the same cloth in this is that we overanalyze our own work all the time. Oh, yeah. All the time continuously. And yeah.

Ryan Bolton 45:00
Awesome are shit, that’s those are my two, I’m a little scared what will happen if I don’t care anymore? Honestly, I am like, I’m like, what it was an apathy about an old shot, I think that then my works dead, you know, like, because you, you always have to say like this worker that didn’t work that was underlit, that was over lit, that’s oversaturated it’s under, like, whatever it may be. And that’s the best part to finding your own work and your body of work is, is is self criticizing and being critical. I have one of these things, and I think it’s a it’s a, it’s a meditation in practice that I would recommend to all creators, if they have such a project they can keep coming back to is like, cook up a project that you can keep coming back to your whole life. For me, for the last four years, one of these meditations has been

Qasim Virjee 45:46
real estate photography, and has been specifically this campus. Because I have not had a team to prep my marketing material. So I’m like, Okay, I need to get better and better and better, better, better, better at expressing what this place is through photography on our website. And also for sets that we send out to people. for various purposes for marketing, I wanted the place to be shone in the best light, and that was on me. And what I’m finding constantly and it’s actually really exciting is that I look back on old photos, some of them I can still use because the furnitures in the same place and all. But I’ll be like, No, I’m gonna reshoot this. Because it was it was good for the moment. And that’s another thing I can look back. And I’ll say, this is not a piece of shit. This is actually an awesome photograph. But it doesn’t have the vibe of right now. You know? And you can tell that. And again, it’s the break of break down technically into like lighting or something. How many times have you shot that space?

Qasim Virjee 46:43
Oh, it must be. If I mean, it’s, it’s because I’m shooting parts of the space all the time, too. So I would say if they were like, if there were actual shoots or a day where I ran through the whole campus with 20,000 square feet, and I shot it in four years, it would be like

Qasim Virjee 47:03
30 times Nice. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, like 30 times, something like that. And I’ve gotten to the point where I, I’m not thinking how I’m doing it. But I know that like, let’s say an office turns over and I want to have once we repaint it, we changed the furniture, I need to do a new shot for the website. It’s just like, literally, I hop in tripod, I’m exposure setting, I’m not even thinking about boom, boo, boo, boo, boom, take it happy. And are you excited about it? Are you excited when there’s a new opportunity every time to work on that project in order to buy I’m excited.

Qasim Virjee 47:35
I’m it’s funny because my focus in the production process used to be the being in the production, and the trickery and figuring things out. But now it’s like, I’m excited when I see that thing is the finished result. The process, I’m like I’m down with I’m not worried about anything, I’m not thinking about it. I’m excited when I see it in place, I see the media in place, kind of like the photographer photo in the article.

Ryan Bolton 48:02
For me, it’s like the photos on the website. And I’m down with that. Yeah, it tells the story that you wanted us to tell you. Exactly. Yeah. And that’s, that’s, I like that tip like having a project you’re continuously working on. But and that’s why I asked like how many times you’ve done it because

Ryan Bolton 48:18
you need to be in that mindset that you can’t, there’s no hang ups. You know, like, that’s such an important thing and creativity. Oh, yeah. And just even like, the social call or Google adult, adult mind, you know, we’re constantly thinking 10 different things at once. And our attention spans are becoming so limited. But it’s like one of those projects that you like, you can do all that stuff, it’s there, but you blank it out, because you focused on doing that one project or whatever it is, like you need to want to do it. You know, there’s no other way of saying that people will talk about passion and all that stuff. Like, you know, it’s of course, it’s important, it’ll happen naturally as you like it, but you need that one thing to get you to be passionate, you know, or project. And then you kind of build from there as you as you go along and making it better always. Yeah, like, again, a good photo is never done, like we were saying earlier to like a good articles never finished writing, because you can always edit, you can always make it better, you can always like, fine tune it. And something like going back, like you know, even when you’re writing like an essay in school, you know, maybe I would always write something last minute, of course, but I would give it a day, give it a day to breathe, and then go back and edit it. And that was always so much better. I found that everything kind of came a little more naturally because you gave that time to breathe, but you also came up with a new perspective or had an idea or, you know, you were in the shower and that like that’s how I’m going to close the essay or that’s how you finish that project. You know, like that, like you need you need those time to breathe and you need projects you have to breathe in order to finish not again, as anything finalized. I guess I think a lot of people forget, especially in commercial work that like creativity is not just frontal lobe work like you need it’s part of the process to allow your subconscious

Qasim Virjee 49:58
input. Absolutely.

Qasim Virjee 50:00
And absolutely, and that time kind of relaxes the front of your brain, you know, to allow, yeah. The rest of your, your, your creativity to, to align, catch up. Yeah, exactly. You know, or like sleeping on things is so good. I mean, I remember back when I used to do a lot of like, like coding exercises

Ryan Bolton 50:21
for well I call them exercises, they’re actually a commercialized projects for clients, yes, they were all exercises for my intelligence.

Qasim Virjee 50:30
My 20s was that it, I would get a client, a really good client, it could be like, kiya launching a new car in North America, it could be Coca Cola, trying to bring university students together around the Nestie brand in a challenge. That’s experiential marketing, whatever project it was that my studio worked on. Literally, I always saw it as, like, there was no failure, you know, opportunity. Anything I did, I knew I was going to be confident in and they would be happy with his clients. So I just always used to treat every project as a challenge to myself to think through it in a new way, total and totally know. And then that’s the best thing where you don’t know what the specific learning is. But you know, you’ve learned a bunch of stuff. And that’s even coming back to let’s say, wedding photography is more than any other type of photography that I do. It’s, I see it as a puzzle piece.

Ryan Bolton 51:26
You know, I every exposure is a puzzle, right? To properly get it in for anyone that’s not like really big into like, you know, video or audio world, but you know, your ISO, your aperture and your shutter speed and getting them kind of all on the angle to get the proper shot and the proper light, or proper time of day takes time. And it takes learning to get to that point. So they’d be able to do it. We’re shooting on manual all the time. But I see that as a puzzle, but you’re kind of putting it together and creating it. And that’s one thing with a wedding throughout the whole day. I’m trying to tell a story, right? I’m always When I’m photographing, I’m trying to see how that storyline is going to kind of go, you don’t know how it’s gonna go. But you’re kind of like you’re, you’re putting the pieces together and formulating that, you know that story or that’s that arc.

Ryan Bolton 52:11
But that’s kind of the best part is that, you know, it’s that puzzle piece. And then sometimes the puzzle isn’t complete, you know, and that’s that happens. That definitely happens in your you know, your left being like shit, like, how do I fix this? Or where do I go from here? Because yeah, it can be pouring rain or, you know, people are late or whatever it may be. But I think that’s a good way of kind of going about creating too is knowing that you don’t always have all the answers, but you know what you need to get to a certain point, but you got to let it happen. You got to you know, play with the toolbox. Oh, for sure. And I think to be successful engaged in a career and creativity. It sounds shitty, but you can’t be a perfectionist. Nah, you can’t you’re not you like good enough? Is everything. Yep. You have to go with your intuition. So much of the time. You’re right, you’re right. Like, you know, perfectionist will become paralyzed. Analysis paralysis, that kind of world that’ll happen and does happen. I’ve seen it. But like, you know, what, here’s the thing is I wouldn’t actually a lesson I learned young when I was shooting festivals, you have three songs, right? Or shooting any band. Let’s say you’re a concert, you get three songs, you’re the front of the, you’re in the you’re in the pit, and you’re shooting.

Ryan Bolton 53:25
As soon as you get that one shot of maybe it’s the lead singer, they’re kind of coming out. You got the timing right, the the lights right on with the perfect time. As soon as you get that shot, get the next shot. I see so many times people staying on that one shot trying to get it. Three songs are up and they got half of a shot. They want it you know, but if they would have moved, they might have seen something a little different. You know what I mean? But they got hung up on getting that one perfect shot. Sometimes it’s worth it. I’m not saying that’s always the case, but moving around, seeing how somebody else like that was a really good lesson to learn because you’re gonna come back you know, and you you have to show client you go look, I have 100 photos. Like that’s the same photo like over and over again. Wait time would be like the lights right on this one goes. Great. What about the rest of the band? I don’t care what experience you know, and that’s that’s, you know, a good lesson I pads.

Qasim Virjee 54:14
Sometimes it’s worth it. Honestly, sometimes it is worth it. But you gotta you gotta know when you have something and then move on. You know what I mean? Yeah, agreed. Yeah, agreed. And you know what, I think this is also even for still photographers not interested in motion. Embracing motions is kind of is not not their emotions. I said that wrong. I Pluraleyes it embrace the emotions.

Qasim Virjee 54:36
Embracing motion. Yeah, because if you if you mess with motion, it kind of affords you a different perspective. I think you can. You can manipulate a moving image in a way while you’re capturing it more than you can with a still.

Ryan Bolton 54:54
I feel like so like even like back like I’m talking

Unknown Speaker 54:59
to

Qasim Virjee 55:00
15 years when I shot I did a little I was when I had my record label Indian electronic records, there were bands that I would shoot, when I put them on stage. And it was just, I was fucking around having fun. But like, I would go up on stage or the handycam and film the like, at least one song. And it was kind of cool. It’s kind of like being a wedding photographer. The band has to feel comfortable not caring that you’re on stage. And the audience also can’t let you steal the show. You know, and that’s why handycam I was found really cool, because I had crazy zoom on it for video, and then I could like play with it in different angles. I mean, this is a long time ago. So devices have changed since then. Yeah. But some of the best stuff that I’ve ever filmed was that footage, and I only film that footage to give me a more innate feeling of what it’s like on stage. So that when I’m back down, looking up at the stage, or from the side wings, I could capture those moments where it’s like, it’s not about what the audience sees. It’s about what they feel on stage. Absolutely. You saw that footage? Yeah, yeah, that’s super cool. The essence of a good photo can always be seen in the expression of a model. What I mean by that is you can see anxiety, you can see distraction, you can see that person not being present. Yeah, and a biggest trick is how you build that rapport with somebody, how you get somebody to feel relaxed, how you get that, the real emotion. And I always say, it’s like when the, the model or the subject forgets there’s a camera there. That’s when the magic happens. And it’s so true to getting those like, you know, those photos that you can’t really explain, you know, you know, a decisive moment is a good photo, right? Like, that’s, that’s kind of, that’s what it is, or you just feed them some beans, you let them fart, and then you’re in the golden, you’re good, then they’re comfortable, everybody will harden in front of you. And it’s all good.

Ryan Bolton 56:57
But there’s there is an art to that. And I find that every time. You know, you really get somebody to relax. And there’s a skill in that there’s a skill and 100% that the best work comes forward. So yeah, there’s, you know, that’s one of the best things I always love to hear after Photoshop is i That was fun. It was fun. You made me feel great. You know, I didn’t think could be that easy. I was stressing with this for weeks, but it was super like enjoyable. That’s the best compliment. Because it’s not a trick or anything but you’re there to do a job you’re there to get something you’re there to you know, you have a focus.

Ryan Bolton 57:35
And the best way to do that, in getting them there is to make them feel comfortable and feel make them feel good. And that’s one thing too when I’m when I’m shooting, I even forget about it. I’m like, beautiful, great. I talked through everything right? Like, that’s it move. Okay, great. Like this Like that. Okay, that’s wonderful. Like, you’re perfect, stunning. I’ll even say like, just just shine for me right now. Like that communication is really or it helps. Yeah, it helps. And here’s the other thing, too, is like people like direction they do? They need it. They need it. And yeah, you know, the worst are models, like professional models are not what people think. Yeah, I don’t know how to hold themselves. Yeah. Some do. Some don’t like I’ve had experiences where like some like, you know, they have like 20 Looks like they call it looks right like that, how they look into the camera, or we want to do some of them just like nail it. You know, like, they know exactly what they’re doing. Like they have it? Yeah, sometimes it’s like, you know, what are we doing here? Kind of like, you get tired over directing something you do? You do? Yeah. And then that takes you out of the pocket. But once you get them like nice and comfortable. And again, like I’d say like non model like just like doing portraits or wedding or whatever, maybe it’s getting them calm, getting them in the pocket, get them in, forget about it. And then the best stuff comes from their best stuff. And that’s when you get more creative to that’s when you’re trying different angles, you’re doing maybe profile VT like whatever it may be.

Ryan Bolton 58:54
But it’s it’s giving them that direction, make them feel comfortable making them feel good. And then you’re you’re flowing, you’re moving.

Qasim Virjee 59:01
I want to wrap it back to that early kind of career experience of being a journalist. And you know, you drop the words from the media and focus on just the media. Tell me a little bit about the the work that you do and the larger narrative that you think you’re great question. Great question. Well, I’m not done writing. That’s, that’s definitely one thing that I will come back to, it’s not gone.

Ryan Bolton 59:28
And the way I’ve kind of seen it too, I did 10 full years of like writing and marketing in that world. And then I’m about year six, seven of like, just pure photography. So I’m gonna do go till you know, full 10 And then I’m going to try put them together. And

Ryan Bolton 59:45
you know, video in that world of like movie storytelling is something that I want to go down that route DOP in that kind of realm. Because it’s what I’m doing ultimately storytelling, right, from top to bottom, and that’s how my photography is

Ryan Bolton 1:00:00
has been shaped this through my storytelling. And with the the writing background, that, again, separates me a little bit more from different, you know, storytellers. But every photographer, every videographer is a storyteller, like hands down, that’s what you’re doing. And for me, it’s learning the different ways of doing the storytelling. You know what, you know, everyone knows the expression, you know, a picture’s worth 1000 words kind of thing. And that’s one of things I’m trying to do right now with, without the words, just doing the photos and trying to, you know, tell stories that way. And the decisive moment usually is that, but I always am looking for the narrative, I’m always looking for the arc, I’m always looking for the lead, like, what’s going to draw you in? That’s what I learned really, from, you know, good journalism was? How are you getting that person in that story? How you make them feel? How are you? You know, what are you telling, and my all my writing too, was always had a human element to it, you know, like a human nature element and humanity, you know, at its best at its worst. And when, yeah, with a world of storytelling, too, I’m just trying to, I’m going for the ride. And I’m excited to see where it will take you to, and, but the one thing too, but journalism in the background of that is, you have to come from, you know, both sides of the story, you know, you have to come from both, both opinions and some of my work to, you know, long exposures of the city, I’m trying to showcase the beauty of the city, the electricity of the of the city, the things you can always see with the naked eye of like a streaking shriek car, or whatever it may be. That like, makes me feel that certain way. But at the same time, some of my biggest photos that did well on Instagram last year, this year, were when I walked Queen Street in March and photographed all the empty businesses interested and just kind of showcased the other side of that, you know, that’s not necessarily the beauty of, you know, the CN Tower glistening at night with the water in the foreground. It’s no, here’s the hard truth of what’s happening to our city right now. And not, you know, editorializing, it just showing it, right? Just the this is using my platform, and this is what I saw. Yeah. You do what you want with it. And, you know, and that is journalism to it’s trying to show both sides.

Ryan Bolton 1:02:08
Yeah, I’m addicted. You know, I love that because there’s a, you know, what we, you know, you use a camera or words for there’s usually like, an objective, right? Like, you’re trying to, like you’re telling, you know, journalism, let’s be honest, like, there’s always a bias, like there just is innate, but trying to, you know, tell both sides of the story and really kind of bring the full picture is the goal and always should be being fair. And the truth prevails. Right. And, and in trying that, within, you know, creating, and I think even commercial stuff is going that way, like the authentic stuff, like, that’s why tick tock taking off. That’s why like, other than, because it’s real, it’s just people telling stories, or it’s, it’s not as gussied up, as, you know, things of the past the big marketing campaign, this and that, like, that’ll happen still, of course, but I think we’re seeing a real direction to the authentic and, and I like that for my, for my background of like, yeah, you’re just trying to tell the truth how, how the real stuff, we get into these phases of, you know, like, glitz and glam and kind of, you know, making something look a little more fancy than it is, you know, tricks and in that, but I think that the real direction in the real, where we’re going is going to be more this is, you know, less filters more real, you know, Grant, I hope so, well, if nothing else, I hope that audiences can rally around an interest that may be common for that kind of content. You know, and I hope that the stratification of kind of, I would look at it like, you know, the, the global audience as a whole

Qasim Virjee 1:03:41
is stratified in many ways, right? by geography by all these kind of like, conventional things that limit people’s coming together. But the commercialized digital, you know, infrastructure that has become the major one on the on the net

Qasim Virjee 1:03:59
social networks, kind of in prototyping user bases for commercial meditating. I’ve done a disservice to channeling authentic interests, to the content that people are engaged with. And you see that through, you know, it’s difficult for them, and there’s not many of them, but companies like movie, you know, movie, em UBI check them out. Movie is an early, one of the early VOD channels. And it started, you know, probably just after Netflix started doing on demand around the same time.

Qasim Virjee 1:04:35
But they were the first place I think, to license the Criterion Collection of films. And that was kind of that set the tone for the type of stuff you know, Kurosawa, and stuff that they would have on their platform, and indie cinema, and they’re very big on indie cinema and being a platform for indie cinema to live especially. We’d call catalog films right? films that

Ryan Bolton 1:05:00
have passed their screening dates, but aren’t

Ryan Bolton 1:05:04
celebrity starring films that, you know, are still searched for because people know that name.

Ryan Bolton 1:05:12
So it’s interesting. They’re there. They’re one in few channels like that.

Ryan Bolton 1:05:17
I have a lot to say on that topic because I used to be in that world. Yeah. But yeah, I am hopeful that like, people will be able to kind of like, come together around quality content and authentic narrative. Well, even like, that’s like a final note like that. Like, you know, no one really talks about advice like they used to, but that I think that’s what worked really well with vice is that they were kind of telling you no, no, of course, they always had a slant. But it was an authentic kind of, here’s what’s happening. You’re not seeing in your regular media, you know, and it all started with the street photography back in the day, man. Yeah. And yeah, doozy Oh, yeah. Yeah. Gavin McInnes, and he’s had its own weird route. But anyway, but the idea that people exactly connected to world topics, yeah. Through a very gritty, authentic lens was nice, you know, it was different. It was refreshing it was, it was, you know, kind of going against the grain. Right? Yeah, that’s, that’s the whole focus. But, of course, that’s like drifted off and they, you know, focus is left and this and that is left as well, but for such a long time, like they really were reining in. And I think there’s going to be more of that in the future and like that, that kind of really authentic, like, try to storytel and it’s not gonna always be from major networks, you know, like, yeah, and that was one of the maybe that’s one of their downfalls. They became a major network, they got into bed with Rogers, they got into bed with CNN, in the states and the major the major keys, of course, is to grow as you naturally would and the my disavowing that or saying anything against that, but the idea of how they got so big, so quickly, I think was how they story told, and I think how they went about it. And I think they started from a, you know, just putting magazines out there, like in Toronto, and you just go grab him at stores, you know, like, there’s something beautiful about that, that took them all the way to they went to where they went, and then, you know, maybe fell, but it’s an interesting point, I think. I feel like that story is a reminder that you know, audiences

Qasim Virjee 1:07:18
crave access to media. And that’s also been one of the great successes. That advice is always maintained in the world of online media and video. They’ve always published a good amount of their content for free, or at least freely accessibly. There might be ad subsidization, but on YouTube, and so it’s a weird little thing. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So I think that that’s something that you know, harkens back to that early idea of like, when it was a paper magazine. I remember like, when I was at McGill Yeah, we would find it in places like it was always like that. Yeah. In weird little shitty bars or weird segue. Weird, like skateboard stores and stuff. Yeah, it was. That’s kind of cool. But yeah, so I think it was that it was the TAC the physical. And then they really came into the digital too, but they still had that they started yet they started as a physical print newspaper, kind of like the now or the the hour. And then they became the magazine format. And they actually like stole it was like a village wasn’t the Village Voice obviously that’s New York, but it was like

Ryan Bolton 1:08:25
it it was it was a magazine like a Montreal magazine that they like overtook like it was already something I forget. Oh, that’s how they really really that’s what they started. Yeah. Oh, I thought that’s like they just cooked it up for something. No, no, those always the bones and then they turn it into vice. Yeah, man. Yeah, it was quick. It was like that was like a community newspaper that they then like, they took over and ran with, I think, but it was already there. Yeah. Well, I think this is it. And no matter if the media is greedy, but as long as it’s kind of representative of people’s want to experience things.

Qasim Virjee 1:09:00
Or they want to relate to others experiences. Media will always have a role, especially this documentarian style. For sure, and it’s cool to see a little bit of blend in the, you know, commercial reality

Qasim Virjee 1:09:16
embracing that content and you know, companies turning documentarian lenses on their customers as promotional material, stuff like that. It’s kind of interesting. It is interesting, actually. Yeah, it is nice, man. Well, it was a pleasure having you on you having a conversation about creativity. And and I think we got some tips and tricks in there for aspiring creators or people that want to turn to

Ryan Bolton 1:09:41
career pursuits in creativity. Totally. Totally. I hope we helped a little bit. Yeah, with a couple stories that someone will think back on and two days in the shower.

Ryan Bolton 1:09:52
Well, I know I will. Yeah, I will law watch this and see if it’s awesome or shit. That’s creating. Awesome man.

Ryan Bolton 1:10:00
Thanks very much cue Thank you quick

/ Arts & Culture
Ryan Bolton at StartWell

Ryan Bolton (Photographer)

Journalism originally led Ryan to photography as a career - we discuss the backstory plus tips and tricks for improving as a career creator.