Is photography over? Of course not. But a provocative title none the less, appropriated from SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), suggesting we think more deeply about what photography was, what it now is, and where it’s going. Given the nature of contemporary art practice, the condition of visual culture, the advent of new technologies, and many other factors, what is at stake today in seeing something as a photograph? What is the value of continuing to speak of photography as a specific practice or discipline?

In April 2010, SFMOMA convened a range of major thinkers and practitioners to write brief responses to this question and to convene for a two-day summit on the state of medium. 

Interesting, insightful and evocative in my opinion. Feel free to leave your comments below.

Special thanks to Chase Jarvis for bringing this discussion to my attention. Photo/videos courtesy of SFMOMA.
A film by Bryan Law and Dan Dicks "United We Fall" is a documentary about the North American Union that is being developed right now between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. For years this topic has been debated in the news and in political circles as being a possible future for North America. In recent years, the mood has shifted and a rift is developing between those who want a Deeply Integrated North American Community, and those who wish to retain their national sovereignty. This film takes a look at both sides by interviewing both insiders and activists who have been at the heart of this heated debate. The film also looks to the broader agenda of building a world government and its implications.

Featured Interviews: Robert Pastor (Council on Foreign Relations), Allan Gotlieb (Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg) Herbert Grubel (Creator of the "Amero") Luke Rudkowski (We Are Change) Dan Dicks (Press For Truth) Vijay Sarma (Political Activist, Independent Journalist) Dr. Andrew Moulden (Canadian Action Party) Richard Syrett (Talk Radio Host)
After viewing some incredible portfolios today of my peers and fellow photographers, and watching some amazingly creative videos as well... I've come to realize how extremely talented so many people are in this world - especially within my own world or little bubble called Toronto. The talent brewing here, like many other places no doubt, is staggering and growing at an overwhelming rate. It's truly humbling to watch and be inspired by those around me.

It reminds me of a story my high school art teacher, Percy Payette, once shared. He shared this story to us (the grade 9 or 10 visual arts class) during our very first drawing lesson. Drawing is something a lot of people are rather shy about - most people think you're either good or terrible at it - there's no in-between. But Payette was determined to teach us otherwise, and shared this story...

The story he shared (as best as I can remember) was about one of his first classes in drawing school at college/university where he was studying fine arts. He sat beside a kid who was, in Payette's opinion, absolutely amazing at still life drawing. From day one, Payette said he was constantly looking over the shoulder of this guy sitting next to him in class, and felt absolutely terrible about his own work. Payette did his best to emulate his style, but always came up short and he thought for sure that he would fail, or that drawing just wasn't his thing. The guy sitting next to him in the studio just seemed to have all the style and grace in the world in his drawings, something Payette just didn't seem to have. He assumed the guy was getting straight A marks, too (of course, right?), and was surely a class favourite. It was going to be a depressing semester for sure, sitting next to this creative genius.

One day Payette built up some courage and decided to actually talk to his classmate and let him know how much he admired his style. After all, it seemed like the right thing to do, maybe they could get along and Payette could learn a trick or two. So he did just that - tapped the guy on the shoulder and said, "Hey man sorry to interrupt you but I really, really like your work. I just thought you should know that it's truly inspiring. I wish I was as good at this as you are."

And the guy replied, "I feel the exact same about you and your work. I've been watching you and wish I was as good as you are, too." Payette couldn't believe his ears. This guy must be joking, right? The creative genius likes HIS work? Yep. it was true. They had a good laugh, and from that moment became friends and fed off each other's creativity.

It was just an amazing story to hear and a great reminder that no matter how much you might doubt yourself sometimes, there may be someone looking over your shoulder wishing they could be as good as you. There are a million different styles out there, in drawing just as there is in photography, and there is no "right" or "wrong".

Once the story was finished, Payette jumped into our first drawing lesson and we all felt totally empowered and willing to give it a try - whether we thought we were good at it or not - he told us anyone can be taught how to draw and he's absolutely right. Sure enough, I was looking over the shoulder of the guy next to me and I thought his work was absolutely amazing, but in the back of my mind I knew that he might feel the exact same about mine.
I first became aware of Charles Veitch and his organization, the Love Police, during the G20 summit in Toronto. He was among those arrested under false laws and detained for an extended period of time (some 20 odd hours) at the Toronto Film Studios makeshift prison. A simple YouTube search of his name will bring up many inspiring videos of activism and insight:
A class action lawsuit in the amount of $45M has been launched against the Toronto Police Services Board and the Attorney-General of Canada who represents the RCMP (The Star reports) for all those wrongfully arrested, detained, imprisoned or held by police during the G20 summit at locations across the city. There are many horrific stories and eye-witness accounts circling the web backed by plenty of video footage on YouTube depicting police brutality (among other things like sexual abuse) during the G20 summit in Toronto.

Charlie often uses a sort of humorous in-your-face styled approach to inspire people around the world to question what they're doing with their lives - I thought this was video below was particularly awesome. Something I'm glad I did was get out of the 9-5 "drone" lifestyle a year or so ago. Here he speaks to commuters crossing the London Bridge:
Watch this long interview for a glimpse into his mind and world views, which are extremely interesting in my opinion. He touches on subjects including perception of reality, police, world population control, swine flu and much more:

So I would assume by now that most if not all of you socially-aware individuals have come to realize that a woman by the name Ashley Kirilow has been exposed as a scam artist, after pretending to be a cancer patient and raising money for herself through a false charity. (Toronto Star cover story HERE)

I've spent the better part of today speaking with media including CBC, CTV, and ABC (Good Morning America) with some other friends who knew Ashley and cared to shed some light on the developing situation, and Ashley as a person.

I met Ashley one night at a bar with friends some time in November/December of 2009. She approached me randomly and asked if I was Matt Vardy. I said yes and I, too, recognized her from all the mutual friends we have and the Facebook updates I had been receiving from her 'charity' Change For a Cure. Not long after exchanging names she dove right into the sad stories of her battle with various forms of cancer and I was definitely affected by this and wanted to help in any way I could - like so many others. To make the story worse, she said her parents had died and she had no family left to rely on. I told her I was unfortunately not in a position to help her cause financially in any significant way, but she suggested that I accompany her (as the photographer) on her walk to the University of Alberta where she planned to personally donate the money she raised to cancer research. I said I would consider the opportunity and it would depend on my schedule and the timing of her trip, but it was definitely something that sparked my interest because I had always wanted to put my skills to good use for positive change in the world. That being said, I had my doubts about the truth of her story and her ability to walk such a long distance (if she was indeed so ill), plus she seemed oddly more excited about the fame she might get as a result of the task as opposed to the benefits for the University and cancer community. Never the less, soon after talking about these elaborate plans, she stopped texting me back and disappeared from Facebook. A few weeks passed and I assumed the worst - that she had lost her battle with the disease.

Of course, now I know that was not the case and she was in fact alive and well and was most likely preparing to flee the area or go into hiding since her story was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain as more and more questions were being raised.

My personal goal throughout this process in speaking with the media was not to vent and get angry about the things Ashley has done, though there is no doubt that they are absolutely terrible at best, but rather to focus on reminding people that she is just one bad apple in an entire orchard flourishing with love and integrity. I tried my best to communicate to the media that although we are all so quick to judge and hate - there is more to life than this and there are good charities still out there who need our continued support. Not the least of which include Skate4Cancer and Love Everyday clothing, two organizations that were immediately questioned upon the release of this troubling scam because of their friendships with Ashley. I can't stress enough how legit these organizations are, among many others, and how important it is that Canadians and people around the world don't shy away from giving - like we always have - except perhaps in a more educated way moving forward. Ask the right questions, if the questions can't be answered - send your money and support elsewhere.

Media from around the globe as far away as India, China and beyond are covering this story, it seems that the cancer community is indeed truly global and stories of this nature really do affect many people on many different levels. The story is ever changing, even as I write this to you media from god knows where is releasing new articles, and all I can hope is that justice will prevail in one way or another.

My final words with ABC today (after a 20 min long interview) were in response to the question, "If Ashley was watching right now, what would you say to her?" I said, "I would tell her to seek help. She's done some terrible things and needs professional care. Somewhere buried deep inside that girl is a heart that needs rescuing before it's too late" And that, my friends, is the truth. I emphasized these points, fully aware that the majority of them sadly wouldn't be aired or published.

There are tons of people out there who were much closer to Ashley than myself and were deeply involved in her story and helping her charity. My thoughts go out to those people, and I hope everyone can "push past" this as Rob encouraged on Twitter yesterday.

A little inspirational video about entrepreneurship... enjoy:
"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off... They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating." - Pearl S. Buck
I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to re-shoot a band, fashion/family portrait, a luxury home, or you name it - sometimes just weeks after another photographer was hired to shoot the exact same thing. I keep hearing from new clients about their total disappointment in the results from the last photographer they hired, despite all the fancy gear that they used.

So what is going wrong? It's simple. People are buying into the hype, not the skill, and are being fooled by all the gimmicks.

When I roll up to a shoot carrying my lowepro backpack and favourite hand-held lighting setup, people often shudder thinking I'm a goofball who doesn't know a damn thing about photography. But I've never once let anybody down with the end results. Knowing this, I don't worry about my gear or how it looks because at the end of the day my photos will speak for themselves - and that's the way it should be.

Do you think a guy driving a red Porsche is cool and does that car make him a better driver? I hope not. Similarly, the brand of camera you use and how you choose to store it is essentially irrelevant when it comes to your professionalism or skill level. Don't ever let yourself think that just because someone has better gear than you, that they are a more successful/experienced artist than you. Nothing could be further from the truth. No number of expensive flashes, stainless steel travel cases (or even college degrees) will ever guarantee that a photographer is good at what he/she does.

I remember my first fashion shoot back in 2008 was for high-profile designer Nada Yousif, who was at the time one of the main features of L'Oreal Fashion Week. I was scared to death, but confident I could get the job done. I showed up to the location (distillery district) met up with Nada and her team of makeup artists/stylists and she says to me, "I hope you don't mind, but I have another photographer coming to shoot with us today as well". Instantly I thought to myself - crap - looks like someone with more experience is going to take over today and I'll be stuck behind the scenes. I thought to myself how dumb it was of me to think Nada and her team would trust me with such a huge responsibility. Sure enough, the other photographer arrives with his steel cases complete with DSLRs and vintage Polaroid cameras and here I am standing with my backpack looking like a total fool (or so I thought). He walks over to us and I shake his hand, seems like a totally nice guy - but I assumed he was about to totally show me up. Nada turns and says to me, "Matt, meet Ben. He's here to learn from you and will be following you around to cover behind the scenes shots and candids throughout the day. Fashion Television is also planning to come and get some video footage of you at work." LOL, I could hardly believe my ears! Here was this photographer with all the bells and whistles - and I'm being told he's here to learn from me (and I'm on my first fashion shoot EVER?!). It was a truly surreal and humbling moment, and a great reminder to never judge a book by it's cover (that includes the flashy new books and the old beat up ones). Of course, the shoot went incredibly well - I felt totally at ease doing my thing, Ben the other photog was super cool - and Nada was extremely pleased with all the photos which were later printed in a booklet and handed out to VIP guests during her runway show. Unfortunately, Fashion Television bailed on us last minute, but that would have been really cool, too, and completely unexpected on my part.

Moral of the story: Better to be underestimated than overestimated, and blow people's expectations out of the water with outstanding results. Stop worrying about your gear, or how "pro" you look and start worrying about the photos you take. Your skill (vision) and outgoing personality will be be the driving force behind new business relationships, they will help land you more referrals and will keep people coming back to you - not your flashy camera, or anything else you own for that matter.
Earl Nightingale talks about the strangest secret in the world; the key to success and the key to failure. Produced in 1956, The Strangest Secret was the first spoken word message to win a Gold Record by selling over a million copies. Though it's a very old recording it has a timeless message and is definitely worth listening to. Sit back, relax, listen and open your mind.

Hey everyone, so after some careful thought, research and digging through mountains of photos I've critiqued and viewed over the years - I've come up with my list of fave photos of all time. Take notes, this is some really good stuff your about to see! These photos are in no particular order since they're all amazing in their own right and I couldn't possibly rank them from best to worst. Originally my plan was to write about each photo, but I honestly believe that each one is so strong you won't need me to tell you why it's so good. I hope you enjoy looking through, please feel free to leave some comments. Next month I'm going to launch some more specific top ten lists including: band photos, fashion photos, and wedding photos so keep your eyes peeled for those. Cheers -mv.

All images are copyright the respective artist.

1. "Friendship" by Kaushik Chatterjee

2. Untitled by Maciek Duczynski

3. "Marco" by Juan Riera

4. "Golden Eagle" by Miguel Lasa

5. "Vietnam 2004" by Maciej Tomczak

6. "Dormeuse" by Vezon Thierry

7. "Peace. Finally" by Stuart Apsey

8. "The girl and elephants" by Kenvin Pinardy

9. Untitled by Steve Mccurry

10. "Hope in the Dark" by Jeremy Cowart

11. "Entrance of dragon" by Wojtek Kwiatkowski

12. "Dessy" by Nikola Borissov

13. Untitled by Dimitar Variysky

14. "H2O" by Justin Grant

15. "Aporia crataegi - Black-veined White" by Igor Siwanowicz

16. "Chalk" by Jeff Lieberman