It’s #MangoMonday and super stoked to introduce you to our Fine Art wedding photographer, Val. Val is a natural talent and a scholar! He picked up his first film camera when he was 14, and has been shooting ever since. Now photography is like another language for him, and one of his many passions in life. Going to University for History and Cultural Anthropology, he’s always had a keen interest in human expression. Val loves connecting with people on a personal level and is constantly reading natural light, making his candid photos exciting and emotionally textured – telling the story of not only how you looked, but how you felt in that moment, and on that special day. With a light-hearted and cheerful personality, it’s easy to feel comfortable in front of him. He does what he loves, and brings his joie de vivre with him wherever he goes.
What or who got you started in photography?
My dad used to make film chemicals for kodak and agfa, (when I think of it I can still smell it on his weird 80’s denim jacket) and one of my junior high teachers had a photo enlarger, so we put together a photography club and that’s how I learned how to use an SLR.
What photographer/artist are you most greatly influenced/inspired by in your work and why?
Parker Fitzgerald because of his use of colours and his determination to put work together and hike mountains to get it done. Another one would be Saul Leiter because of how he communicates the world around him – and both Vivian Maier and Shantanu Starick because of their total disregard for money and their complete love of the craft… was that too much? Haha, I have a lot to inspire me.
As a Fine Art wedding photographer, what part of the wedding day are you most excited about?
Honestly, any moment where I get to know the couple a bit better – I like the pace of shooting getting ready photos in the morning, but more importantly, I really enjoy shooting the creative where I get to pull the couple aside for a breath, and see the beauty of what’s around me – making those images something that will be unique to the day and special for the bride and groom.
What do you like about being a wedding photographer?
It goes beyond wedding photography – it’s fashion, it’s documentary, it’s learning how to style and compose in an editorial vein, it’s learning how to communicate with people in a way that’s relaxing and guiding – I think it’s a very dynamic position and there’s so much someone could learn from it.
What is your favourite wedding day memory?
There was a wedding at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club where the father of the Bride was just so incredibly good at telling stories, I really enjoyed talking to him – I remember taking photos of reactions that people had to his speech, but behind the camera I was trying to muffle my own laughs… and yes, I did cry (I also had to make sure my tears didn’t ruin my camera)
Do you have any pre-wedding-day rituals?
Picking which socks I’ll wear and neatly arranging everything I’ll need. Sometimes I also meditate with crystals.
What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
I think it’s very different depending on what part of the country you’re in, predominantly because it’s also guided by the landscape of the city and places around it. In Toronto it means that there’s a lot of great editorial photography – In 5 years I hope people in the industry, not just photographers, explore more in terms of what’s available to them. Ontario has some incredible landscape to offer.
Do you create personal work often?
I do. I’m currently working on putting together a trip to Vancouver just so I can photograph everything on the way there.
Some might describe your style as conceptual, photojournalistic and timeless. Is that a good characterization?
Awe shucks, don’t make me blush – but I guess it’s pretty accurate. During weddings I love shooting through things – bushes, crystal glass, anything that will give those intimate moments more character and emotion.
Do you have any favourite locations in Toronto to shoot?
For venues, I’d say the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District.
What do you recommend for couples who are shy in front of the camera?
I’d say, when you catch yourself feeling nervous or shy, just breathe slowly and ignore the camera. Act as if it’s not there, and remember to enjoy the moment you have with each other, whatever it is you’re doing.
At the Studio, you’re working with printed art pieces and photo albums. Why is it so important to have printed photos of your wedding day?
A printed photo is real, it’s tangible and there. When it’s tucked away in some folder in some spot on your computer or phone it ceases to remind you of its existence. Out of sight, out of mind. Those photos should never be a vague thing.
What do you love in life, beyond the lens?
Avocadoes. The sound of film winding in my rangefinder. Reading renaissance history books. That feeling you get when every little thing in your day lines up. Meeting people I feel like I’ve met before. Road trips with funny and intellectual friends. Pre-warmed socks.
What is something you can’t live without?
Good conversations in cabins.
When was the last time you laughed so hard it hurt?
When I discovered the video of the boy who likes turtles.
What’s the cutest thing on planet Earth?
What do you love about being a part of MANGO?
Everyone I work with knows how to relax and have fun, and they’re all incredibly good at managing difficult tasks, and they’re all great photographers – it’s inspiring really. On top of all of that, I learn something new every day, whether it’s a trick on how to work with particular lighting conditions or how to angle my ping pong racket.