Stranger Series- Conrad Ouchi :: {Calgary Portrait Photographer}

One early morning as I was meeting a friend in a downtown local coffee shop in Calgary, I kept noticing a face out of the corner of my right eye and could not help but casually stare. I couldn't tell you exactly what forced me to stare at this gentleman so many times. Perhaps it was his trendy outfit, his soft facial features, maybe it was the beard, and the fact I could not get the strange childish voice out of my head "You need to photograph that guy". When I was done my meeting, I gathered my things, took one last quick glance at the man sitting to my right and headed straight for the door. As I walked outside I kept repeating to myself both in my head and in a dull whisper..." I need to photograph that guy, just go back Jeremy and ask him... don't worry it will be fine... what's the worst that can happen?". I went back into the coffee shop, gathered my wits, and slowly approached the man. The difficult thing now was he had his back to me and his seven friends that surrounded him quickly realized I was some stranger about to say something. As I approached the group telling them who I was, the project I was doing, I then turned to the bearded man I wanted to photograph. As I continued to explain leaving him with the opportunity to answer, he immediately said "NO", his friends were disappointed with his answer and encouraged him to say yes making jokes on why he should say yes. I gave the man my card and said "It's completely up to you and if you change your mind please do not hesitate to call me".

Two weeks later I received a phone call from Conrad Ouchi.

Conrad was born in Vernon BC where he and his wife moved to Calgary in 1975 looking for work as graphic designers. Studying at the kootney school of art, Conrad was a freelance graphic designer for 13 years and then slowly started to decide to become an full time artist. The decision to pursue art happened when Conrad went to Chicago for a conference, from there he was immediately inspired.

Conrad now lives in Calgary pursing his painting and most recently experimenting with photography.


Aaron Sidorenko: Calgary Artist

I first met Aaron just over 2 years ago when we both had exhibitions at the Okotoks Art Gallery. Aaron is a Calgary Artist whose paintings are no less than incredible with an amazing talent for painting portraiture. I will not even begin to describe his work as you need to see it for yourself here -> http://aaronsidorenko.ca/ When I asked Aaron if I could photograph him he was more than willing, but with much humorous hesitation, worried that his dashing good looks might break the camera lens. The shoot lasted only about an hour where we spent most of the time setting up lights in his small studio downtown. Working in such a confined environment, we managed to highlight both his environment and Arron himself, just don't let his seriousness be to deceiving as Aaron will be the first to crack inappropriate jokes, smoke from his large collection of tobacco pipes, and talk about his new love for the ever so popular instagram app!!



Stranger Series: Balvir Shargill

I came across Balvir by chance one evening while I was photographing an event late one evening in downtown Calgary. While I was outside on Ninth Avenue waiting for my ride, I noticed a man through a set of tall floor to ceiling windows next to the restaurant. I assumed the man was South Asian from his long beard, he was older with weathered hands, and casually mopped the lobby floor as my face was pressed firmly against the glass. The only thought flooding my mind at that moment was am I going to get the chance to photograph this man. After a few phone calls, a couple meetings with the buildings management, and a security clearance, two months later I finally managed to meet with Balvir having only fifteen minutes to photograph him followed by a short interview. Balvir Shargill comes from the city Ludhiana located in the Punjab province of India. Using Balvir’s work supervisor as my translator, I asked Balvir when he was born, he responded by saying “…I don’t really know… I think I am sixty years old, but I am not too sure”. Balvir was a dairy farmer back in India raising cattle and growing a variety of crops. It turns out he has only been in Canada less than one year and has come here through a sponsorship his son has provided. Bringing his wife to Canada as well, the two of them live with Balvir’s son, cleaning part time while Balvir’s son teaches them both English where the couple plan to become permanent residents in the near future.

Balvir's portrait can be seen at the Art Gallery of Calgary (http://www.artgallerycalgary.org/) until December 14th, 2012.


Stranger Series: Dyson House

I met Dyson through a mutual friend of mine as I was looking for individuals for a project that involved the Art Gallery of Calgary featuring portraits of EIGHT Calgarians. The title of the show is "I am Calgary" (Check out the show Sept 7th- Dec. 23rd, 2012: Opening Reception Sept. 7 @ 6:30pm-10:00pm). I met Dyson downtown after he had finished work where he works as a commercial glazer for a variety of projects around the city of Calgary. For those of you that do not know what glazer is or does, well when you are in downtown Calgary, look around and all that glass that surrounds each building, structure, doorway, etc. That is part of what a glazer job consists of, installing high rise glass, along with metal clad that highlights a buildings entrance way, monuments, and structures.

Dyson was born on September 23 1966, as he immediately points out with enthusiasm is the same birth date as Bruce Springstein...  the "Master" as he calls him. Dyson grew up in Roddickton Newfoundland and moved to Calgary in April of 1976. Through out his time in Calgary, Dyson has worked for mobile home manufactures, the oil industry, and then started working with glass where he has now been a glazer for 32 years. He will turn 56 this year.




Stranger Series: Horst & Reggie

As I was walking in the east village the other day working on a side project (details coming soon) I came across a man sitting in a wheel chair on the side walk just down from the King Eddy Hotel. From a distance I noticed something moving in his lap and after approaching even closer I noticed it was a gopher. I was in complete shock because usually you find people feeding pigeons, or ducks, or even the random tourist feeding a bear, but not gophers. After the little critter hopped down from the mans lap, ran across the path, and down his dirt hole I asked the man why he was feeding the gophers. The man replied and said " I have  been feeding  these gophers for over 3 weeks now... and it's fun". I guess one day this man was out for a stroll and had a bag of peanuts with him where he noticed the gophers and just started tossing peanuts curiously to see what would happen.

The name of the man in the wheel chair is Horst Copp who was born in Germany in 1953 and immigrated to Canada not long after he was born. He immigrated to Ontario where he studied photography at Ryerson University in Toronto. From there, Horst became a plumber where he later suffered a stroke and is now on disability where he has been living in Calgary the last 15 years.

Horst finds himself feeding the gophers everyday where his peanut stash dwindles from a single pound of the delicious nuts to nothing in a matter of minutes due to the number of gophers who have come to Horst searching or should I say asking for food.








After a couple more hours of walking around down town Calgary, I drove by an alley where I noticed two men chatting next to an abandon building. I quickly made a right turn, immediately another right turn, and then proceeded down the alley where I noticed the two men.

I got out of my truck and approached the two individuals just like I do every time I confront a stranger. I introduced my self and within 20 seconds one of the two men willingly and happily offered to pose for a photograph. The gentleman who did not want his photograph taken was still very kind and loved to reminisce about his days when he was young in the 70's, telling me several stories about partying and going to concerns in the states.

Reggie is from Regina, Saskatchewan and has been living in Calgary since 1995. When I asked what he did for a living when he arrived in Calgary he responded and said "I chased hookers and drank...HAHAHAHA". To be honest I could not help but bust into laughter with his response. After we both had a chuckle, I asked him what he does on daily basis. Reggie now is a full time beggar spending his time between the streets, visiting his girlfriend on the reserve, and sleeping at the drop in center.

As the three of us continued to speak more, I later found out that Reggie has two daughters whom he has never met, but has somehow tracked them down via by Facebook. Reggie is then quick to draw his wallet, where he pulls out a crumpled piece of weathered paper and In his hands he holds his daughters Facebook profile page printed on office paper. This is the only picture he has of his daughters. He managed to get the photo's from a computer from the Drop-in-Center.

I enjoyed talking with the two men as they always had a story tell and were completely honest and open with me.