A Year In Review 2015

2015 has been a year of awakening for me, both personally and professionally. I recently turned 33, got involved with two different charities, shifted my focus in business, gained some new creative clients, and honed my craft even more as a photographer. As the year comes to a close, I decided to put together a collection (in no particular order) of my favourite images taken this year and reflect on the experience that each moment brought me. I hope you enjoy them!

My favourite image of 2015 is this one I took of model Carly Jade (B&M Model Management) during a workshop, utilizing no strobes and only the slightly diffused available natural light. Being a self-taught photographer of 15-years, I have never participated in any formal photography workshops - until this one. When I caught wind that Australian photographer Peter Coulson was in town doing a workshop at the 500px head office in downtown Toronto, I jumped at the opportunity. Coulson is one of my favourite photographers and being able to spend the day listening to his workflow and learn his philosophy was truly inspiring.

Taking that workshop allowed me to "smash the box" as Coulson stated and get out of my comfort zone, which usually involves strobes and studio work. It also pushed me to work with natural light and even in black & white - both of which I haven't done since I began shooting. One of my best shots of model Chantal Nicole, taken at a parking garage in downtown Toronto and was done with natural light.

A big step outside my comfort zone was photographing model Clare McConnell (B&M Model Management) under the harsh high-noon sun. I pushed myself to frame the model with the natural light as if it were a controlled strobe from above acting as a hair light. The result was a mesmerizing look from a beautiful halo of light around the talent.

Marc Anthony of Marc Anthony Cosmetics Inc. | Professional Hair Care and Salons

This year also brought out a new angle to my photography with an ever-growing demand for my headshot work. After a multi-day shoot campaign for Marc Anthony Cosmetics in my studio, I was honored to have the man himself, Marc Anthony, in front of my lens for his new headshots. His great chiselled features and hazel-green eyes made it easy to get this captivating shot.

Although I have photographed many models in my time, I have never worked with an alternative (tattoo) model - until now. Madison Rexx and I decided to collaborate on a series of unique sets, including a personal project soon to debut. Her unique look coupled with the artwork on her body made for some very beautiful images that allow me to push my artistic boundaries.

My revived appreciation for black and white portraits this year has allowed me to collaborate and meet some incredible people, such as fitness model Claudia. Due to her great physique, her portfolio tends to stay towards fitness and lifestyle. My attempt was to soften her overall image while adding a simplistic air of elegance. This was the first set we shot about 10-frames in and dressed in nothing more than a white sports bra with large pearl earrings - simple and elegant.

I'm an 80s baby and absolutely love the decade for its music, fashion, and cult-classic movies. I have always wanted to do a shoot that felt raw and was influenced by Jennifer Beals' dance routine in Flashdance. Enter model Madison Banes who brings a "Good Vibes" shirt to the studio and happily cuts it up to make it hang loosely. I decided to leave the miscellaneous items in the background (like the studio strobes) in order to add to the raw-studio feel.

A year ago, I photographed a commercial campaign for a bridal beauty company. One of the models at the time of the shoot named Penelope kept in touch with me. Sure enough a year passed and I received a message asking if I could do some shots of her, especially as she's an accomplished dancer and needed something for her portfolio. Once in the studio, we decided to take her portraits in the direction of a beauty-styled headshot resulting in some mesmerizing images.

Food Network's Bob Blumer for Second Harvest

As I get older, I realize that time is precious and that giving back whatever you can is always a good thing. In my case, my ability to capture beautiful and unique moments (aka photography) is one way in which I can do my part. Earlier in the year, I volunteered my time (with camera in hand) to photograph a great fundraising foodie event for Second Harvest, featuring celebrity host Bob Blumer. As 2015 was coming to a close, the Syrian refugee migration issue quickly became a global crisis. At such time, I was contacted by a charity group called Syria To The 6 who was hosting a charity gala at the One King West hotel in an effort to raise funds for Syrian families coming to Canada. Without hesitation, I quickly agreed and was proud to be a sponsor of this great cause.

During the last few days left of warm weather this year, one of my muses Madison Rexx and I decided to do an entire day of shooting outdoors - with only natural light. The setting would be a combination of a tall-grass field and a rusty defunct railway bridge in downtown Toronto. This particular image titled "Looking Through" is my favourite of that day because of the shallow depth-of-field, contrast of the rough metal against Madison's soft pale skin, and the gentle gaze from her eyes. This image along with 3 others were also selected for my first-ever art show debut held at The OperaHouse. I was a nervous wreck showcasing my portrait work to a live audience, but the feedback was better than I could have ever expected. While at the show, I met an art gallery curator who wants to feature my work in the coming months and an art collector who likes my edgy style.

As the count down to 2016 begins, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support and appreciation for my work - be it editorial, commercial, and even my creative projects. I will continue to push my boundaries as an artist, hone my craft ever more, and welcome new amazing opportunities. So I end in the cheesiest of ways, with a quote that I find to be very true and wish everyone an awesome New Year's Eve! Here's to a successful 2016!

You control your future, your destiny. What you think about comes about. By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands – your own.
— Mark Victor Hansen