Photographing a City; its not what you think…

Fernie BC is a city known for its amazing scenery, and many outdoor lifestyle activities.  Our Director of Photography, Kyle Hamilton, began a personal project that he thought would only take a year, but is still going strong after nearly 4.

Sitting around with his wife one afternoon, Kyle came up with the idea to capture a portrait of every man, woman and child who lived in the city. In a twist on the typical portrait project of shooting people in their environment, Kyle wanted to bring them into a studio environment to capture the portraits, while they were in the midst of their everyday lives. Shooting everybody in a controlled environment, with similar lighting and crop, would focus the viewer’s attention on the individual, and allow one to be immersed in their gaze.

His initial goal was to capture every portrait in a one year span. But, as the saying goes, “Behind every great man, is an even greater woman”, his wife quickly brought him back to the realities of accomplishing that goal. Her problem? With roughly 4500 people in the city, and wanting her husband to have at least one day off a week with the family (sometimes maybe even two!), he would have ~300 days of the year to work on this project. With an anticipated time per person of 15-30mins, that would mean he would be shooting portraits all day, every day, for an entire year… and with no grants or other financial backing, how were they going to pay bills or buy food?!?

Kyle quickly realized the ambitiousness of his project, and scaled it back to a multi-year project. Now, after nearly 4 years of working on it, Kyle is approaching 1000 portraits in his collection.  He has recently been doing a major push to get more people to come in for their portraits, and has been reaching out to demographics that may not be aware of the project through its social media presence.  “The response has been overwhelming” says Kyle. “When I organized the two day marathon, I was hoping to get 100, maybe 150, people come out over the two days.  After the first day, I had shot 91 faces.  I was feeling pretty good, and felt that I would probably beat my target of 150 over the two day span.  But, in true Fernie fashion, it seems as though everyone was waiting till the very last minute. When I showed up to the studio the next morning at 8:45am, I already had two families waiting outside for me, and it was pure madness for the rest of the day.  The studio was packed with people, and they were lined up out the door.  I had a number of friends say they came by to have their portraits taken, but, the line was too long for the amount of free time they had.  I finally had enough of a break to start eating a snack at 3pm, but couldn’t even get through a muffin before the line-up started again.  I was suppose to be out of the studio at 6pm, but was still shooting at 6:30.  By the end of day two, I had shot over 330 people.”

Kyle will be exhibiting 150 portraits from his project in the Fernie Museum Gallery starting in March as part of the Fernie Historical Society’s Canada 150 celebrations, and hopes to have a book of portraits published in the next year.

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