Documentary Sessions

2018 Year End Review - My Documentary Photography Comes Home

How do you even begin to encapsulate a year? It’s 365 days of living and being and breathing and it all goes by so fast. As a photographer, the photos I take are not only momentos of the little moments that went by but also memory place holders that let me look back and recall a time in my life: the smells, the sights and even the sounds.

A brief slideshow encapsulating my 2018 year. What a year it was! Read on below for more details :)

This year marked a major change for me personally with the birth of my daughter. It changed the way I see the world  and how I play a part in it. Being a father is at some time really tough but also other times very rewarding and I truly enjoy the reward of being a new Dad.

Seeing my wife give birth was an experience unto itself… but hearing my daughter’s first cries changed everything about who I think I am.

Seeing my wife give birth was an experience unto itself… but hearing my daughter’s first cries changed everything about who I think I am.

The Chinatown Project (Documenting Chinatown) grew externally this year. I was taking less photos and spending a little less time in Chinatown compared to before but I got a chance to exhibit photos at the Sun Yat Sen Courtyard pop-up exhibition and also talk about this long-term project at the ARC Experience photography conference in Vancouver this year. It’s also the year that I started creating the first book of my documentation of Chinatown and I look forward to making it available for sale next year. 

I worked with many families this year as well as wedding couples and it was amazing as always to be a part of people’s lives and document their day. I truly enjoy being a documentary photographer and creating photographs from the “mundane” and “unseen” moments. To be able to create authentic and honest photographs are why I do what I do every day. 

As I look back and try to pick a few “highlight” photos for this slideshow and blogpost, I’m reminded of all the good times in 2018, all the rough times and also all the celebratory times. As in previous years, I’m so thankful for all the people I worked with this year, from clients to photographers, to the people of Chinatown, to event planners and brides and grooms to the Chinatown Associations, to all my friends I’ve made at the ARC Experience to the families who’ve allowed me to document your lives. Thank you all so much! You all make my photography more than just about photographs.

The Birth Of Our Daughter:

The Documenting Chinatown Project (Photos from 2018):

Family PhotoSessions:

Documentary Wedding Photography (and some Styled Photoshoot Projects):

Newborn Documentary Photosession - Zee, Eee and Cee

Z E and C Baby Documentary Photosession-16.jpg

Yes, their actual names are not Zee, Eee or Cee but this is a special for a good friend :)

I've known Zee and Eee for a while and they've been great friends. When they asked me to take photos of their brand new baby Cee and they wanted it in a documentary approach, I was more than delighted to spend some time with them and take their photos. The day I arrived, Cee was about 2 weeks old so he was pretty new to the world at that time. 

Sometimes I'm right in the action, other times I'm far away. I do a lot of moving around during these sessions... in a way, almost dancing with my subjects as I work to get the best frame I can.

Sometimes I'm right in the action, other times I'm far away. I do a lot of moving around during these sessions... in a way, almost dancing with my subjects as I work to get the best frame I can.

There was little to no posing (as is my usual approach) as I focused entirely on the interactions between Zee, Eee and little Cee and their new lives together. If there was one thing I realized is that new babies sleep a lot. However, near the end, we saw Cee starting to open his eyes before crying a bit and then going back to sleep. Ah, the life.

Here's the gallery :)

Documentary Family Session - Dana and Family

I remember having a train set like this one. I guess Brio is still a thing!

I remember having a train set like this one. I guess Brio is still a thing!

Being a documentary photographer means being a part of people's lives. I've found out over the years that cameras, film, technology and other things really have little to do with a photo... although, of course, you need these items to actually make a photograph. Yet, much of it is about connecting with your fellow human and relating on a personal level. Too many times I find myself hiding behind a camera to take photos only to realize that the best ones I take (at least to me) are ones where I've connected with people.

When I met Dana, she introduced me to her two boys and her husband. One of the boys, like my nephew, is autistic. I automatically connected. Dana realized that getting two boys to sit still for posed photographs was going to be next to impossible and so, after looking at my work, she contacted me and we arranged a date for a photoshoot. 

When I gave her the 4x6 prints, she mentioned how she loved the photos but also how she was glad that I was able to create something that they could not do on their own. 

This photoshoot was not orchestrated at all. Other than a few location suggestions, I was hovering around the family and their dog in the backyard and even in the bedrooms. From the moment I stepped into the house, I started photographing and after a few minutes of some slight awkwardness, Dana and her family eventually let me document a day in their life.

Further into the photograph set,  you'll see a photograph of one of the boys crying. This is due to the boy falling through the crack that separates the two beds (the boys were jumping on the bed). Dana later told me this was a pretty common occurrence for them. Fun fact: There's a video of me back when I was a kid jumping on the bed and, of course, falling over the side and onto the ground. Tears ensued. I was 2 years old or so.

While I tried to get some time for Dana and her husband together, it was only a few moments before we heard the boys rush into the room and start jumping on their parents' bed. All the moments in this photoshoot were real. Life is real and never really perfect... but it's in that imperfection that we find love and we find what makes families.

Bookstore Engagement Session - Jesse and Patricia

Jesse is a good friend of mine and we go back a while. I remember we were at a camp once (around the time I was in University) and he brought in these two foam sticks covered in duct tape that we used to practice self defense… on one another. They were aptly named “beating sticks”. Oh, Jesse. And no, my self defense has not improved at all.

When he asked me to photograph his wedding, I was extremely excited for the opportunity. You see, Jesse gave me a one-liner that has stuck in me since he said it a few years ago: “You have such a passion for wedding photography that if anyone should be doing it, it should be you." Jesse usually has some really funny one-liners but he also speaks from the heart :) Thanks, Jesse.

I had recently met Patricia as Jesse would bring her to improv shows and meals with friends (East is East…mmm…) and dinners at his place. Patricia has a love for books and the arts and Jesse has consistently considered her as the “good-looking librarian”. 

After I documented Jesse proposing to Patricia at a Mediterranean restaurant, brainstorms occurred and months later we soon found ourselves at Lawrence Books on West 41st in Vancouver taking engagement photos among the various paperbacks and hardcover books. I had Jesse and Patricia hide notes for each other and they had to find the notes amongst the books. Thankfully we were able to find them all, lest we leave a mysterious love note for some future book purchaser to find!

Being able to see their love, friendship and humor with one another brought a smile to my face. Friendship is the true base expression of love.

A HUGE thanks to Anne at Lawrence Books for letting us take over her store for a good hour or so!! Cafe Crepe is where we had the coffee session after.

A Documentary Photosession for Tallie the Cat and Her Owners

Tallie is a gentle dark grey and white adopted cat who lives with her owners Tyler and Elizabeth. I actually knew Tyler from way back in high school so when he answered the door, we kind of looked at each other and said "Aren't you from Pinetree??".

A prior conversation with Elizabeth gave me the story of Tallie. While initially a dog person, Elizabeth fell in love with Tallie and soon became a cat person (cats tend to do that to us... hehe). I can't recall the reason why Tallie was in the shelter but that's where Elizabeth found her. Tallie was a mother of some kittens at the shelter but as the kittens were soon adopted off, Tallie was left all alone. Elizabeth wanted to adopt a cat that would have a tough time finding a home and found Tallie at the shelter, who approached Elizabeth and they instantly bonded. I found Tallie to be a shy cat but after a few moments of walking in and around the place, Tallie got used to the commotion in her home that was me and my various clattering cameras.

Our documentary photosession was a very laid back session of Scrabble, coffee and sneaking around so as not to startle Tallie the cat. Tallie would sit in the Scrabble box, laze around in front of the fire place and prance lightly across the floor as Elizabeth and Tyler played an afternoon Scrabble game.