Interview #83: Pierre Quinn
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Pierre Quinn: I was introduced to photography through a number of friends. When I was nineteen, I started photographing trains. I was motivated to learn more about photography and start getting the most out of it.
CUS: Did you study (or are you currently studying) photography? If not, how did you learn?
PQ: I did not study photography. In university I took one photo class as an elective - I had to beg the teacher to let me in because the class was already full. She eventually agreed to let me join, but on the first day of class I slept through my alarm and missed it all. It wasn’t good. The class did give me some darkroom fundamentals. I was hooked. A few years later I was teaching my own darkroom courses.
CUS: Tell us about where you live. How does your city/country/location have an effect on your photography?
PQ: I grew up in Calgary and did my undergrad in small town Quebec. At the moment I live in Toronto.
In Calgary I shot a lot of landscapes. The Rockies are an endless source of inspiration; point your camera in any direction and you’ll get a keeper. In Quebec I was busy shooting trains - I really loved the time I spent doing that. There’s a romance to railroads and I still try to be near trains as often as I can. Toronto has been the most difficult for me in terms of inspiration. There’s a lot of talent here and a lot of young shooters, but with that I find a lot of people find themselves drawn to shoot whatever is popular. At the same time, this city has some of the most technical shooters I’ve ever seen and sometimes they don’t get the traction they deserve - It's more about who you know. Right now, I’m focused on shooting the things that make me happy.
CUS: What is your photographic process?
PQ: I used to be very reactive, not so focused on technical stuff and just shooting antics. I’ve been shooting consistently now for over ten years and the more technical I get the less I like my pictures. I try to forget what I’ve learned and emulate the emotion in the pictures from when I knew nothing. Think a bit less I suppose.
CUS: What have you been shooting lately?
PQ: A collection of photos of the guys I play hockey with. I started playing hockey a few years ago and I’m still pretty bad at it. When I moved to Toronto, I reconnected with some old friends and started joining them weekday mornings to play. Exercising has recently become a huge part of my life as a means to maintain my mental health. I even work part time to prioritise time for playing sports or going to the gym. I never really thought I would play hockey. I found that it generally has a horrible culture attached to it. The people I knew growing up in Calgary would often talk about attitudes of teammates; it can be a really toxic environment of machismo, homophobia and the pressure to make it a career. I was glad to be welcomed by the group of guys here in Toronto - they’re the complete opposite of that culture. The photos are an attempt to capture the wholesome side of the sport, just friends getting together outdoors playing hockey as a way to get a bit of a midweek sweat.
CUS: Where do you draw inspiration from? What is the motivation behind your image-making?
PQ: My girlfriend, cat, friends, and a bad memory.
CUS: What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography; photography & its current relationship with the Internet?
PQ: I tell people that film makes my boring photos look interesting. It’s kind of tongue in cheek but sometimes I think there’s some truth to it. I’ve shot my fair share of digital, I don’t have any issues with it. I like to draw the line where it’s more “digital imaging” than photography. There’s a lot of composite work out there that I don’t like as photography. Using clouds, snow or backgrounds from different images, stuff like that. It can be cool to look at and some of those artists are really talented, but I don’t think it really counts as photography.
As I mentioned above there are a lot of people who fall into shooting what’s popular. It’s a dangerous trap, shooting whatever gets "likes." I don’t even like saying it. I’ve seen it happen to my work before too ... you just have to try to be aware of it.
Photography travels more easily than ever before, it’s pretty wild and has really brought up the quality in a sense. I miss Flickr before they went in the mobile direction. Am I turning into a grumpy old man? Probably always was.
CUS: Your favourite photographer?
PQ: My favourites are always my friends. I find inspiration in their work the most. The guys I shot with in Calgary are some of the most talented people I know. Chris Tait, Stefan Legisa and Cody Oliver.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Daido Moriyama and Elliott Erwitt.
CUS: Your dream equipment & dream location to shoot?
PQ: I’m lucky enough to have my dream camera but I’d love for profoto to make a flash trigger that supports Contax for high speed sync. That won’t ever happen.
My dream location is in the middle of some train yard in the midwest, USA, no cops.
CUS: Currently, what is the biggest challenge you face with your work?
PQ: Staying happy is at the basis of whatever I do. Keeping my mental health is number one. I have do it at my own pace and I’m doing it for myself.
CUS: What are your plans for summer 2018?
PQ: Beach bod 2018. I’d like to get scuba certified and pick up a nikonos, I think that would be really fun.
CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming exhibitions, publications, or projects?
PQ: Eventually I’ll print some of the hockey series really large and have a show. I think I’ll just rent a space and do it myself. A friend of mine Joshua Cockerill is putting out a book with his new album, I’ll have some photos in that. His band is called Animal Parts and they’re having a release party May 30th at Burdock for anyone in Toronto!
CUS: Our last interviewee, Ole Erik Løvold, asks: Describe your favourite hamburger.
PQ: I’m the weirdo that doesn’t like to eat with my hands. I’m not a crazy person, I don’t eat a burger or sandwiches with utensils but structural integrity plays an important role in a good burger for me. I get eating a burger upside down and not putting it down until it’s done. It has to be cooked over fire and preferably have some pickles. Ketchup, mustard, pickles and cheese. I’m not picky, actually I have the palate of a child. Just don’t let the bun fall apart before I finish it.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
PQ: You’ve Freaky Friday body switched with Anne Geddes and you’re now about to photograph a baby. What vegetable or fruit will you put on its head?