Part 2 of a deeper look behind Toronto’s Analogue Gallery on Queen West, courtesy of Confront Magazine writer, Lisa Fiorilli, guest writing for Addicted!
So, you started Analogue Gallery in 2009.
How did you move from doing photography and a bunch of other cool projects to having a Gallery?
I was living in England and shooting music for a lot of different publications and wire agencies. I met a girl who managed a gallery just like this in London called Rock Archive who said “Come work for me”. So, I said sure, and why not? I got to sit and talk about music photography all day long, it sounded like the perfect job. It was also a daytime job that wouldn’t conflict with me shooting bands at night, so I’d sit in the gallery and get to talk about all these amazing photographers, and then I’d go shoot shows having been inspired by all this amazing work. It was just a really fun job, I learned a lot there. I kind of worked my way up the ranks there, and ended up managing the gallery and was thinking it would be amazing in Toronto. Nobody in Canada had ever seen this work before and it had never been here. The idea was initially just to do a pop up, but it stuck – people loved it. It was super successful, it was really busy, we were getting amazing press and I loved Queen Street. I hadn’t lived in Toronto for almost 10 years, and it was nice to be home. And the rest is history.
So, how do you go about choosing what to display?
I think that in the Gallery, it’s generally the big names. So, if you look at our website, we’ve got a lot of the obscure stuff, but what brings people in is the big names. They want to see the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Clash, Jimi Hendrix, Tina Turner, Blondie, and David Bowie. So, definitely the big names are what people are looking for, a lot of Bob Dylan, that’ll be predominantly what’s on the walls. Also, a lot of it’s quite biased as to what I like, because I own the place and I can put whatever I want on the walls [laughs]. I love Bowie, so there’s a lot of Bowie on the walls. I love Blondie, there’s a lot of Blondie on the walls. You know, and for instance, I don’t really love Van Halen, so there’s not a lot of Van Halen on the walls. A little bit of it’s bias, like that.
We also do exhibitions: we had Women in Rock, so there’s a lot of female work that got chosen and I really wanted to craft a well-rounded exhibition. Last year, we did Punk vs. Rap, where we did one whole wall of punk and one whole wall of rap. I really wanted to create a well-rounded exhibition, so I had a lot of that stuff brought in. So, when we do an exhibition like that, it’s a fun time for me to source new work for the Gallery, and I’ll bug our photographers to dig into their archives to find stuff that maybe they haven’t even shown before. So, yeah those are the three main ways I find material: they’re popular, I like them and from exhibitions.
Those are definitely three solid ways. I wanted to ask about the exhibit Analogue hosted with Norman Wong’s exhibit of photos from Arts & Crafts. How do those special exhibits come about?
So, we’ve done a lot of those throughout the years, where someone will come to me with a great exhibition idea. We actually have a fun one in the works for the fall, but that’s top-secret – more news to come on that! So Arts & Crafts were celebrating 10 years, which was very exciting to them, they were throwing a big festival and a lot of events around the city to celebrate their 10 years. They have this amazing photographer [Norman Wong] whose basically been there from the beginning, working with their artists. So they said – “what a great opportunity to do something with this and showcase his work”. The problem being that Norman Wong has never done an exhibition of his work, and Arts & Crafts has no idea how to put an art exhibition on, so they contacted me and asked if I wanted to produce the exhibition. Obviously, it was an amazing opportunity and Norman’s so talented. It was great to get a chance to explore his archives. He got to go delving way back into his archives for that work, and it was a super fun process. I learned a lot about the artists, and he learned a lot about putting on an exhibition. It was a fun learning process for both of us, and I think the exhibition was a huge success. We’re still selling work and having traction from that exhibit. It shows the quality of the work, and how it resonates long-term.
Yeah, I remember seeing some of those – I believe they had a couple of pieces at Field Trip that year .
Yeah, every year we do a pop-up at the festival [Field Trip]. The first year was Norman’s work – we just transported the big pieces; the smaller pieces didn’t really work in that space. But the big pieces went in, and it was a fun chance for people who maybe didn’t make it to the exhibition to see the work and also it was really cool because a lot of people in the exhibition were performing. It felt appropriate. For the second year , we thought it would be cool to do Sound Image there because Sound Image is a celebration of up-and-coming music photographers. Just by proxy of being held here, a lot of the work that was submitted is Toronto-based, and a lot of it ended up being Arts & Crafts-based work anyway, and of people who were performing. It was a fun parallel and it works really well, because Field Trip is a fun celebration of Toronto and Sound Image ends up being a really Toronto-specific celebration of music photography. So, it just goes really well together. I think we’ll keep it doing it for sure, and it’s fun for the Sound Image photographers to have their work shown to 10,000 people every day at Field Trip. Just imagine how many people didn’t have the chance to see the work here who are able to see it there.
Definitely. Analogue does a lot of special events and exhibits – like Women in Rock, which you mentioned before. While it’s still a gallery and obviously heavy on photography, it’s becoming more of a cultural space – you know, with working alongside Toronto institutions like Arts & Crafts as an example. Do you see that part of it growing?
Yeah, it’s nothing specific but it’s just that when something awesome falls on my lap, it’s hard for me not to explore it. For every awesome thing we end up doing, there’s 10 awesome ideas that didn’t end up working out for whatever reason, and I wish I could do all of them. The great thing about this space is that it attracts a lot of interesting projects, and also live music programming, we do stuff for NXNE, CMW and Nuit Blanche and it’s so great to get to participate in these great city events. And none of these events were going on when I grew up in this city, and we’ve come so far. Toronto’s a real destination for a lot of reasons, and I love it here. When I was young, I remember thinking that I needed to go to England for the music scene, and really, it’s all happening here, it’s great.
Yeah, I get that. I’m from Montreal originally, so you’re sort of born and bred with that sort of anti-Toronto attitude and the idea that it isn’t as cultured. And when I moved here about three years ago, I remember being shocked – there’s so much cool stuff going on.
It’s really changed a lot in the past 10-15 years, and it’s still changing. I think that there’s no sign of it slowing down. It’s great, you’ve got Luminato and TIFF being huge, you’ve got all these great arts organizations and people doing really exciting things. And, people who just have a vision for doing things outside of the box, and it’s great whenever we can be part of it.
So, let’s go back to Sound Image – what was the vision or drive behind getting that initiative set up?
So, obviously having a space like this, photographers are constantly coming to me and showing me their work. At least once a week, I get someone who sends me a portfolio or a link to their site, or even just turns up here. A lot of the work is amazing, but just doesn’t suit our everyday archive, mostly because it’s too contemporary. Generally, we represent very big name photographers with coffee table books and who’ve done world tours and that’s the basic level that the archive of the gallery is held. It seemed a shame to not do anything with all this work we were being sent. The first year was so tough, so many super talented young people came to me with work, and I was like “I wish there was a way that I could show this.
I actually don’t know if it was my idea, I had an awesome young staff at the time and I think it was one of their ideas so I can’t even take credit for it. It was a while ago now, so I can’t remember but I feel like we were like “Why don’t we do a show just for them?” So yeah, it’s just that I can’t show it all year round, but we do keep it up on the website. So, even if you miss the show, or even if you saw it and wanted to revisit it, we keep it online all year long. So, these great young photographers are selling work all year long through the gallery, which is exciting.
I know that it’s open to any level of photographer, but would you say that a lot of up-and-coming, amateurs and semi-pro that are submitting photos?
Oh, it’s really everything. I’ve had people submit photos they’ve taken on their iPhone at a concert and they’ve probably never picked up a pro camera before. And then I had people who, and this is a classic example, he was there in the 1970s and took this amateur camera, got great shots, but never did anything with them. He’s probably a banker or a dentist now and photography wasn’t the career path he chose, but then when he heard about the competition, he thought he could submit those pictures he took as an amateur when he was 20. So there’s that kind of funny thing. There’s also quite a bit of established photographers.
And I know that it’s tough, you know, up-and-coming photographers might feel like it’s unfair that very established photographers are submitting their work. But, that doesn’t actually change the way that things are judged. Every year, there are winners from both sides of the spectrum – every year there are winners who are amateurs, or very early in their careers as photographers, and some of them have been really established. It’s been great in that it’s been very varied, it’s not been that these big name photographers come in and win every year, because they don’t.
I try to make sure the judging is a really wide process – I’ll bring someone in whose a photo editor, a musician, somebody else in the industry and I’ll try to bring someone in whose totally unrelated, like a celebrity chef or something, just because they won’t know the difference of whose a big name photographer. It’s just about what speaks to them. So, I think it’s still fair. I’m not going to close it off to pro photographers, so if they want to submit, I think they’re more than entitled to do so.
When I was going through the Sound Image gallery on the website, it did seem very balanced in terms of amateurs and professionals.
Exactly. And I mean, the point is not to win the prize: it’s to be a part of the exhibit. If you’re submitting to Sound Image for the sake of the prize, you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons. The point is to meet other photographers and learn from each other, to get awesome critical feedback from people in the industry and just have your work on the walls at a gallery in Toronto. Just enjoy it.
So, where do see Analogue headed in the next five years? What’s your ultimate goal or vision?
I think we’re definitely on a good track; I love all the programming we’re doing. We have a book reading tomorrow night [July 16] for Pamela Des Barres, and that’ll be really fun. We’ve done film screenings and book readings, and special exhibitions and music programming, and all of that stuff is fun and exciting to me. I love taking on new projects. I definitely am enjoying doing pop-up exhibitions. We’ve down awesome partnerships with Paul Hahn & Co. and we’ve got the Rolling Stones exhibit up there, and we’ve done a pop up in LA. If anybody with a gallery or an awesome space thinks this exhibition should come to their city, they should contact me because I’d love to do a pop-up in a city that’s enthusiastic about it. That’s something I’d like to develop more of. Yeah, I don’t know. I guess eventually we’ll need a bigger space, just lots going on.
That’s a great problem to have. Do you have any advice for the aspiring music photographer? Seems like there’s a ton more of them – you know, you go to shows and there are a ton of people with their iPhones in the air.
Yeah, the iPhone photography thing is kind of a downer because I think that it must be a downer if you’re playing to a crowd who are all doing that. Like nobody’s dancing or rocking out because they’ve got their phones in the air, and they’re all zooming and recording, it’s kind of a bummer.
I get it, people think it didn’t happen if you didn’t record it, but it happened and you can enjoy it in your eyes. I sound old [laughs]. I guess, music photography is a tough one – you have to really, really love music because you’re not going to get paid a lot to do it. If you don’t love the music, don’t bother because there’s no real money to be made shooting bands.
I think that all photographers – not just music photographers – need to be able to do everything: product photography, event photography, wedding photography, and be able to shoot landscapes, portraits. You kind of need to be a jack-of-all-trades and be able to say yes to everything. If someone’s like, “Oh, can you come shoot 500 doorknobs for this hardware website?” then you have to be like, “Yes, I totally know how to do that”. I did food photography for the Food Network, and you know, it was super interesting and actually kind of fun to have a departure from what I’m used to. It’s good to mix it up, and often, and I’m sure this is the case with a lot of jobs, the least fun ones are the ones that pay the most. I’m sure that this is the same in a lot of the creative industries; if you’re a makeup artist, I’m sure the most interesting jobs are the ones who pay the least, and the ones that are really boring pay the most.
So yeah, I think you just need to be good at doing everything, learn on your feet, and don’t get obsessed with equipment. Everyone thinks you need to have the latest equipment when you just need to be good with your equipment. You don’t need to chase the software or latest whatever, and don’t overuse Photoshop. I know that Photoshop does all these amazing things, but I’m onto you [laughs]. It looks fake, it just doesn’t look right. Learn how to use your camera properly and try not to rely so much on the post-production tools.
Oh, and get earplugs. A lot of music photographers shout at me, and I know it’s because they can’t hear how loud they’re speaking, and it’s just from standing at the front of the stage with no earplugs for years and years and years. Get earplugs.
Solid advice. One last question: who’s somebody you’d love to shoot, who’d be your dream person?
I’ve got a couple on my bucket list. I’d love to shoot the Rolling Stones, the last time they were in town I had press passes, but my friend was getting married so I missed that. I would love to shoot Beyoncé but she doesn’t ever allow photographers, I’ve been at festivals where she’s headlining and had a press pass, but she doesn’t ever allow photographers. And that’s cool, that’s her deal, I respect that, but I would still love to shoot her, she’s amazing. The Libertines – I love the Libertines, I’m a big dork for the Libertines – I’ve shot all their single project permutations, Dirty Pretty Things, Pete Doherty, Babyshambles, Yeti. All of their special projects, but they hadn’t gotten back together when I left England, so that’s a heartbreaker. They’re really high on my list. I’m sure there’s so many more on my bucket list. There’s a lot.