Today I’m really pleased to bring you a Conversation with Younes Bounhar. Younes is an Ottawa and Toronto-based photographer and writer of the e-book A Sense of Place: Finding Your Eye at Home and Abroad, available from Craft&Vision. I’m a huge fan of his work and I expect that you will be too.
How did you first get interested in Photography?
The impetus was a very naïve and innocent one: I had travelled to Australia the previous fall and stumbled upon a photography gallery displaying amazing, large prints of beautiful landscapes around the world. I loved travel but was never artistically gifted (I am a scientist by training). I just told myself that it would be “cool” to travel and make photos for a living (yeah, right). I picked up a camera a few months later and the rest, as they say, is history.
How would you describe your style as a photographer?
I am not sure I can subscribe to a specific style, really. My creative vision is constantly in flux. I don’t try to explore any particular theme. This is in fact the thing that draws me most to photography. I am a bit ADD and constantly need new challenges to keep me motivated and excited. Photography does just that in every subject I tackle. There is always the challenge to bring your own interpretation to the subject no matter how beautiful or mundane, how famous or unknown it is. My goal is always to try and bring out the beauty in my subjects, be they nature, architectural or people. While I would generally tend to gravitate towards the dramatic and moody, I can just as easily bask in the lighthearted glory of high-key images.
In your e-book, A Sense of Place, you offer great suggestions for self-assignments to break out of photographic habits and allow space for creative growth. What is your favourite, go-to way to shake up your photography if you’re looking for a creativity boost?
One of the most effective ways for me to shake my habits has been to constrain my shooting to a lens or focal length I seldom use. Being a landscape, wide-angle, f/16 type of guy, going with the 85mm f/1.4 has been a fantastic challenge as well as a great revelation…it is now one of my favourite lenses.
A Sense of Place speaks to an issue that I think is familiar for a lot of travellers; we get so photographically inspired on our travels but can sometimes struggle to find that inspiration at home. What’s your top tip for generating the photographic energy of travel in your own home town? One of the travel photography tips you offer in A Sense of Place is to act like a local. Can you share a particular experience where you did this and it paid off, photographically speaking?
While in Barcelona a bit over a year ago, Amanda (my partner in crime) and I just went out about town with absolutely no destination in mind, and certainly no landmarks in sight. We just walked, walked and walked. We followed local people around. Landed in the middle of game of bolas (bocce). Saw old and young couples in love. People watching from their balconies. Sweet old ladies taking their daily strolls… We took our time, stood in the same spot for an hour, only moved on when we felt like it. Instead of trying to cross things off our checklist of places to see, we just enjoyed being in Barcelona. It was a great source of inspiration and generated some of my favourite images from that trip.
You recently left your job in the corporate world to focus full-time on your photography business. What’s the best part about making your living as a full-time creative? … And the worst part?
Easily, the best thing is control over my schedule. While we work longer and harder hours than in “the real world”, I can chose which ones they are. If the weather is great I can decide to go for a snowshoe hike or a picnic, no remorse, no guilt!
Worst part? Not knowing when or where the next cheque is going to come from…
How do you find balance between your professional creative work and your personal creative work? Are you working on (or planning) any personal projects now?
That’s probably the hardest challenge we have to contend with now. When clients come knocking, you just have to do it (and I am thankful for that), so personal work can be the first thing that falls by the wayside. That said, we do a number of things to keep it exciting. First, we actually chose our paid jobs. We have focused our marketing efforts on clients whose work really inspires us, so that our paid jobs are actually often projects we would have shot just for the hell of it if it hadn’t been our job! Second, we are constantly thinking of personal projects, keeping tabs on locations, ideas, potential collaborations and so on. We try and schedule at least a large personal shoot every couple of months, but they can be hard to orchestrate (coordinating a team, a location, talent, etc… in a short span can be a challenge).
Currently we are juggling between a couple of ideas but haven’t decided on anything yet. Our latest midterm project is one we have dubbed “Able”. It is a project where we are trying to showcase people with disabilities as people first and foremost. We are trying to break the stigma that they are somewhat diminished by their disability. These are people who despite the adversity are doing some extraordinary things…
What would your superpower be?
Easy: flying. Not really a superpower, but that’s the one thing I wish I could do. So envious of birds.
Thanks so much to Younes for sharing with us. You can pick up a copy of Younes’ e-book A Sense of Place here.
Younes Bounhar was born somewhere, then moved somewhere else. He became a scientist, then traded his lab coat and pens for a camera. Now he photographs places, people and things, and he loves every minute of it. Currently, he works with his lovely partner, Amanda Large, as a commercial and architectural photographer based in Ottawa and Toronto.