As a child, I loved books and reading so much I figured inventing tales of wonder was the path to follow. At seven, I tried to write my first novel but one typewritten page was all I could muster. Creative writing was much harder that I had anticipated. Yet I wasn’t deterred and I continued to jolt down ideas for short stories.
During my adolescence, I happened upon my dad’s old 8mm-movie camera. I shot a lot of movies and a few were picked to compete in festivals. This time, I believed I had found my true calling. I went on to study television production and filmmaking up to the university level. As I was completing a major in filmmaking, I figured it might be a breeze to do a minor in photography.
Was I was wrong!
At Concordia University in Montreal, the teacher’s emphasis was not on technical skills but on helping students find their own voices. This was something I instantly struggled with. I was in my early twenties, still searching for meaning and I just got married. Because I could not define my own photographic vision, I concentrated on the plastic side of photography, trying to master the art of composition.
Expressing myself though photography was one immense philosophical and even theological challenge. I had to figure out who I was and what I was made of. As a filmmaker, I knew every approach to fiction. I had no trouble coming up with surreal stories or creating a rousing narrative. In photography, a whole story could be told within ONE image and that image could be brutally revealing. I understood that masterful compositions invested with personal experiences create distinct and powerful images. It seemed that only through the personal, could I hope to attain the universal.
Up through my twenties, I’d convinced myself that I had an unhappy childhood. I was raised catholic and went to church every Sunday well until my teens when I managed to convince my parents to let me stay home. Surrounded by priests, nuns, sisters and brothers praising the virtues of Heaven, all I saw were fragile humans filled with contradictions. In high school, the violence of some kids frightened me while at home the notion of death haunted me. As a teenager I became suspicious of every religious doctrine. By not being able to see beyond the world of man, all I focused on were the pain, greed and destruction of human society and it drove me crazy.
After university, I continued taking pictures. Photography grounded me. It forced me to stick to a path and follow it through. Every second weekend I would gather friends and we’d go on a “photo expedition”, exploring parts of forests or abandonned buildings and taking pictures. No intellectualization, just pure instinct. At first I did not realize it but all photos seemed to fall into three categories: Christian religious iconography (Christ on the cross, Christ reborn), childhood objects (toys, especially plastic dolls) and dreams of the unconscious (early forays into mythical images). As a child; I would scavenge burnt and old houses to look for toys or objects. It seems photography and childhood shared a strong link. One was allowing me to revisit the other.
In 1990, I truly came into my own as a photographer when I created the character of Bob Book, and through him, I knowingly started to explore the first twenty years of my life. All subsequent images reflected my personal philosophical pursuits and spiritual beliefs.
Comix and Photography are the only artistic discipline I have stuck to. Some write in journals, I take pictures, write scripts and design books. These show how my life has unfolded. They are my narratives of transformation.