Saturday, 25 January 2014

My Bittersweet Blue Period

This past couple of weeks has been like riding a roller coaster from hell.

It all began with planning meetings for The Globe and Mail's recent project on the North, and the excitement of being involved with something so large, and with so many resources being poured into it.

(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Smoke from oil stoves heating temporary housing tents for workers at the Baffinland Iron Ore mine site at Mary River, Baffin Island, Nunavut. 
Then the proverbial shit hit the fan, and news came that three of the four staff photographers in Toronto would be getting layoff notices on Feb. 5th. Fawk!

There was no math to be done. No bumping. No uncomfortable union shit. Myself and two talented colleagues had essentially been shown the door. Another friend who has been working as a part-time photo editor is sadly gone as well, along with about 30 others. It was a sad, sad day.

Its a hard pill to swallow on the best of days, but to say it wasn't somehow expected would be a lie. I simply didn't think it would happen quite the way it did, and I didn't expect our department to be hit so hard. There will remain only two staff photographers for Canada's National Newspaper; one in Toronto and one in Vancouver.

"Oh well!" necessarily became my motto for the rest of the week.  There were only a few days left until publication of what would essentially be my last hurrah as a staffer at The Globe and Mail. I have been determined to accept the layoff for what it is and to maintain a positive outlook on the future. Thoughts beyond the coming days needed to be kept in the back of my mind, and if they did creep forward I didn't want them to compromise the work I still needed to do with a great team to make The North project as good as we possibly could.

(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Walrus hunter Nuna Parr's footwear is made from sealskin, which when sewn with traditional methods is waterproof.
I spent 25 days in November and December north of The Arctic Circle with Ian Brown. (Ian is @BrownoftheGlobe on Twitter) This was my second trip to document life in Canada's North and it was a spectacular professional and personal experience. [I wrote about my first northern assignment here.] Not only is Ian one of Canada's best writers, but he's a funny, thoughtful, and gregarious travel partner. We had a blast! [We last paired up while working on The Boy in the Moon]

Everyone who touched this work gave a fantastic effort, and it will forever stand out in my memory as one of those assignments that was done right from its inception through to publication. In the office I spent a huge amount of time with our web team and our newspaper layout designers. The new web publishing tool rolled out for  The Magnetic North on the web is brilliant thanks to them, and the paper was no less so impressive. If you haven't opened this link on a computer with a large screen I suggest you do so. It is a model we are all very proud of.

We also elected to return to larger photography galleries for this series and two from my work were published in similar formats. A Kaleidoscopic Portrait of the North and Twilight in Canada's North are the two titles of these galleries. I've been joking that this has been the "blue period" of my career. The incredibly unique, and very cool blue light in the north is half of that equation. The rest you can figure out I'm sure.

(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
A young boy hides from the biting cold while his mother walks backward to protect her own face in Igloolik, Nunavut. 
In addition to the galleries there are also a number of videos that can be found here. These include a small compilation of the my first ever attempts at time-lapse photography. Feedback on the entire series has been extremely positive, and through it all I have received an incredible amount of moral support from friends and colleagues in Toronto, across Canada and throughout the globe. (That's the big blue ball in space I'm referring to, not the newspaper) For this experience I am forever grateful, and humbled by the generosity shown me in so many ways.

I doubt this will be the last of my work published in The Globe and Mail, but my career is about to take a dramatic turn. I am excited about the possibilities that lay before me and while I am determined to continue working on stories that matter to me, and to continue to work as a photojournalist, I will also be seeking out new challenges with photography, video and multimedia.

Journalism has always been my first love, and the reason I became a photojournalist. This will never change. But our evolving world has provided people in our profession with a wealth of opportunities in many, many areas and I would be a fool not to be excited about new challenges, new adventures, new techniques, and a new and varied group of people to work with.

Beginning in April I will be making images for which I will be the first copyright holder for the first time in my career. That is very exciting to me.

And so, I was laid off one week and published insanely well the next. Bittersweet indeed! But the sky is the limit from here on. Bring on the next 25 years!

1 comment:

  1. Peter! I had retweeted a link from Ian Brown to your Arctic piece and was shocked when a work friend told me about the layoffs. The work you do is one-of-a-kind. Can't wait to see what you create as a free agent. Best, Louise