Lighting up Canada’s North
Yellowknife photographer Dave Brosha talks shop with T&C
Editor’s note: Every so often, we’ll be featuring profiles on Canadian photographers whose work seriously stokes our sense of country.
West Coast conservation photographer Ian McAllister was the first subject in what we’ve decided will be an ongoing series. Mountain West image maker Paul Zizka was up next. This time around? Yellowknife’s Dave Brosha.
Ever since we stumbled across Dave’s photos online, we’ve been sharing them regularly with our followers. Why? When it comes to shining a light on Canada’s north – whether we’re talking landscape, people or animals – Brosha’s pictures are nothing short of, well, epic. Check out his website and FB page and you’ll see what we mean.
T&C: When did you first pick up a camera and realize you were a photographer?
Dave: The first time I felt I really had a camera was on my 19th birthday when my mother gave me her old Pentax with a fixed 50MM lens on it. I was so excited. This was always her “good” camera. I suppose that was the initial spark that got me interested in photography. It wasn’t until five or six years later when I had moved to Resolute Bay, Nunavut and was just totally struck by the beauty of the place (and started taking photos in a more serious way.) It was also during this time that I had a chance encounter with world-renowned British photographer Martin Hartley. By 2006, after countless practice shots and photo excursions and clients, I felt I could finally call myself a “photographer.”
T&C: Who has influenced you professionally, over the course of your career so far?
Dave: My first major influence was Martin. I idolized his work – and still do today. Since then, I’ve been strongly inspired by Galen Rowell, James Nachtwey, Joe McNally, Annie Leibovitz, Jimmy Chin, Joel Grimes, Kirsty Mitchell, Darwin Wiggett, Daryl Benson and Aaron Nace. Those are the major ones. From a local perspective, I’ve come to know some great photographers here in Yellowknife whose work kicks me in the butt to do better myself.
T&C: What over the years has interested you most when it comes to subject matter?
Dave: I started nose deep and hardcore in the world of nature and landscape photography. My dream was to live the life of Galen and Martin – explore the world, seek out adventure and let my camera swallow the sights of our planet. Well, everyone’s path is their own. Somehow, I’ve also been bitten with the bug of wanting to photograph people. Bitten hard. And, I’ve been bitten by every other conceivable genre of photography. I now classify myself as a “landscape, portrait, wedding, commercial, newborn, adventure, journalistic, architecture, product, fine art” photographer. It’s a bit of a bitch to put on my business card.
T&C: What distinguishes a Dave Brosha image from other photographs out there?
Dave: That’s a hard one. You just shoot and shoot and shoot and dream that one day someone thinks you’ve got a style and an appeal that is unique. I’m not sure I have that, yet. But I’m having fun working on it. If anything, I want to resonate feeling in my images. If an image – whether it be of a person, a place or a moment – can make someone else feel something, positive or negative, I think you’ve accomplished something beyond a simple snapshot.
T&C: What is it about Canadian-inspired photography that motivates you?
Dave: Canada has a serious number of world-class photographers located from coast to coast. We share something collective, yet different, to offer – in part, due to having this giant, beautiful, melting-pot-of-a-country as an influence. And, also due to all of those other things that influence people generally. The work that Joey L is producing is so different from the work of John Marriott who is so different from Benjamin Von Wong who is so different from Nikki Harrrison who is so different from Paul Zizka and so on. All Canadian, all distinct in their style, subject and treatment. Yet I feel like they’re “Canadian” in their work. I don’t even know what that means but it makes me proud.
T&C: What are the challenges of shooting in Canada’s north?
Dave: I always say that the north is the most beautiful and challenging place you could ever hope to find as a photographer. It’s unique: it’s so vast and rugged and different that you can find countless backdrops for your creative ideas. With that comes challenges that would make the weaker-of-spirit flee. Countless mosquitoes. Lots of damaged equipment that comes out of minus forty. A shortage of readily available equipment. Dealing with these challenges, if you rise to them, is what will give your work character. It becomes a sort of pride. For example, “Hey, did you see that woman in that wedding dress looking so warm and beautiful and elegant? Yeah, well, that was photographed in -48C with wind chill.”
T&C: Favourite image taken, ever?
Dave: I don’t think I have a favourite. I have about 35 that really stand out to me. If I had to choose what I thought the viewers of my images have collectively called their “favourite” – judging from the number of comments, print inquiries, and overall impact, I would say it’s my image called “A Warrior’s Soul.” I shot this three or four years ago and there’s still barely a week where someone doesn’t come up to me to talk about it.
T&C: You travel a lot. Can you tell us something about the kind of life you lead?
Dave: At some point in my life, I was blessed/cursed with the love of wandering. I can’t sit still. I love seeing the world at large, my own country, my own territory. I love experiencing culture and people. I love the diversity of beauty our planet has to offer, the beauty of unique landscapes, forms and light, of races, nations and individuals, of moments, of life, of death. I want my own children to see the world and love and appreciate it like their parents do. Currently, I have a calendar that will bring me around the north, around Canada and around the globe right up until 2015. All I can say, to whoever is listening, is thanks!
T&C: Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, is officially your home. Can you tell us more?
Dave: I’ve lived here since 2004, since moving “south” from Resolute Bay, Nunavut. Before that, I lived in Halifax, Antigonish, Sackville, Saint John, Taiwan, and Fort Vermillion, Alberta which is where I was born. I get around!
Yellowknife is officially home. We love the city and the opportunity it has given us and the community-minded nature of the place. After a few years, you feel like you know everyone. We have an amazing circle of friends who would do anything for us, just as we would do anything for them. You don’t get that everywhere.
As a photogragher, it’s unusual. Small, less than 20,000 people, but a place that supports photography and photographers in a major way. I bet we have more photographers per capita than anywhere in Canada.
T&C: Where would we find you in your hometown, if we happened to drop in for a visit?
Dave: I travel so much that when I’m in Yellowknife, I love nothing more than sitting on the floor in my home – the wood stove going and my wife Erin by my side – and watching some kid’s movie while being smothered by my three little ones. That’s my idea of heaven.
*Footnote on image of Inuit model/actor Tiffany Ayalik. “This to me is the definition of what I call ‘creative photography.’ I don’t consider this to be my image. Rather, it’s a collaboration between myself, actor and model Tiffany Ayalik and Natacha Saravanja, an amazing make-up artist. It’s OUR image and I loved everything about this project.” Dave Brosha