Professional photography is in crisis. The digital age has wrought a sea change, eliminating barriers that used to require tremendous effort to overcome. Quality equipment is more accessible than ever, instruction and advice for the do-it-yourselfer has never been easier to come by, and the dissemination of images has never been more straightforward. Add to this the glut of schools turning out eager hordes of aspiring shooters on an annual basis, and it’s no wonder that the industry is crying in it’s giant collective beer and looking around for new business models. Should you lowball on usage to land the job? Should you stick to your guns and go hungry on principle? Should you sign with a stock agency? If you’re already with a stock house, should you quit because of the move towards royalty-free licensing? So much soul-searching, so much turmoil. Not that it will solve any problems, but I propose that perhaps it’s time to… talk about something else.

The Stanley Cup Finals are here! Game Five is tomorrow night! And by way of celebration I’m pleased to present the first in a series I call “From The Vault”, where I will revisit and discuss favorite photos from my archives.

The shot above is a group portrait taken in June 2005 of the nine living Toronto Maple Leafs captains. I’ve always liked this image, but it never really found a home in my portfolio. In fact, it’s never seen the light of day beyond it’s original purpose — a limited edition of 1000 framed prints signed by each of the players (from left to right: Ted Kennedy, George Armstrong, Dave Keon, Darryl Sittler, Rick Vaive, Rob Ramage, Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, and Mats Sundin). Thank goodness for Planet Shapton; now the people of Earth can see more of what we’ve been up to over here!

We were approached with the idea in the spring of 2005 by Frameworth Sports Memorabilia, and being a lifelong Leafs fan, I immediately agreed to help out. It was an exciting shoot. Working from historical photographs, set designer Ian Reynolds built a detailed replica of the original Maple Leaf Gardens dressing room in one of the studios at Westside, and with help from the Hockey Hall of Fame, we dressed the set with genuine vintage equipment. The dressing room stalls were propped with gear appropriate to the era of each player — skates, pads, helmets (or lack thereof), and so on. Shoot day felt like a party. The studio was full of people; players, coaches and management, trainers, and of course crews from the Toronto Sun and Leafs TV. And the biggest thrill? Meeting the legendary Dave Keon, as well as George Armstrong, the last Leafs captain to win a Stanley Cup.

It was a spectacular experience, and called on the talents of a great crew in order to pull everything together. Many of the people involved behind the scenes have gone on to great things — assistants Simon Willms and Finn O’Hara are now both respected shooters in their own right, as is Kourosh Keshiri, who did the retouching (okay, so Finn was already shooting at the time, but I knew he was a big hockey fan so I asked if he wanted to help out. His response? Hell yes!). Margo Ducharme, who worked on hair and makeup, has since moved to New York and is now a photographer as well. And Ian Reynolds, set designer, is now a builder and carpenter at the world-famous Stratford Festival.

Even the set had an interesting afterlife. The sign above the bench now hangs in Chris Gordaneer’s studio, the shelves from the stalls are part of the Westside garage shelving, and the carpet, well, that’s a story in itself. The round maple leaf rug was from the Air Canada Centre, but the blue broadloom underneath ended up sitting in storage for several years. A student named Rebecca Baran came to help me out during her work week, and a shoot got rescheduled, so we ended up clearing out the storeroom instead. I told her to get rid of the carpet, by which I meant throw it away. She came up to my office an hour later and gave me fifty dollars. I was mystified. What was this for? “I sold it on Craigslist” she said.

Whenever someone asks me what makes a good assistant, I always tell this story. It’s not experience or knowledge, it’s initiative, personality and attitude. Everything else can be taught. Rebecca is now studio manager at Silverline Studios and is conducting an Assistant’s Workshop this weekend. If you’re an aspiring assistant, I strongly suggest you attend.

And yes, she got to keep the fifty bucks.



One Response to From The Vault – Toronto Maple Leafs Captains.

  1. clay says:

    “throw it away” that doesn’t sound like the Derek I know.

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