Behind the Lens with Haskell Photography
David Haskell has consistently been one of Niagara’s top photographers. He opened his first studio thirty two years ago, and basically hasn’t stopped since. He quickly became one of the most recognizable photographers in the province, and worked with some of the largest companies, organizations and personalities in the world. We recently caught up with David to talk about photography and about what’s in store for the future.
Can you talk a bit about your background, how you became a photographer, why you became a photographer? Where do you find inspiration for your photos?
I grew up around photography – I’ve spent my whole life immersed in it. However I developed my own great personal interest in photography while touring Canada as a drummer in a band. Music is my number one source of inspiration for the art of photography. Music combined with the subjects and their personalities.
Who are some of your favourite photographers?
My father, Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, and Helmut Newton are amongst my favourites.
How do you keep up with your skills?
The number one is the consistency of work and understanding the ever changing photographic trends of fashion, colour, and style. It’s important to be on the forefront of that, to see what’s coming.
What do you do to continually challenge yourself with photography?
I stress out. And I really just don’t stop taking pictures. It’s actually quite as simple as that. I suppose an answer that might make a bit more sense is variety. I really like to make sure that I don’t shoot in the same place all the time, or the same way all the time.
What have you always wanted to experiment with in photography, but haven’t done yet?
I’d like to spend more time teaching and speaking about photography – lecturing.
What style would you say you specialize in?
How many weddings have you shot, and how many do you typically do in one year?
I really can’t count the number of weddings I’ve photographed throughout my career. We’ve had years with numbers as high as 130. For instance, this past year was 80-something. A lot of it depends on work flow – am I in town, am I shooting something else, am I in town and available, etc.? There’s variables that dictate.
What’s your favourite part of a wedding day?
I really enjoy the getting ready shots. However the time spent with just the bride and groom doing their portraits is really where you can read the client and let the creativity flow.
How would you describe your working style? Do you prefer to blend into the background to capture candid moments, or do you like to be more visible and take charge to choreograph images?
Standing back and just hoping to get a great shot candidly is misleading. It doesn’t necessarily work or happen that way. We’ve all, whether with our phones or cameras, have lucked out on a great candid shot in capturing a moment in time. My best “candid” shots are staged. At the end of the day, photography is an art. It’s also a craft. If you’re looking to hone your craft and improve your art, you really need to love it. To this day, photography remains not only my means of income but my number one hobby.
We got David to dissect a few of our favourite weddings portraits to get an idea of what goes through his mind when he is shooting and what kind of preparation is involved in getting the perfect shot.
“The incorporation of the willow tree in this photo is unique to the couple as it holds a sentimental significance to them. Scouting the location and calculating the timing for the shot was key – it was important to show the immense size of the tree and the sun shining through the leaves creating the halo of light which was my representation of the immensity of their love.”
“Keeping it formal while expressing their passion was the goal in this couple’s series of shots. The expansive horizon was picked to contrast the tightness of the bond between the two of them. It made for a beautiful colour shot but in the end, I just felt that the black & white finish helped focus the eye on the couple. I think it’s a good example of the importance of backgrounds not distracting from the subject(s).”
“For this couple from England, “posed shots” was taboo. The groom is a filmmaker and wanted everything as candid as possible – for the most part, we stuck with that. There was some staging required to capture this shot but also a lot of joking around to create the relaxed and playful feeling. Ironically, one of mine and the couple’s favourite shots from their wedding couldn’t have been more posed; it was set up with their Best Ma’am and Man of Honour to mimic an early 19th-century portrait (inset).”
“They’re just driving and talking, it’s very candid, however, they were instructed as to what to do. Is there a chance I would have gotten that picture with them, at that time, doing that, without having given instruction? The answer is no. I asked the best man to get in the car with the groom so I could take the photo.”