Photography has shaped the way we view our world in infinite ways and definitions. A specific angle, or film processing procedure can completely alter the way we experience an environment. Jamie Tilston, an old soul with a youthful mind, appreciates this effect and has change the way many view their own surroundings here in Calgary. His critically acclaimed work speaks highly of his character as a man with structure and moral. Jamie has grown to be a close friend of mine, and I am over joyous to see what images he produces. I asked Jamie about his photographic messages, and his life as an artist in Calgary.
What were the introductory steps to your involvement with photography?
It was primarily though my friends who owned cameras hanging out and shooting with them.
What was your first piece of camera equipment?
A pinhole camera my dad made out of a coffee can.
This goes into the age old question of your preference to either digital or film?
Digital, I do own a medium format film camera still.
What are some significant advantages and disadvantages to these mediums?
Obviously they have their similarities but: digital has workflow, speed, quality, cost advantages.
Analogue has creative advantages and happy mistakes.
Do you remember your first published photograph?
Yes I do, I volunteered it for free. A picture of Portabella road in London that I snapped quickly for a London guidebook.
What made you decide to focus more on landscape photography? This has given you a distinct style. Was this a conscious decision?
It definitely has defined my style. I think it was more natural for me as I started to take photographs during the night time and the only think that stood still enough for those long exposures was my surrounding landscape. I also have always been fairly conscious of atmosphere. Trying to capture atmosphere and convey feeling with my photographs has probably been a huge part of my ambition. Trying to get the viewer to see it how I do.
A lot of your work, and the pieces that originally intrigued me about your photography, is based out of Calgary. What is it about Calgary that inspires you? Is there something about Calgary that you find uniquely photogenic?
I do what I can with what I have I suppose. I find Calgary’s light difficult at times but for the most part it is consistently good at night, especially in the winter. Right now Calgary’s growth is inspiring me, it was sort of the theme of my show “my town” and it is continuing to be a theme in my work. I am always adding to that body of work.
You are quickly becoming known for your night photography. Can you tell us about the process you go through for your sessions? And what do you find so intriguing about photography at night?
Well I am a nocturnal person so basically I have no choice! I do gravitate to shooting at night. I always have. Maybe because I have always had to work during the day and it gets dark here early in the winter. I like how quiet it is a night and I really like the effects of long exposure, lots of my work has been long exposure during the day also.
Briefly describe the photography scene here in Calgary.
It’s established but disconnected, not too many photography dedicated galleries. But the exposure festival is awesome.
Your portfolio has grown out of the city limits and now to an international level. Can you tell us about your last photography show? Where were most of the photos from? Was this show different aesthetically than your past works?
My last couple shows were Calgary themed but last year I had a show that was entirely work from Paris. It was an amazing experience for me as a photographer. I was able to live in Paris and just take photos of what ever I wanted all day long. It allowed me to develop my skills significantly. Mostly because I wasn’t working my day job and was just shooting and when I wasn’t shooting, I was researching were to shoot next. The result was amazing and rewarding for me.
Through your travels, do you feel that Calgary has much in common with the rest of the world. Architecturally? Culturally?
I think Calgary is pretty unique. People often describe my work as desolate, devoid and contemplative. I think Calgary’s street life or lack there of is a big part of that. So I feel I owe Calgary for giving me my aesthetic.
Out of all your local works, what would you say is your favorite location you have shot in Calgary?
So hard to say, there are many. Downtown, nose hill or on the Rivers are places I always go back to.
As an artist, what do you find is the hardest part of progressing locally in Calgary?
It can be difficult to find suitable galleries to show your work here, but they keep coming and going.
Are there any artist/ photographers, locally or internationally that inspire you?
Locally Diane Bos who taught me at ACAD has been a big inspiration. Internationally, David Burdeny and Edward Burtynsky who are both Canadian. And Michael Kenna. Just to name a few.
Tell me some things about your life in Calgary. What makes Calgary so Awesome?
I was born and raised in Calgary, I am probably still here because it is comfortable.
What is the perfect day for you in Calgary?
Lots of walking around 17th ave. A visit to Café Beano, and maybe a picnic with my friends in a park (Bowness or Stanley).
Best place to be on a sunday morning?
Cafe beano or Avenue Dinner.
Favorite day trip from Calgary?
Anywhere. Exploring Canmore and Banff and surrounding area, the Badlands can be a fun time too.
Earliest memory of Calgary?
When I grew up I lived right on the Elbow River. Some of my earliest memories were in my backyard either wading in the river or skating on it in the winter.
If you had the chance to shoot any photograph you could ever dream of, what would it be?
I wish I could position my camera like a satellite anywhere I wanted. I am always limited to what is physically possible and places I can’t get to.
And with what equipment?
Anything 35mm or medium format.
What sort of things can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
I’d like to think I am always getting better! And I love taking photos. I’d really like to do more traveling and building bodies work from it. I will keep trying new things as well but best to stick to what I do best. Calgary will always be my home to me, it has made me who I am.
closing photo by Marshall Allen Cole