Through The Lens

Richard Dubois

February 28, 2011, by Chelsea Coyle

I have had the great privilege of meeting, as well as working with Richard Dubois, and what struck me the most about this photographer was his ability to add a genuine sense of fun and humour to any given situation. His cleverness and wit provides entertainment and hilarity to any given situation, whether it be during a shoot or just in passing. His photography skills suggest a superior quality in directing illumination and his work has appeared in ad campaigns and publications worldwide, including Elle Canada, Studio Magazine, Tributé (Paris), and Highlights (Australia). His work has also been featured on Fashion Television, Project Runway and Canada’s Next Top Model.


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    model: Ford's Adrianne Ho by Richard Dubois
    styling: Loretta Chin; hair & makeup: Paul Venoit

    What does photography mean to you?
    I think of fashion photography as work firstly, but with the tremendous benefit of being creative and challenging and forever changing. I'm a fairly pragmatic person, so I rarely get too caught up in the artistry of shooting fashion, but it is a good feeling to know that that is an enormous part of the work I do.

    How does your personality change when you look through the lens?
    I don't think my personality changes so much as I just get very focused on what I'm doing. Pardon the pun! When I'm shooting I become blissfully unaware of what's going on around me - someone once told me I get into a "zone" of some kind. I think most people I work with do this to some degree as well.

    When was the moment that you decided that photography was going to be a career?
    It's really hard to pinpoint exactly when I first decided on photography as a career. I started shooting in my last year of university and just never stopped. I think photography kind of chose me.

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    model: Sutherland's Ada Roberts by Richard Dubois
    styling: Joelle Litt; hair & makeup: Sabrina Rinaldi (Judy Inc.)

    Where is your favourite place to live and work in the world as a photographer?
    I quite like living and working in Toronto. I've been here for twelve years and in all that time I've lived downtown close to the studio. In a way, the city feels small to me since I rarely drive anymore. Toronto is a great home base – close to New York and busy enough that there's always something to do. I will happily work in the United States and Europe, but it's always nice to come home.

    Describe the word beauty?
    I think of "beauty" in a very broad sense. There are so many ways to present it when shooting fashion.

    I'm mostly drawn to quiet simplicity, when beauty is at its most uncomplicated. One of my close photographer friends describes my shooting style as "honest", which is probably a pretty good way to describe my work.

    What are your biggest professional challenges you face on a daily basis?
    My biggest challenge as a photographer is to always remember I'm a business and to keep on top of the business side of work - however dull it can be at times. I don't shoot every day, but every day there are always dozens of things to get done. It's a good thing I'm a fairly organized person.

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    model: Ford's Melissa by Richard Dubois
    hair & makeup: Diana Carriero (Page One)

    Do you ever have photographers block? If so, how do you deal with it?
    I never get photographers block. If anything, I have the opposite problem, too many ideas in my head at once. I've gotten better at distilling all those ideas down into something that is workable, but some days I just have to hit the "off" switch and give my brain a rest.

    What type of assignments attract you the most?
    As much as I love shooting editorials, I think shooting advertising is more fulfilling. I enjoy getting caught up, not just in the creative development of the shoot, but also in the marketing strategies of the client. If I were to start my career over again I would consider working in advertising - actually, I often do think of my job as advertising, just a very specific part of it.

    Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven't already?
    I would naturally love to shoot more for top designers, but I also would love to shoot more internationally. I've been to cities like London and Barcelona where I couldn't stop thinking about shooting assignments there. I have a bunch of personal projects that I'd love to tackle as well, too many to list and all fashion-inspired, but time is never on my side. I'd love to shoot Emma Watson with her new short hair, before she grows it out again.

    What or who are your influences?
    I'm very lucky to have had two great studio partners when I first started shooting in Toronto - they gave me great guidance that I still think about to this day. I have a background in theatre and that experience taught me a great deal about working with a team, as well as a little something about directing as well. I'm also regularly drawn to the work of Irving Penn and Michael Thompson – two photographers I look to when I need to reset my creative compass. I guess my influences are many, which is a good thing.

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    model: Sutherlands's Kate, Laura & Claire by Richard Dubois
    styling: Thien Le; hair & makeup: Jukka

    Tell us your funniest, scariest or most touching story from a photoshoot?
    Years ago, I started photographing fellow kidney patients - I've had two kidney transplants over the years. It is a project that I started while taking medical time off. It was mostly something to occupy my time, but I was surprised and deeply moved at the response - I had so many volunteers who wanted me to photograph them at their most vulnerable moments in hospital. I just wish I had more time and energy back then.

    What do you look for in a model when casting?
    My number one concern during casting is making sure the model fits the project perfectly, whatever those physical qualities may be. It may seem like I'm pointing out the obvious, but this is the single most important preliminary decision when planning a shoot - I've seen more than one shoot fail because the model just didn't fit. It's no coincidence that my most successful gigs started with great casting - it really helps to make everything else fall into place just right.

    What are your thoughts on the paparazzi and their effect on photography?
    I don't think the paparazzi have as much influence as people think they do. If anything, they're more insignificant than ever, unless you're a B-Lister trying to restart your career. Their main concern is selling tabloids, something I don't really care about anyway. From a photographic perspective, their impact is zero.

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    model: Next's Inna by Richard Dubois
    styling: Alicia Simpson (Plutino); hair & makeup: Vanessa Jarman (Page One)

    What is currently in your photography bag?
    My camera bag if fairly empty most of the time: A couple of Nikon bodies and prime lenses. I generally don't buy a lot of toys, as I end up not using them anyway.

    Do you have any recommendations for weekend photographers and/or photographers in general?
    I would tell "weekend photographers" to keep it simple and make sure they're having fun more than anything else. They should also think long and hard before making any big decisions to go full time. Photography as a career is essentially self-employment and for that reason alone it is definitely not for everyone.

    How do you feel about the industry demands for thin models. Do you agree or do you disagree and why?
    Fashion is a time-tested industry, so it really makes no difference what I think about how thin models should be. I realize that fashion can sometimes present a distorted version of reality, but that is exactly what fashion is: pure fantasy. The film, television and movie industries are all just as guilty! The vast majority of models I've worked with over the years have all been young, tall and thin, but also quite healthy. They know that they don't represent the average woman and I'm sure the average reader of fashion magazines knows this too.

    What was your first professional photography job?
    I think my first real professional job was shooting eyewear for a retail company. The model was a friend and we were both paid in cash and sunglasses. It was actually a very fun experience - the client knew less than I did about advertising eyewear and I knew next to nothing, so we were given a lot of latitude. I wouldn't be surprised if those pictures are still sitting in a store window somewhere.

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    model: Elmer Olsen's Serafima by Richard Dubois
    styling: Manj Gill; hair & makeup: Jukka (Plutino)

    Please tell us a secret about you that no one knows
    Whenever I'm asked about any secrets I may have, I always disappoint: The fact is that I really don't have any deep secrets. I've always been something of an open book. I find life is much simpler that way.

    What are your immediate goals as a photographer?
    My immediate goal as a photographer is to make it to next week with enough sleep and my sanity intact. My goal for the following week will be mostly the same. True to form, my longer term goals are fairly simple: Stay ahead of the curve, keep building on the successes I have and forge new working relationships. That last one is particularly important: meeting and working with new talent is like creative fuel to me and one of the things I love most about my job.

    Do you would have any departing words of wisdom to leave for us to think about when moving forward with photography for the future?
    I'm not sure I have any truly profound words of wisdom to impart, except to just keep busy. In the twelve short years I've been shooting professionally, I've seen many things change, most notably when the internet and digital imaging took over - there are always new and exciting things to learn about, so go out and learn them. Fashion reinvents itself four times a year, so that in itself is enough to keep you busy.

    Thank you again Richard for your time and for giving back!


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