10 minutes with Tony Fouhse

Interviews with Photographers September 6, 2011 8:31 am

When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?

I was quite young, 13, maybe 14 or 15. I was visiting my friend, Simon. His older brother, a hippie, had a Mamiya Sekor 35mm SLR (quite rare back then, around 1967 or so) standing on a tripod in the corner of his room, aimed out the widow.

I distinctly remember looking through the camera, focusing and framing some aspect of the world and thinking: “This is cool.”

 

Tony Fouhse

Tony Fouhse

Tony Fouhse

 

For your project, User, you photograph crack addicts on the same corner in Ottawa in the span of years. How did you gain trust with your subjects? What led you to start the project and how long did you spend on it?

USER was kind of a fluke. I knew I wanted to work with strangers at dusk, setting up scenarios based on “reality” and then photograph them. I went to 4 or 5 locations to look for people who would be interested in such a collaboration. Everyone I approached was either not interested or too busy (take your pick). Out of desperation I went to the corner of Cumberland and Murray Streets where I knew there were always crack addicts hanging around. I unloaded the gear (Hasselblad, tripod, Profoto with softbox and a generator). The addicts all looked at me like I was crazy. I talked to a few of them but they were all suspicious so I gave up. As I was loading the gear back into the car an addict walked by, saw the camera and asked: “Are you looking for a subject?”

I took some frames of him. A couple of his friends (also addicts) offered to pose as well. A few days later I took back prints to give to them. Other addicts saw the prints, figured I was trying to do something interesting, not the usual shots of addicts but a collaboration to show another aspect of their fact. I shot some more and returned again with prints.

And so on…..Over time I began to know them and they began to know me and the collaboration continued.

Each year I returned I shot using a different approach/style. There are many ways of looking at one subject in one small area. I also used the idea of cliché when shooting. The women I photographed in 2008 are shot much differently that the images of the men I shot the following year.

The project is called USER to point to the fact that the subjects use drugs, I use the subjects, they use me (to reach the outside world) and (I believe) anyone who consumes these images is using both the subjects and me.

 

Tony Fouhse

Tony Fouhse

 

Tony Fouhse

Tony Fouhse

Tony Fouhse

 

 

What can an editor to do be most helpful when giving you an assignment?

The best editors know who shoots what, and how. The best thing an editor can do is to put the right photographer next to the right project, then stand back. Micromanagement robs creators of ownership. Giving ownership is always the best way to get the best work.

 

Tony Fouhse

 

Tony Fouhse

Tony Fouhse

Tony Fouhse

 

If you could photograph any living person, who would it be?

Courtney Love

Are you currently working on any personal projects?

I’m wrapping up three long term projects right now, USER and a project called AMERICAN STATES, which I’ve been shooting in the USA, off and on, since 2002. The other project, which fell into my lap as a result of shooting USER, is called LIVE THROUGH THIS and follows the life of a heroin addict named Stephanie.

I met Stephanie last year. There was something about her that made me blurt out the words “Is there something I can do to help you?”. She asked me to help her get into rehab. I said “Yes” and we agreed that I would photograph her as she lived her life and moved towards help.

That journey lasted 5 months and went from despair and horror towards hope. Through twists and turns that were unimaginable to us when we began. I blogged about it weekly. You can see a video precis (used for some crowd funding) of it here.

I have just started a new project, which doesn’t involve drugs or the USA. It’s in the preliminary stages now, I’m still working out how and what I will shoot to convey my message. I can tell you that all the photos will all be shot in Ottawa and it will be, like all my personal work, political in nature.

(Tony is based in Ottawa. See more of his work, here)

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