Cory Vanderploeg, resident artist at Hermann & Audrey, views the world through a cinematic lens and captures a timeless narrative essence in every scene he shoots. With background in the film industry and a focus in fashion and editorial photography, Cory’s vision is one of light, motion and history. We sat down with him last week at the Studio to ask him about working in the city and that certain je ne sais quoi of photography. Take a coffee break and dive into the world of our beloved Cory Vanderploeg.
What’s the first photograph you’ve ever taken?
First photograph…i was Skiing for sure, it was at Devils Glen in Collingwood. I was about eight years old and I took a picture of my friend while skiing. It was using a film camera so I just clicked without knowing what was going to turn out. Taking photos was different back then.
Your work is mostly digital, but do you still play around with film cameras and analogue photography?
I still do a lot of stuff with analogue, Super 8 stuff. It’s a weird vibe, it makes the photos look like they’re from the sixties, it’s pretty cool. It definitely makes it tighter, you can’t just shoot anything.
Where does your focus lie in photography? What do you enjoy shooting the most?
I enjoy shooting people. Shooting fashion photography is great as well because you just put the clothing in and it’s done, but I like to shoot little narratives more than anything, rather than a single image. Obviously there’s always going to be the one off that does stand alone but I like to shoot a collection. I also love creating a photograph that you can look at in ten years time and it still looks amazing.
What’s it like being here in Toronto, with photographers all over the place, in a generation that has such easy access to capturing moments? How do you think photography has changed?
I like it. I think it steps the game up. If you’re good at something, it makes people who are also good at it want to be better. It gives you a sort of push. So many people have access to it, nowadays you have to be smarter and more disciplined. I like the fact that a lot of people shoot, it wouldn’t be the same if there were only, say, three photographers in the city. We’d be getting a lot more work, but I like the fact that having so many makes everyone strive to be better. You can’t just buy a camera and call yourself a photographer.
You see that nowadays a lot.
There’s more to it than that. People who do photography can see it, it’s more than a nice, clean image, anybody can do that. There’s that oomph factor that you can’t really put into words.
That certain je ne sais quoi of photography. What captures your eye the most?
Exactly. What captures my eye the most? Every time I see light. Light breaking through a window, a natural backlight behind someone sitting down, that kind of stuff is all I think about all day. It’s weird going through life like that, I always zone out looking at light, seeing what could come out of it, how I can manipulate it, my mind kind of goes weird.
Do you prefer shooting during the day or at night?
I’ve shot a lot at night, but it just doesn’t look that nice. You can get that gritty, dark vibe shooting at night: all those shadows, a definite sense of drama. I’m more of a natural shooter, I don’t really like using light strobes so I only shoot during the day. I’m always trying to find shadows, take what I’m shooting, put it into a scene and work with that rather than forcing light. It’s a different approach.
How did you transition to photography from film?
When I started assisting Steve Carty here at Hermann & Audrey, I had no formal photography training. About three years ago I emailed Steve randomly when I was working at IATSE, saying that I wanted to work in photography. He called me in the next day to talk for an hour, my car got towed, I was shattered. The next day I came into Hermann & Audrey and I’ve been here ever since. He was the first and only person I e-mailed. Three months later I wasn’t his assistant anymore because I was shooting too frequently and it was affecting his work.
Do you have another photographer who has inspired or motivated you in particular?
Peter Lindbergh for sure. He shoots for Italian Vogue, 15-16 page editorials with the biggest names. He shoots stories, full-feature film type stuff.
You’re in film as well. What’s that like?
I’ve worked in film for a while. I went to film school and I worked at a union called IATSE so when a major picture came to town I was a grip on set and I would help set up the lighting. I want to be a DP, a director of photography. The youngest DP in the city with the union was like 47. I can slowly make my way up the ranks and maybe get that job.
Why do you think the priority is given to older people?
It’s weird, I honestly think its politics. You have to start as pond scum and work your way up, which you can’t do in three months. You have to be around a certain crew, impress someone, so when they work for another crew they recommend bringing you in…Slowly chip away at it. I’ve seen so many people get fired, and over one small mistake too. They just don’t bring you back the next day.
Ideal model to shoot and ideal location?
Model I don’t really care about. Beautiful people are great to shoot but I like interesting people: exaggerated features, things like that. I always use the term alien-cute. The dream location would be somewhere in Italy, I’d love to shoot in really old italian villages. Not dilapidated, but super old, high-end fashion vibe and the juxtaposition with old and new. You probably couldn’t shoot a bad picture. Or somewhere wacky in the Bahamas.
What are your projects coming up this year?
Another exhibit for fashion week. I’m also shooting a lot of music videos for Toronto bands, and I’ve been recently worked with two hip hop artists in New York for their latest video for an EDM track. There’s also Zoetrope, a 360 degree concept film project with hair stylist Brennen Demelo that isn’t out yet. We premiered it in Chicago at a screening. It’s going to an online magazine in L.A. I’d love to do a show that is tailored to a specific room. Floor to ceiling photographs that look like they were made exactly for the space they’re shown in.
What advice would you give to people who are willing to get their stuff out there?
Well I never created stuff to show to other people, I just liked creating content. I honestly shoot and update my website twice a week, just for fun. Never stop shooting, never stop creating.