Norm Edwards - Creating pictures that tell a story

Career Focus
Montreal based Norm Edwards talks to MontrealFashionBizvie.com about fashion photography and his career as a photographer. Norm's career in photography spans over a decade. Norm is multi-talented and has involved himself in a variety of interests and careers including television, radio and even the Canadian armed forces. Norm discusses his first love, photography, in his interview with Shilpa Varghese (Editor - Montreal Fashion Bizvie) and also shares some of his amazing work with us.

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You have had a varied career path, how did you decide to take up photography? Was there a defining moment that factored in your choice of photography as a medium?

N.E: I could write a book on this alone but I will try to sum it up. All I can say is that since a very young age, I've always appreciated the art of photography. I would go in my hometown library and would go through as many magazines that I could. It's really in the 80's that I began to study photography as I subscribed to the now defunct "Life" magazine as well as "National Geographic" and "Photo" magazine. But I couldn't afford the equipment as well as the photography courses, not counting a black room etc... In 1999, I purchased my first digital camera: Kodak DC240, 1.9 mega pixels (At a cost of $697.00!!!) and began to shoot. First friends and family. Oddly enough, friends of friends began calling me for me to shoot them. And thus, with practice I became better and was able to expand my equipment to where I am now. I did my studying of photography from fashion magazines such as "Vogue", "Elle", "W", "GQ", just to name a few.

Norm, what about fashion attracts you as a photographer?

N.E: Well there is "Fashion" photography and there is "High Fashion" photography. I like the latter more. There is something about creating a story that appeals to me. I love working with crazy and creative hair stylists and make up artists. I like to sit down with that team and my assistant and storm ideas about our next shoot. I love taking the time to find the model that I think will be perfect for the event and how far we can push the session. Ansel Adams used to say: "It's not about taking a picture, it's about creating a picture". But in order to push this shoot even further, you have to enhance it via digital editing and that is where I find my satisfaction.

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You have some stunning images and models on your site. What do you usually look for in your fashion models?

N.E: The models that I look for need to have an absolute open mind and value their body as part of the picture. The model is part of the creativity. I don't have the monopoly of creativity. I can't do it without her/his help. I don't like barriers and love to cross the line, albeit all in good taste. Beauty is important but not the prime factor. One of my favourite models is from Belgium and if you'd see her on the street, you wouldn't turn twice. She has a little bump on her nose, a slight gap in her front teeth and she is only 5'5". Yet, I've created some of my greatest images with her and often with nothing else than a glass of scotch as a prop. A model needs to work with everything and anything on the spot. If I shoot a model and she is nude with an apple as a single prop, I want to see what she can do with that apple. The way she holds it, the way she bites it, the way she grimaces, either portraying a sweet apple or a rotten apple. Basically, can she play?!

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Can you give us your perspective on the quality of modeling talent in Montreal?

N.E: Montreal is known around the world as having the most beautiful women and I concur. Montreal is rich in variety of colors and ethnicity. We have everything, so our bank of models never cease to grow. It has never been difficult for me to find the right model.

Who are your favorite Montreal Fashion Models?

N.E: Some are well known, some less. By visiting my website you will notice some faces that are often more present than others. If I were to give names, I could say Sarah Beauchamps, Melina Soochan, Katerina Kent and Adèle Séguin. In the U.S.A., I've done fantastic work with Amanda Bill and Daniela Lazar. Mexico would be Carolina Perez, and Pamela Cuzi from Costa Rica.

Norm Edwards - Image3Tell us about working in the Montreal fashion industry as a fashion photographer.

N.E: Since the digital era, the number of photographers has grown. Nowadays, anyone with a digital camera wants to call himself a photographer. Don't get me wrong, some of them are good but most of them aren't. However, we still have the same pie, but it's cut in many more pieces.
In the past, I have shot for various Montreal designers who have now closed their shops due to the recession. It's really sad as we have so much talent here. Once in a while, I will work with a new designer who is a bit crazy like I am and we trade our talents.
I'm shooting less fashion than I would love to, I am now more involved with the swimsuit industry. Incredibly, I'm more known in Mexico and Costa Rica than I'm known here.

Do you work alone or do you have a preferred team that you work with for your fashion photography assignments?

N.E: When called on big assignments, I do have my assistant with whom I've been working with for the last ten years. When it comes to hair and make up, I do have a bank of artists that I can chose from depending of the assignment. Chemistry within the team is of the utmost importance. I'm proud of the team that I have working with me. And sometimes I get a double whammy when I get a make up artist who can also be a hair stylist. This is a rare jewel and I'm lucky to have Mindy Ducheisne to work with me.

Tell us about your preferred choice of photography equipment?

N.E: My first camera was that little Kodak that I mentioned previously then I jumped to Olympus. Once I got enough contracts and more money flowing in, I became a Nikon user. It was going to be a choice between Nikon and Canon. Since my assistant was already working with Nikon, I preferred that choice of camera because I could double my lenses by using his and mine.

What are your thoughts about the artistic vs. commercial aspect when it comes to fashion photography, do you have any process that reconciles both these aspects in the work that you do?

N.E: Photography has changed over the last ten years. There is digital photography and editing. Editing is probably now 50% of the end result of our work. But like anything else, styles in photography change with time and one needs to keep up with the changes. We are in an era where artistic blends with commercial on a regular basis. Where things don't necessarily change, are in catalogue shots. A catalogue shot is always about the product. Artistic and commercial is about the story. And one cannot say artistic and commercial without mentioning editing. I guess that my work is a marriage of the three.

What, if any, kind of reaction do you aim for in your work?

N.E: I never aim for a reaction from viewers. I aim for what I like and what moves me. I love it when viewers become fans of my work and I am proud when I read or hear their comments.

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Your dream fashion photography assignment is?

N.E: My dreams are usually my goals. I would love nothing more than getting an assignment for "W" or "Vogue" magazine. At this time though, I would be head over heels to be one of the photographers of "Canada or America's next Top Model". As for local work, I would love a gig for Parasuco and Buffalo Jeans.

What are your other motivators/interests besides photography?

N.E: When not behind my camera or working on editing pictures on my computer, I practice and teach Kyokushin Karate at Seishin Dojo in the West Island. Let's face it, not much physical activity is done behind a camera or sitting on a chair. Kyokushin allows me to work my mind and body in a solid environment.

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Any exciting projects coming up, that you would like to talk about?

N.E: During the first weekend of December, I'm holding a glamour shoot in a three room suite at Le Meridien (downtown Montreal). December, January and February are months when I get back in touch with my make up shoots. So, mainly studio shoots and some scouting for new faces.

What is your advice for someone trying to be a fashion photographer in Montreal? What are the challenges of a Montreal Fashion photographer?

N.E: This pie has more slices that it can have! My solemn advice for those starting out is not to lose their day jobs and work it slowly.

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Best part about being a fashion photographer?

N.E: Creativity!!!! I love what I do. I couldn't be happier than I am when I have a camera in my hand and shooting what I had imagined or has just 'spurred' out of my mind. I am a thief of time and if that was a crime, I would be in jail for this life and the next!


Norm's portal for fashion photography is www.mondofocus.com his lifestyle work can be found at www.goflashphoto.com. One can also e-mail him at norm@normedwards.com.

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