I’m brimming with excitement to share my experience, photographing a dynamic character I had the pleasure of meeting. I was contacted by a representative of a company who was compiling an profile article for the Chronicle Herald in Halifax. The Article is an “appointment ad”, and was going to feature Ernie Porter, a fellow who has built his 25 year career as an engineer in construction with J.W. Lindsay. The focus of the ad however is that he’s been appointed to the Advisory Board of EastPoint Engineering.
That’s about all I knew going into the shoot. I was told that the setting would be Ernie’s cottage, which is just outside the Town of Antigonish, and that there would be a few artifacts around his barn and property that would imply his background in construction and engineering.
As I was driving along the dirt road to Ernie’s cottage, I nearly put the car in the ditch. I couldn’t help but rubber-neck at this massive replica of the Cape George Lighthouse (I learned later that Ernie had build put the lighthouse up with his father in a matter of hours, astonishing his neighbours when they arrived home at the end of the day). I parked the car near several small cottage buildings and near a large barn. I was instantly put at ease with Ernie’s disarming smile and charm. He proudly gave me a tour of his diverse 10 acre property, and I was astounded by what he showed me. It turns out, that Ernie’s property was the original landing site of Irish settlers, 200 years ago!! Not only are there several foundations still existing on the property, but Ernie can’t help but find artifacts when he tills his garden, or dredges the beach to build his dock. Ernie guaranteed me that I’d be going home with an artifact or two, and he was right. He brought me to the edge of a freshly tilled garden (which was about 10×5 feet), and pointed out that I needn’t dig around to find anything. Sure enough, I had pulled out a piece of timber, part of a clay pot, and two pieces of a plate which together, showed a British coat of arms!! I couldn’t believe it.
Surveying the property and structures that Ernie had built, it was readily clear that he was a man of exceptional talent and vision. His calm persona exuded confidence, restrained by an unmistakable yet familiar humility one finds in people from Nova Scotia. Our portrait session stretched out over two hours of walking and talking. As we progressed through both the portrait shoot and the different structures and features of his beautiful heritage site, Ernie shared personal anecdotes about his two sons and his wife and stories as well as stories about how he came to settle the first settlement of Antigonish. It became apparent that Ernie Porter is a man with complex layers of emotional sensitivity and intelligence.
It was an honour and a privilege to have been called upon for this opportunity. Not only did I have an opportunity to capture and share such a celebrated and dynamic character, but professionally speaking, environmental portraiture, to me, is the very pinnacle of my guild.
Photojournalism is narrating a story through a series of images. Portraiture is an exacting science of capturing a persona while adhering to fundamental principles of design and aesthetics. Environmental portraiture is an opportunity to describe in one moment, a person’s life, experiences and character. Environmental portraiture is the theatre of my heroes: Yousuf Karsh and Joe McNally. It allows artifacts in the frame to insinuate and imply what a person is all about, while the character exudes through expression and demeanour.