Many people ask me how I got started with Bubble Photography. And it's a fair question!
The truth is, it was an accident. A total fluke. Let me tell you how it happened...
All of my life, I’ve been a very creative person; I’ve had many different creative outlets over the years, from drawing to painting to film to writing. But, until photography came into my life, I mostly focused on music. I got my first record deal back in 2001 when I was 18. Since then, I’ve released many albums and ran a few music labels.
A Radical Shift from Physical to Digital
While everything went well from the early 2000’s until 2010 selling CD’s and vinyl, I started noticing a downtrend in physical sales in the early 2010’s. Prior to that, the model was simple:
- Write an album
- Record the album
- Print the album
- Promote the album
- Sell the album
- Use profits from album sales, repeat!
But, by 2010, the model wasn't working as well.
As CD sales started plummeting, I noticed people were not only downloading music, they were streaming it - in my musical niche, they were streaming it on YouTube. While people weren’t buying CD’s anymore, full albums were being uploaded to YouTube; that's how people consumed music by then.
The Solution: Music Videos
So, if people wanted to consume music via YouTube, I thought one of the best ways to reach them would be to go to the platform where they wanted to be. The plan was to shoot music videos for my bands, and the bands I represented on my record labels, as well as B-Roll videos for the full album uploads.
After running a cost-benefit analysis, I decided to get a DSLR and a few lenses, since it would be as expensive to buy the gear than to hire a semi-pro film team to shoot a video over the course of a weekend.
By 2010, DSLR’s were not only well reputed for the quality of their pictures, but also for their robust yet affordable video recording abilities. On online forums, people were singing their praise, reporting that some movies were using Canon 5D’s on their sets as back up cameras.
So, on top of being in a few bands and running record labels, in the early 2010’s, I also became a videographer.
In order to keep costs as low as possible, I developed a music video development strategy:
- Involve as few people as possible, both on-camera & crew;
- Scope out beautiful locations with little foot traffic that are either free to shot, or abandoned;
- Plan out the shot in advance, but don't over-extend your stay on location, i.e. shoot the material as quickly as possible
- Get out before someone catches you.
The idea was to not spend a lot on every video by avoiding to hire actors, crew and paying for a physical location. Those were my major constraints, but I strongly believe that constraints drive creativity (maybe I'll write a blog post about that one day).
Here’s a music video (featuring Yours Truly) where those principles were applied. On top of that, that video was the first time I implemented a few different macro techniques, along with many other techniques, like stop-motion animation:
This next video, I shot by fastening the camera to a plane window aimed at the horizon – I shot it over a day, traveling from Toronto to Moncton and then back in a day. I managed to get those cool shots for under $300. No actors, no location rental, except for a plane flying at a high altitude:
While that was a cool concept which I still enjoy, I realized pretty quickly that shooting macro would allow me to stay indoors and not have to travel much!
Fast-Forward to the Summer of 2016
Essentially, from 2010 until 2016, I divided my time and attention between writing and releasing albums, and recording music videos.
In August 2016, I was supposed to record an album in my home recording studio. I had booked a full week to take care of that: 7 days, 1 song per day. I had spent the 3 months prior to that writing, tweaking and rehearsing that album. I was ready.
But, within the first hour of the first recording session on the first day, my computer’s hard drive crashed: fatal error. Quickly, I took the car to the “Computer Doctor” who told me my computer would be down for a week while everything got taken care of.
On Day 1, I was staring into the Great Abyss: I was facing a full week of downtime with nothing else to do. Clearly, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I had set out to do. Huge failure.
After a quick brainstorm session, I decided the best use of my time for that week would be to create music videos for that album I would have recorded. This way I’d have music videos ready to be released earlier than planned! If I played my cards right, I thought I might even be able to record 1 music video per day, so seven total, for the seven songs I was supposed to record!
But, one of the challenges I was faced with was that I didn’t have any budget secured to invest into any videos. I already owned a macro lens; I owned some arts fluids—remember earlier in this blog post when I said I used do draw and paint? Plus, for the Pantaloon Descendo video above, I had already been dabbling with food dye in water.
So I decided to push the concept of filming liquids a bit further: I looked around the house for things to experiment with: in the kitchen, in the garage, in the art studio. And I just played with liquids and filmed it all.
One of the first things I did was to cover my hand in various inks – I was interested in how the color would tunnel through the small creases of my skin.
Fascinated by that picture, I kept on experimenting with more and more liquids. Within a few days, I had figured out how to create colorful bubbles. Here are some of the first pictures I ever shot in this style, during that week of August back in 2016:
Around that time, I was also experimenting with different types of liquid photography - here are some pictures from my archives:
Bolstered by my newfound interest in liquid photography, I felt my interest from music wane pretty quickly. That was a very weird feeling, especially given how I had just dedicated 15 years to recording and releasing music. But from August 2016 til April 2017, I still kept on focusing on music. Bubble Art became a hobby, but I didn’t really see any real-world application to it.
I mean, by no means am I a trained photographer. So I wasn’t looking at the world through a photographer’s lens; I was still looking at the world through the lens of a musician; how could I use these pictures and videos of bubbles as a backdrop for my music?
But in April 2017, something switched in me - after a prominent Instagram account, LoveWatts, shared one of my pictures, I realized it was time to dump music. On April 12th, I decided to get rid of all my music gear and go all-in with The Big in the Small.
I sold all my music instruments (except for a few that hold sentimental value), dismantled my recording studio and sold all my music recording gear that I had painstakingly acquired over the previous 15 years.
Then I reinvested everything in Bubble Art, and the rest is history!