Vancouver-based photographer Kamil Bialous recently teamed up with Cottage Life Magazine for an editorial shoot featuring the beautiful Sunshine Coast cottage of Canadian writer/performer John MacLachlan Gray. Nestled in the forests of BC’s western coast, this gorgeous home features a spectacular birds-eye-view of the ocean and is simply decorated, making it a zen-filled vacation home. After meeting with art director Kim Zagar on a portfolio trip in Toronto, Kamil immediately knew that his style would be well-suited for the visual direction that Kim and the magazine were trying to take. When asked to photograph John Gray and his cabin, Kamil was confident that he could transform this editorial assignment into a story. I caught up with Kamil on all the fun and beautiful aspects of the shoot. Enjoy!
How does this project fit into your photographic style?
The story was about 2 people enjoying their West Coast cabin by the ocean, which is essentially what I want to do every day. I love where I live— the proximity to mountains and ocean is unbeatable, so it suits me and my style perfectly to get to photograph stories like this for a living. I enjoy assignments where the photos you make aren’t 100% known, where exploring the subjects, people and landscape is what will guide you to the photographs you should be making. For assignments like this, spending a good chunk of time with your subject is paramount. There is a trust that’s built over time, and there is a curve to the photographs that you make as the subjects slowly open up.
This was an editorial assignment but do you shoot personal work as a photographer as well?
Personal work allows me to experiment and evolve my style, but I don’t really separate the way I shoot personal work from client work. It’s all the same to me. I like to think I get hired for my overall approach to photographing, and I don’t turn off one part of my brain and say “ok, now I’m going to shoot an assignment” or change something crucial to my workflow. All photographs end up being personal because of the flavour/style/process that you bring to them. I’m just as committed to my personal projects as I am to making sure that the assignment ends up being a reflection of who I am as a photographer, which is again, hopefully why the client hired me in the first place.
Were there any challenges involved with this project?
No major challenges as I remember, just beautiful landscape and amazing hosts. The weather cooperated perfectly.
What was involved in planning and preproduction?
We had to coordinate a schedule around an available weekend for the cottagers, making sure it lined up with a weather window. From there, it was a boat ferry to get to the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver, followed by about an hour drive to an ocean inlet. I arrived quite late in the night and the narrow winding path down to the cottage was unlit and through a forest. I enjoyed that steep hike a few times that evening to haul my gear by the light of my headlamp. Other preparations included a stop at the food, beer, and wine store. Really tough gig.
What has the reaction to the images been so far?
It’s been great. My priority was to make the art director stoked on what I shot, and once that was accomplished everything else is icing. The photos are really true to how I shoot – try to find quality light and allow subjects to move within that space while picking up on interesting movements and compositions. I ended up landing two separate covers (one for the eastern edition of the mag and one for the western).
Did you learn anything through the creation of this series?
I always learn something and have amazing hindsight into how I should have photographed someone or something, or composed something differently. But that’s what’s really fun with these types of shoots, you make yourself available to photograph in a new location unknown to you, and you go explore it, hoping to come back with something worthwhile. Over time you learn how and where to look, and how to allow for interesting things to unfold naturally.
To view more of Kamil’s work, visit his site.