Many artists have an innate curiosity about the world around them, and as a result, their art becomes a medium of exploration from which they can better understand life on earth. Squamish-based photographer Christian Tisdale has traveled throughout his home of British Columbia, learning from farmers, fishermen, and adventurers of all kinds. In a personal project he calls “Makers,” Christian strays away from the province’s alpine landscapes to tour the minds of local artisans in the workshops where they hone their crafts.
I have always been fascinated by people who have slowly built up their skills and poured their souls into the things they create, and I wanted to capture a window into their world.
Christian’s career has taken him from environmental biology to lifestyle photography, and his hobbies include woodworking, knifework, and artisanal endeavors of all kinds. He is an eager learner who appreciates working with his hands and values other creators who similarly engage in these meditative processes.
Over the years, I’ve dipped my toes into all types of crafts, and those experiences have given me a little bit of perspective on how much skill it takes to make something of quality.
The “Makers” series was a project that Christian had been grappling with for years before getting the gears into motion. Thanks to a successful career in commercial photography, he found himself too busy to produce what he envisioned. For Christian, the most challenging part of the project was starting it.
I’ve been wanting to shoot something like this for years, but never had the time. After the first couple shoots, it was so freeing to just get out and photograph it.
To maintain an authentic feel to the series, Christian sourced local talent whose work speaks to the natural resources of his community. He initially found it difficult to find subjects, as these quiet creators spend most of their days in their private sanctuaries.
It was a lot harder to find subjects than I thought it would be. Most communities of makers are closely connected to each other, so meeting with one then opened the door to other artists.
While he initially came to each location with an idea of how to stage the images, the workshops varied in arrangement, materials, and light, inspiring Christian to take another route for this project. He maintained a dark tone, which helped diffuse the clutter and debris, and this moody atmosphere fit the solitary spaces of the subjects while providing a cohesive look to the series.
I discovered after the first couple of shoots that each location was a part of the creator. Their workshops represented their personality and creative process.
When working for clients, Christian is used to fast-paced shoots and following strict deadlines. This personal project challenged his usual timeline, as he strove to hold himself to the moment and work through each shot intentionally. Christian felt that this experience was the first time in a while where he could spend quality time getting to know each subject.
Christian balanced each shoot between listening and photographing, as he had endless questions for each artisan. His interest in making helped him forge a deeper connection with the local artist community and with the ancient techniques craftsmen have been utilizing for thousands of years.
Some of these people had been pursuing their craft for their entire lives, and others had just stumbled into it on their own creative journey.
Even though Christian found it difficult to start the project, he was so engrossed in the series that it took him just as long to determine its close. He was patient with himself during this project, and after so many years dreaming up the series Christian wanted to ensure he had fully satisfied his creative ideas.
This series helped me appreciate my process more. It showed me the joy of taking the time to create images I’m proud of, and it made me feel lucky to be able to do this for a living.
While their mediums are different, Christian felt a kinship with the makers and their approaches to art. As he discussed the intention of the project with one of the subjects, a fish-leather craftswoman named Janey, Christian felt supported in his pursuits which ultimately inspired him to release his project out into the world.
As I was shooting with Janey we talked a lot about continuous improvement and developing our processes as creatives, and in relating to another creator it helped solidify my identity as an artist and a maker as well.
A maker’s workshop is their temple, and capturing them in that space was the truest way I could bring the passion of each maker to life in my images.
Photographer: Christian Tisdale