You can almost smell the cedar and feel the fog on your skin.
When you look at photographer Alex Guiry’s images you are transported into the misty scenes layered with sky, trees, rock and ocean, where landscape and personality blend together seamlessly, yet stand out in contrast. His art embodies a lifestyle of surf, adventure and travel.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of taking a journey through Guiry’s ethereal world of surf culture and West Coast soaked lifestyle, then follow along. No raincoat necessary. —Carmen Kuntz
“The darkroom is the best way to teach photography. With analog, you have to learn to develop film, learn the process behind the click of the shutter. It’s all about the process…it slows me down.”
An introduction to photography as a teen started Guiry down a path of art and exploration.
“I came across photography in high school,” he says. “There was a dark room and I focused my energies there. I learned you could be smart in subjects other than math and science.”
While Guiry logged hours in the dark room, mainstream photography was evolving towards digital media. Other photographers were staring at computer screens while he was pouring chemicals and developing film.
“The darkroom is the best way to teach photography,” he says. “With analog, you have to learn to develop film, learn the process behind the click of the shutter.”
“It’s all about the process…it slows me down.” he says. This slow process is something he revels in. “I have to develop the film, scan the negative, edit it and then resize for web, print, email.”
“There is always the film versus digital debate,” say Guiry, who occasionally uses digital photography for larger commercial projects. “It’s about picking a tool that works for you. For me, film is working.”
“It’s so easy to take photos of mountains and big tall trees. Photographing somewhere flat, it’s a lot more tricky. You have to have more emotion.”
Guiry attended Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver on and off for a couple years. But travel captured his attention and he left school with a camera, surfboard and a brotherhood of friends, exploring Peru, Equador, Columbia and eventually parts of Asia.
“I learned more about myself and the world through travel than through books,” says Guiry. “Travel gave me so much more perspective.”
As he became more serious about photography, the ideas that were not as appealing in school became of deep interest. He is continually learning, reading and studying areas of the craft, especially the theories of art history.
“I’m always looking for images that remind me of the parts of Ontario that I love, even if its in Nova Scotia, Iceland or Peru. These places bring me closer to home and family.”
Ontario born, Guiry now has his feet planted firmly in the West Coast sand. But he fondly recalls many summers spent at his family cottage on Lake Eugina, 45 km southwest of Collingwood.
“During summer we would spend the majority of time up there, swimming, fishing, chopping trees down and wakeboarding—we were running wild.”
Guiry’s work is occasionally influenced by his Ontario roots. “I’m always looking for images that remind me of the parts of Ontario that I love, even if its in Nova Scotia, Iceland or Peru. These places bring me closer to home and family.”
This hunt for images and perspectives that remind him of his childhood have also helped sharpen his skills. “It’s so easy to take photos of mountains and big tall trees,” he says. “Photographing somewhere flat, it’s a lot more tricky. You have to have more emotion.”
“During summer we would spend the majority of time swimming, fishing, chopping trees down and wakeboarding—we were running wild.”
The emotion in his photos is often drawn from the environment.
“I like anything that’s got a bit of fog that distorts the image. I’m not waiting for a sunny day,” says Guiry, who shoots mostly along the coast of BC and Seattle. “It always rains here. That helps define my images.”
Guiry’s images give you a glimpse into what happened before that breath taking barrel and after the surfers make the aquatic to terrestrial transition at the end of a session. Capturing surf culture also allows him time to actually surf. Where water and sand meet is a fusion of surf culture and art—that’s where you will find Guiry, whose images portray his lifestyle. “I just started shooting what I do every week, every day,” he says.
“It’s exciting to know that this is actually possible,” he says about making a living from his art. “Realizing I can do this and I don’t have to do anything different than I’m already doing.”
And what he is doing is quite special.