February 10th, 2021
The work of John Wenzel is hard hitting and thought provoking. With dark themes and imagery, and strong ties to mental health. His work helps to put an image to how people feel and yet can’t express. His use of surrealism feels rooted in today’s issues making it not much of a leap. His editing is fantastic truly creating a dystopian chaotic world. Even in his lighter works, there are underlying themes of loneliness, despair, strength and beauty.
Where are you from?
Child rearing days in Montreal; flew the coup to Ottawa in pursuit of becoming a scholar.
How did you get interested in Photography?
At age 12 my parents bought a SLR film camera (Canon), I thought that was the most amazing and generous gift a kid could ever get. I guess they saw a creative side in me which I wasn’t aware of back then. I fell in love capturing the benign and transforming it into something more. Through the years my interest changed but always had photography as my first love.
Do you remember the first photo you ever took?
We had a cottage near Brockville, Ontario, with farmer fields surrounding the property. Crops and a setting sun were my go-to first images. I quickly got bored with that.
What kind of camera do you use and why?
Just as a nostalgic notion I remained with Canon since the beginning…but considering my postproduction has become the heavy weight in the final edits it really doesn’t matter which system I would be using.
What is the main message you want your photography to convey?
Only until recently have I tapped into questioning the human behavior towards each other and the planet we live on. If the viewer receives a little enlightenment on the problems we face through an image of mine I’ll feel accomplishment.
What do you use to edit/retouch your images?
Arranged in Lightroom with basic adjustments then sent to CC Photoshop combined with an array of plugins.
How would you describe your style of work?
Moody, Dark, Mysterious and Surreal … an embodiment of the culture I grew to love in music and visual entertainment.
How did you get started in creating the photography you do?
During my 5 years receiving a bachelor degree in Architecture, I was in a university which taught how to develop and construct an idea, whether physical or theoretical. This training was extended into my photography, so rather than trying to find the image I decided to build it.
What is it about the Surreal that fascinates people so?
We are creatures of learning and understanding. When surrealism is thrown into the mix it now becomes a challenge of understanding; we try to formulate something which cannot happen, thereby expanding one’s mind to a larger universe. What’s not to like about that!?
What does your work say about you?
I’ve got problems (just kidding). I guess in some weird way I’m trying to convince myself and others that there are ways to solve our problems through communication. An Architect tries to foresee future problems and solve them before they get out of hand. A photographer creates a current message of the condition we reside in. Eventually, I would like to combine the two.
If you had a time machine, where would you go and what would you do?
Nothing drastic, would love to jump ahead 50 years and see how we did. If we fail, snap a Polaroid and bring it back to our leaders.
Why type of photography is your favourite to shoot and why?
Ideas continuously swarm so I quickly write them down (I have a memory of a doorknob) … they are mostly “what if” scenarios. Dozen are written down, I choose one, think about a model that fits the bill and we work on the logistics together as a team. These teams that I put together is the candy I enjoy; socializing with a creative mind similar to your end goal makes for a great Sunday afternoon.
If you could do a photoshoot with anyone who would it be and why?
Love to shoot the Queen and her corgis. Immerse them snorkeling inside a Buckingham Palace underwater scene: a Climate Change statement.
What was your most stressful shoot that you did? What happened?
Racing against the Covid clock early 2020; I amalgamated several studio shoots into one 8 hour day. 8 models, 16 concepts...we did it with a few mistakes along the way but a successful shoot nonetheless.
How have you grown as a photographer from when you first started to now? What would you like to continue to improve on?
Always an evolving trade, always learning, always trying new conceptual projects; as one gets older (now in mid-50's) ideas become more complex and thought provoking. Skill set needs to be paced with the introduction of new technology; teaching old dogs new tricks is the trick in itself.
Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?
Neither, I’m more of a Shortbread melt in your mouth kind of guy.