The Glenn Gould Foundation pays tribute to legendary portrait photographer
who passed away on November 3rd, at the age of 78
good photographers are like good novelists; whereas novelists capture the human essence through words, the photographer captures the individual essence through micro movements that disappear in an instant…
John understood that shooting a portrait was a more holistic process than simply focusing a camera. John could always put his subjects at ease – this was the best way to truly capture the essence of an individual.
In a 2012 interview with the Globe and Mail, John reflected on his robust career. The interview emphasized that John was always the first call when looking for portraits of the cultural elite, as, in most cases, he had several artistically stunning portraits in his records. During his later career, he discussed that he was able to have the flexibility to choose projects he was truly passionate about. Shooting the official Glenn Gould Laureate portraits was one of these projects. John was involved in every Glenn Gould Laureate portrait until the 10th Laureate, Robert Lepage, with the only exception being Toru Takemitsu, who passed away before his acceptance of the award in Toronto.
In his later career, he had the flexibility of choosing projects he was truly passionate about – shooting the official Glenn Gould Laureate photograph was one of these projects.
His work always resonated with people because they told a story of the essence of his subjects. As recounted in his Globe and Mail obituary, he once stated that capturing this essential quality was his greatest creative challenge. John believed that good photographers were like good novelists; whereas novelists capture the human essence through words, the photographer captures the individual essence through infinitesimal movements that disappear in an instant. In his own words, “it’s the gaze, or a gesture that happens in a fraction of a second which conveys something unforgettable about the person…that goes well beyond the physical recording and resonates emotionally with viewers.”
It’s the gaze, or a gesture that happens in a fraction of a second which conveys something unforgettable about the person…that goes well beyond the physical recording and resonates emotionally with the viewers – John Reeves
Throughout his career John captured so many of incredible moments that conveyed the spirit and spark of individuals like Oscar Peterson, Yo-Yo Ma, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies and Lennard Cohen, and indeed the late Joan Chalmers, whose portrait by John appears in our tribute to Joan elsewhere on this website. We at the Glenn Gould Foundation cherish, and will greatly miss his consistent support and commitment to Foundation, his warmth, passion, and the gracious “bless your heart,” with which he ended every phone call. May his legacy live on in the faces he captured over the course of his robust and diverse career.
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