Dale Roth and Michele Ramberg (R&R) are photography partners. Roth, based in Vancouver, and Ramberg, situated in Calgary, founded their company in 1993, with a mission to evolve their craft and grow a portfolio that embraces diverse genres of photography, challenging their creativity and ability. “We founded our company with the loose business plan of ‘work hard and have fun doing it,’ and the rest would take care of itself,” Ramberg says. “After 25 years in business, these are still our goals, with the addition of creating trust in our ability and our brand.” One of this photo team’s key proficiencies centres on portraits, shooting everyday people with an intimate, natural, and expressive approach. They seek interesting subjects who do not fit into the mainstream mould. “It’s hard to explain “interesting,” but it is something about appearance (young and vibrant, old with great character, attractive, tattooed), or a demeanour and confidence that attracts us,” Roth says. “As far as capturing spirit, I guess what makes us good at it comes from years of photographing people. Eventually most subjects relax while we shoot and feel confident and comfortable, or even vulnerable at times. That movement of honesty usually leans to the best photo. In the end, we want our subjects to forget they are being photographed,” Ramberg adds.
“WHAT CANADA OFFERS BESIDES BEAUTY IS A GENUINENESS OF THE PEOPLE.” —MICHELE RAMBERG
A project that has been gaining strong interest and visibility for R&R is their recent bookwork, Woodworkers Along the Salish Sea, featuring artists who carve and their stories, inspirations, visions, and creative processes.
The area along the Salish Sea, near Sooke, British Columbia, is inspirational to a wide diversity of people: weird, helpful, and friendly characters who understand and appreciate the beauty of the smells, sights, and sounds of the forests and the beaches. This region provides a mystical backdrop to the stories behind the woodworkers and their craft. It is also still relatively untouched by aggressive development. Artists are drawn here to lose themselves in the inherent wild spirituality.
“The woodworkers were chosen for this photography project primarily because of their location,” Ramberg says. “We wanted to photograph a diversity of end products — bowls, masks, furniture, ships, guitars, etc. — as well as source different cultural backgrounds and genders. After the first one or two portraits, we realized each woodworker’s shop was a reflection of the woodcutter’s personality and also represented their work. Mike, for example, has a shop that is uncannily meticulous. Every tool has a specific spot, and every machine is clean and shiny. The bowls he made were an extension of himself, just like his shop.” The artists’ carving sheds and workshops are each unique because of the tools they use, how woods are sourced and seasoned, and how the artists design, create, and produce uniquely beautiful products.
The scope of the Woodworkers project is one of evolution: the original shoot encompassed 15 woodcarvers and woodworkers in the area, with another eight still to be photographed. The R&R team say that there are at least another 25 to 30 exceptional wood artists in the Sooke area, including carvers, luthiers, shipwrights, log house builders, wood turners, and surf board makers, most of whom are over 50 years old. The photography duo is also working with writer Pirjo Raits and project organizer Phoebe Dunbar to produce this work.
“They (the woodworkers) have many skills and life experiences to bring to their craft and art. They also are very aware of where and how to source woods. Our carvers have been fortunate in that some of the timber companies have been willing to let the carvers go up onto their tree farm licences and salvage wood. We have good carving woods around — especially cedar — and it is compelling and ‘inspiriting’ to use woods native to our coast. It is relatively easy in our area to seek knowledge and ‘wood wisdom’ from mentors and other woodworkers. There is a willingness to share,” Dunbar says.
The R&R team photographed the woodworkers in black and white to highlight each carvers unique character; however, the artists’ work involves a rich spectrum of colours, so currently there is a dilemma around the look of the final book. “It may be a mixture of both if we can make it work,” Roth says.
Roth and Ramberg agree that making a living as photographers is getting harder and harder because virtually everyone has a camera built into their phone. They advise aspiring photographers to hone their lighting skills as a tool for differentiating their work. “Photography is ever-changing and the new photographer has to adapt and be nimble, looking for opportunities where their skills can be combined with others to create a successful business,” the team state. “We are constantly trying new ideas and photo techniques, whether it be lighting or Photoshop. We stay on top of social media to make sure our brand is presented in a positive way, and we make sure we are connected with our photography community to promote creativity and professionalism.”