Chelsea Sleep

Chelsea Sleep. Musician and Composer. Taken June 13, 2011.

Chelsea Sleep. Musician and Composer. Taken June 13, 2011.

I first heard Chelsea play fiddle when she was about 16, warming up outside the Gibson's Heritage Playhouse. A remarkable player, she has since become a courageous instructor of younger fiddlers. Her group Bad to the Bow worked most of this summer in the recording studio to lay down tracks for their first CD. Together with Emilyn Stam Chelsea also formed The Twisted String, a group dedicated to performing the work of legendary Canadian composer and musician Oliver Schroer. Chelsea worked closely with Oliver for a number of years before his untimely death in 2008. One of the earlier students of Michelle Bruce Chelsea was also a key player in the Coast String Fiddlers, a group that inspired an entire generation of musicians. Chelsea recently released her first CD, Simple Song.

We had a number of good things come out of the shoot. The Twisted String were well known for doing an entire-band jump in the middle of some songs. So we got a bit of air time. We also took a lot of shots of her with her violin. Given who she is, Chelsea has a lot of these and at one point she said, "you know, I have SO many pictures of me with a fiddle, I'd like something different." So we did that. One of them came out of post-production, solarized, not quite showing the tom-boy fiddler most of us know.

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As a photographer the first question you run into is "is the post-processing going too far?" I've thought about that quite a bit as I go through the editing stages. Sometimes an approach to photography seems to hinge on an idea of truth. People can have very strong views on whether editing and post-processing is legitimate or not. Epistemology is contested territory in any field but it seems particularly problematic with photography. In the end I think there is no falseness in photography - only in how the photographer presents it. Said another way there are no dishonest photographs - only dishonest photographers. It's a shift in emphasis on Richard Avedon's famous statement "Every photograph is accurate. None of them is the truth."

I'm not sure why there is a need to deny the editing and post-processing in order to make a photograph seem more "artistic" or spectacular. Surely, as with any media, all the decisions someone makes are part of the art. Perhaps photography seems so invisible, and brings the subject so close, that the genius of photography is going into the world to find an exact moment - not staging it or making it up after. Obviously as a photographer who works in the studio you can't avoid staging your photos - an this leads one to be more generous with acceptance of post-processing also.

Find Chelsea Sleep's work here.

Here is an index of portraits.

Tim McLaughlin

Photographer and writer based in Vancouver, Canada