Art’s Private Pathway

Tapestry Magazine, Christmas 2005
by Wendy Soloduik

With the pace of life ever quickening,we have become reliant on cameras to capture the quiet moments in life we would have otherwise missed. Garry Conway, a professional photographer and King Township resident, uses his imagination to lead us down art’s private pathway, into a meadow of serenity. It is here, that we can rejuvenate and rebuild what stress has torn down.

The interesting thing about photography is that anyone with a 35mm or digital camera can claim to be a photographer. Unlike painting, where you either have it or you don’t (and it’s usually pretty obvious), a photographer needs to work harder, get up earlier and wait longer for that good shot, that better light or that best vantage point. Experience tells you how to use your equipment, but talent ensures others see your vision. Garry Conway is in possession of such talent.

Since he was a teenager, Garry knew that he was interested in photography. Over the last seven years, his work has begun to diversify, including many images of our natural world. Using the “clarity” and “focus” that is required of a great photographer, Garry has patiently spent many hours outside, waiting for those perfect, and often unseen, moments in nature. Time is no match for Garry’s Pentax and many an animal, landscape and insect have been frozen in time, perfect, forever.

Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Garry settled in Ontario 20 years ago, after realizing that a change in venue would allow him an opportunity to expand and grow. Initially, he landed in Toronto, where he worked in Arts Administration for 13 years. Although an Ontarian, Garry still maintains a summer retreat in Nova Scotia, and returns often to canoe in the still waters of their many national parks.

The move to King Township came seven years ago. Garry and Pam have relished the opportunity to establish a native garden retreat in their backyard, and wasted no time getting the project started. Each year the garden grows and it is a project that allows them time together and a place to demonstrate their talents as educated horticulturalists. As a bonus, the garden provides Garry with great subject matter for his art, without the travel time.

In a digital age, Garry has remained true to film. After planning and taking his shots, he processes the negatives into pictures. He then scans the prints into his computer, where he then has the option of adjusting the photo, if required, while maintaining full artistic control. Using Photoshop, Garry can bring focal points into sharper focus or use the addition of colour to change a photos impact. Once perfect, the pictures are then sent out for reproduction on a larger scale. Garry has used the same lab for years to enlarge his pictures into an “optimal” 12 x 18 size. Once enlarged, Garry frames all of his pieces himself at home, to ensure his portraits are properly encased forever. Garry uses double white matting and stains his wooden frames in complementary colours.

Having advanced computer knowledge, Garry has also pursued a career as a website designer. His aim is to create sites that are functional, user friendly and easy on the eyes. Recently, Garry was commissioned to develop the site for the Grand River Project (view at: www.kwag.on.ca). This project took a year to complete, and involved taking pictures at every popular point along the river. After shooting 150-200 photos, Garry then had the dubious task of selecting the pictures that best reflected the river in both a contemporary and historical light. The website also features a 360 degree, computer stitched, view from within the river itself. Garry lost a boot to the muddy banks of the river in pursuit of this achievement.

Garry also co-designed the website for the Centre for Canadian Contemporary Art, this time providing focus on the historical component. View at: www.ccca.ca

His own recently finished website, featuring photos and information on his art and website design, can be viewed at: www.gconwayphoto.com

Garry’s photos hang on the walls of the Oakridges Moraine Foundation office and have been auctioned at the Mayor’s golf tournaments. His work is also on display at the Jordash Gallery in King and is currently on exhibit at the King Township Museum until the end of December. Garry’s work has also been recognized by Canadian Geographic, and last year he won first place in their annual photography competition. His shot of a Heron, fishing near a waterfall won him not only a new Nikon camera, but national recognition. A plaque recognizing Garry’s accomplishment hangs in his home, and reads “Although the light was fading, the bird stood perfectly still while waiting for a fish, allowing Conway to shoot with his camera lens wide open … the judges found his technically strong composition to be elegant and visually poetic.”

The fact that the Heron stood still, allowing him him the opportunity to set up his equipment, does not surprise Garry. “Animals will actually pose for me. I take their picture from a distance, and then carefully move closer.” Many of Garry’s other still-life shots have been captured in similar fashion, proving that Garry’s theory may not be far from the truth.

His understanding and respect for the subject he is working with is evident in the finished product. Each picture Garry sells clearly identifies the species featured on the back of the print, or in the name itself. He does this to provide respect for both the purchaser, and the animal itself.

Garry has travelled throughout our continent, and many others, in pursuit of that perfect photo. His treks include trips to the Arctic, Spain, Africa, Europe and all across North America. “We did a trek to the Arctic a few years ago,” Garry said. “Other people on the trip were complaining because I am in all of their shots! I never left the bow of the ship. It was a wonderful experience.” Garry also frequents Algonquin National Park, and tries to time his visits to coincide with the wildlife migration in that area. In the future, Garry and Pam hope to visit Happy Valley in Labrador, Costa Rica, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

Garry is as involved in King Township, as he is with his photography. He volunteers as a trail captain for the Oak Ridges Trail Association. This job involves clearing bush from the paths, keeping bridges in order and ridding the trails of fallen trees. He also clears garbage at the road access points, to ensure the land is kept beautifully, for all to enjoy. Garry also sits on a newly founded township commission, an umbrella group, focusing on the improvement of the arts, heritage and environment within King. Additionally, Garry is a member of the Laskay Hall Committee, a group that aims to preserve the heritage of the original hall and keep it in good repair so that it may be enjoyed by the local community.

Garry also volunteers for the Toronto Conservation Authority, and does environmental and terrestrial monitoring.

This involves looking for indicator species of plants, birds and animals, in specific areas, which helps the Authority to control and maintain populations.

When he is not taking pictures, clearing logs or travelling, Garry simply enjoys spending time at home, and hiking through his surrounding property. In the summer, you can catch him recording natures “operas” in the waterways near his home. He will often sit out, and listen to local frog species sing their lullabies at dusk. So far, Garry has identified many different rhythmic patterns, unique to each pond in his area. He sometimes records the sounds of thunderstorms as well, and uses the melodies he captures to create original soundtracks for his websites and for personal relaxation.

When asked “What makes a good photographer?” He replied: “You have to have a connection and a passion for whatever you are photographing. In some cases, it comes down to being at the right place, at the right time. That can make up 60-70% of taking a good photo. You also have to find and compose a good subject and make the right technical decisions, paying attention to contrast, light, colour and foreground and background. I am able to see the picture on paper before I even take it. It is important to know where the eye will travel to, when viewing the finished product.”

Garry Conway is unique. Not only because he has two different coloured eyes (one is blue, one brown), but because he has made a living doing what he loves to do. His on-going commitment to King Township is unfaltering and he dedication to his art forever evolving.