When I was first asked to recollect the 2015 DocTalks Festival and Symposium, it was one of great difficulty for me as an individual.  I say this because during my 30+ years involvement in Commercial Photography as a Freelancer, the DocTalks Festival was in essence “just another job” and at the time I didn’t or couldn’t foresee my involvement with the organization and how within it, my career as a visual artist would develop. 

Freelance Photographers go from one opportunity to the next, ensuring that each commission is executed as professionally and completely as the one before; the 2015 DocTalks Festival & Symposium fell under this construct.  Incredibly, I couldn’t recall what commissions took place prior to it, nor what followed directly afterwards.  I can now equate this to a “clearing of the mind” so that each commission is approached as its own event and is not biased or prejudiced in any way that may affect my overall performance or professionalism.   When it comes to my photography the statement “He has the memory of a Goldfish” rings true!

Now that I’ve been formally asked, I have amazingly taken the time to try to piece together this event, so here it goes…

…Photography has always been magical to me, from the first time that I opened my Parent’s Wedding Album, the power to capture “moments in time” and in turn have each image tell its own story was a thing of wizardry and wonder.  Could my own images reflect what happened in 2015 and fill in those gaps that my memory could not?  My idea became a plan of action once I found the hard drive that contained the 2015 DocTalks Symposium and as I slowly reviewed the images, the magic of the photograph revealed itself to me again. 

My involvement began when I was asked by a mutual friend and Co-Worker–Jon Collicott–if I was available to shoot the 2015 DocTalks Symposium.  DocTalks wasn’t an organization I’d heard of, but as a Freelance Photographer this was not a deterrent.  This coincides with when I first was introduced to Lloyd Salamone, as it is he who set my Festival shooting schedule.  Once agreed, I began by shooting at Memorial Hall at UNB where a film about the Canadian Military was being shown.  I remember seeing a small cohort of men in uniform, with a small group of civilians in attendance.  Don’t ask me what the short documentary film was about, because I intensely concentrate on my lighting and composition—while working–to be too concerned with what was being shown.  Truth be told, I only seem to absorb only 50% of what actually is happening at similar events.  With my lens locked on local MLAs and attendant Guest Speakers while also tracking the small audience as they watch the film.  As a “documentarian with a camera” I desire to capture the intensity of the screening, which upon reflection, I felt that I achieved.  Working in “low light” is challenging at the best of times, so I was pleased that I came away with something useable.  What I recall about this event was the level of expertise and knowledge coming from the Guest Speakers; some I knew prior to this event, but it was the first time seeing them in this capacity.  The event was well organized and for me to have the license to “shoot anywhere” was an added benefit. 

The next event I was scheduled to photograph was at STU, with a “roundtable of sorts” (a Q & A) happening.  Again, a huge thing for my style of shooting is to be given “freedom” to roam around and find my shots.  This was again permitted by the organizers of the DocTalks Symposium, and so my images reflected a different feel of the day, with the Speakers erudite and the audience engaged.  I enjoyed the time spent and since I didn’t have to face the challenges that that a dark auditorium presented, my photographs presented an altogether more enlivened tone.  Because of my images, I now remember this Symposium with warmer memories than before.  I remember; the “smudging”, the panels, bits of documentary movies, faces, uniforms, questions raised and answers given–but most importantly–people that I didn’t know back then, but do now!  

This world of Documentary Filmmaking was originally a foreign one, but by immersing myself in the atmosphere of the 2015 DocTalks Festival and Symposium it probably sowed the seeds for me to venture behind a movie camera.  I do remember saying to myself years earlier that “Film would be the natural progression from a career in Stills which I foresaw myself moving into in the future.” I’m unsure that I had shot anything up unto that point and so to be surrounded by such talented individuals (although as previously mentioned, I only retain approx. 50% when working) there must have been a type of osmotic reaction, because I have since picked up a Movie camera and have Cinematographer credits for both Short Film Dramas and Short Film Documentaries.  I have not completely forgotten about Stills, but have since moved sideways to embrace Fine Art Photography, with my most prestigious exhibition to date at The Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton NB.   

To say that my association with DocTalks began with this encounter in 2015 would be an understatement, I have been a Boardmember since 2016.  With Cinematographer/Directorial contributions to the “Open Your Eyes” series and now presently sit as President.  I’ve always revelled in the challenges that DocTalks presented, forcing me to “step up” whenever the need arose.  The Board has always consistently pushed the organization forward and with creation “The DocTalks Guide” we now have an instrument to continue collaborations between Documentary Filmmakers and Educators to enable all to tell their own stories, informatively and visually stimulating.  

I thank Lloyd Salamone for seeing something in me from our initial encounter and our working together as Board Members to progress the union of Documentary Filmmaking and Education.

Gary Weekes