As a boy growing up in what was then Yugoslavia, my sharp-eyed grandfather warned me “a golden carriage comes along only once”. That advice taught me to be vigilant – and prepared. The town I grew up in was small and provincial but layered with history. 1700 years ago called "Sirmium", it was the capital of the Eastern Holy Roman Empire. As a kid, I'd play in the remains of the Emperor's Palace digging up shards of fine pottery and - if I dug deep enough – gold Julian coins. I was a good digger!
I picked up the drums (I ordered a kit from Germany in my early teens) after I picked up my first camera (my father's Zenit, a Soviet relic) but it was music that inspired me first. My bedroom walls were covered with concert posters by Mick Rock and the great Elliott Landy (he gave the original Woodstock festival its visual emblem: all those 60's kids in fringed buckskin vests and psychedelic prints). Drumming made me feel part of that freedom. And that energy – rebellious but determined – brought me to Canada.
I arrived in Edmonton in late summer to a winter's storm - the 2 inches it snowed that September day is still a weather record to this day. My shock was muted by the fact that I hadn't yet learned to swear in English. Everything was new to me. With some other expats, we formed a country-rock Top 40 band and played dive bars and lonely pubs throughout small town Alberta. We called ourselves ‘4inexchange' – we were like an SCTV sketch come to life.
As a drummer, way in the back, you get a certain perspective on a live gig. A separated view of the experience seen whole – the theatrics of the band but also the energy of the crowd. That was the first time I became aware of the visual value and aesthetic of a performance. Late one night after a drumming festival on the outskirts of New York – stranded – I caught a ride back to the city with the event's photographer. I was enthusiastic about having shot all these pics of my drumming idols. I was green. Still, she took me on the next night as her assistant to a gig at Radio City Music Hall. I was hooked!
Shooting live music is like a religious experience. You have to show faith, and you want to share it with others. I started by shooting Lollapalooza for the NY Times and happily survived the mud at Woodstock '94 and the violence of Woodstock '99. In all, I have shot over 800 live shows. In that below-stage pit, I learned where and when to best witness a performer thrilling a crowd. Pick the best spot and be ready. The New York Times gave me my next opportunity sending me to take behind-the-scenes shots on the set of X-Files. I immediately took to the creative chaos. TV and film are more sensitive to the value of photography and unit stills are the first expression of the quality of a production. I think we all aim to be the calibre of the great visual stylists – Scorsese, Kubrick, Bertolucci, Fassbinder, Fellini. But my role is not to tell a story but sell the production. I have very clear intent when on a set. Be respectful. Be silent. Be everywhere and get the shot without getting in the way.
I'm eager and I love what I do. Quality matters to me. I regularly update my camera equipment – now working with the latest Canon EOS – 1DX which is phenomenal. I can do next-day turnaround for all post-processing of daily material. I'm sensitive to the trust of actors – every shot must feel authentically alive. And I'm ready to go no matter the adverse conditions – shooting outdoors in BC is a naturally supernatural experience. But I'm also keen for the chance to work on international and foreign productions, that taste for adventure has never left me!
My experience working in the film industry has been all positive – no matter the challenges, obstacles and hours. I sometimes think back to my grandfather and the golden carriage. I'd like to tell him that somehow I got it to stop and pick me up. In my case, it turned into a yellow NYC taxi with a gruff old man behind the wheel muttering about how the meter stays on even if I'm only sitting in "Park". So... never waste time!
I truly look forward to my future, to adding to my story, and to the incredible images waiting for me to capture!
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