Announcing the Winners of the 41st Annual National Magazine Awards

On June 1st, the National Media Awards Foundation (NMAF) proudly presented the winners of the 41st annual National Magazine Awards. The gala was hosted by award-winning reporter Noémi Mercier, and held at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. 

“Tonight, the Canadian magazine community congregated in Toronto to celebrate the best in our industry. Special guests joined our writers, editors, designers, publishers, and visual artists to celebrate excellence in magazine journalism. On behalf of the National Media Awards Foundation, and those working in this great and vibrant industry, I congratulate the winners and nominees of this year’s National Magazine Awards.”Nino Di Cara, President of the NMAF

BEST NEW MAGAZINE WRITER
The prestigious Best New Magazine Writer award was presented to Jessica Rosefor her piece “Lost and Found” published in Toronto Life. This award recognizes an emerging author whose early work in magazines shows the highest degree of craft and promise.

The National Magazine Awards jury said of the story:

“With the suspense and pacing of a great mystery, Rose unwinds her own search for family and belonging with an outstanding, unputdownable rookie effort.”

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Honourable mentions went to Julian Brave NoiseCat (Canadian Geographic), Justin Dallaire (United Church Observer), Christopher Elliott (Outpost Magazine) and Hadiya Roderique (The Walrus).

MAGAZINE GRAND PRIX

The Site Magazine—a literary, architecture, and urbanism journal—captured the coveted Magazine Grand Prix award. This award honours the magazine that delivers the best consistency, packaging, and reader experience; that demonstrates overall excellence in bringing teams together to create a spectacular product; is aspirational and inspiring, helping to take magazine media to the next level. The National Magazine Awards jury said of the magazine:

“The Site Magazine impresses readers with the consistency of its content and design. Though highly specialized, this audacious magazine captures the essence of contemporary publishing through a conceptual approach that illuminates our time in an intelligent, deep and original way. The result is a great reader experience on every page, one that is truly deserving of the Magazine Grand Prix.”

The Site Magazine was also the winner of the Best Magazine: Art & Literary award, and the Silver winner in the Best Editorial Package category, for its whole-issue package titled “Future Legacies.”

The winners for the six GRAND PRIX: BEST MAGAZINE categories are: L’actualité for Best Magazine: General Interest; Ricardo for Best Magazine: Lifestyle; Best Health for Best Magazine: Service; FASHION Magazine for Best Magazine: Fashion & Beauty; The Site Magazine for Best Magazine: Art & Literary; and Hayo for Best Magazine: Special Interest.

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Five magazines won a National Magazine Award for the first time: Hayo, Inuit Art Quarterly, L’inconvénient, Registered Nurse Journal and The Site Magazine.

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New to this year’s program was the Edtor Grand Prix award, which was presented to Lianne George, editor of Chatelaine magazine. The award honours an individual who is making an outstanding impact on a magazine as an editor. Receiving Honourable Mention were Charles Grandmont (L’actualité) and Nicolas Langelier (Nouveau Projet).
The 2018 Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement was presented to Joyce Byrne, publisher of Avenue Calgary. Described as a “champion of magazines,” Joyce has an all-in approach to her work that makes her stand out.

“Joyce doesn’t look for easy,” notes Penny Caldwell, former editor and publisher of Cottage Life. “Since bursting onto the magazine publishing scene, she has consistently reached beyond her own sphere to help others.”

Read more about Joyce’s dedication to the magazine industry at magazine-awards.com/oa.


 

Top winning magazines at the 41st National Magazine Awards:

Magazine

GOLD

SILVER

HM

L’actualité

3

4

6

Dînette Magazine

3

0

2

The Site Magazine

2

1

0

Toronto Life

2

1

6

The Walrus

2

0

10

Maclean’s

2

0

5

Canadian Geographic

2

0

2

FASHION Magazine

1

1

7

L’inconvénient

1

1

1

Magazines that took home one Gold medal include: Best Health, Chatelaine, Eighteen BridgesELQ/Exile Magazine, Hayo, Literary Review of Canada, New Trail, Prefix Photo, Registered Nurse Journal, Ricardo, Swerve, and The Kit Compact.

Air Canada enRoute, Alberta Views Magazine, Avenue Edmonton, Azure, ELLE Canada, Flare, Hakai Magazine, Inuit Art Quarterly, Québec Science, Prairie Fire, The Malahat Review, URBANIA, and Vancouver Magazine all received one Silver medal. 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 41st NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS

The magazine L’actualité won three Gold and four Silver medals. Reporter and columnist Noémi Mercier captured Gold for her column “Des gars, des filles.” In the Service Journalism category, L’actualité swept both awards, with journalist Yanick Villedieu taking Gold for “La guerre au sucre” and Mathilde Roy Silver for “Quand Facebook remplit les biberons.” Data journalist Naël Shiab also captured Silver in Investigative Reporting for his story “Marchandises militaires : la grande hypocrisie canadienne,” as did Marc-André Sabourin in the Feature Writing category for “L’école à la chaîne. The magazine art director, Amélie Chamberland, also won silver for Art Direction of a Single Magazine Article for the piece “Changer le monde.” Finally, the publication was named Best General Interest Magazine.

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Lifestyle magazine Dînette, published by editor and art director Hélène Mallette and publisher and photographer Mathieu Lachapelle, took home three Gold Medals in the categories of Best Editorial Package (the “Salé” issue), Lifestyle Photography (“Les îles Féréo : à la frontière du monde et des saveurs”) and Art Direction Grand Prix (the “Pigment” issue).

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Toronto Life took home three medals, two golds and one silver. The coveted Best New Magazine Writer title went to emerging writer – and the magazine’s former art director – Jessica Rose, who impressed the judges with her piece “Lost and Found.” As well, writer Raizel Robin won a Gold medal for his investigation into the Toronto South Detention Centre (“The 1-Billion Hellhole”). Finally, Toronto Life captured its third award of the night thanks to Malcolm Johnston’s profile of the Blue Jays’ star third-baseman, titled “Josh Donaldson’s Road to Glory.”

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The Walrus won two Gold medals in the visual categories of Illustration and Portrait Photography. Visual artist Lauren Tamaki captured Gold for her piece “Get the Scissors,” as did photographer Sara Hylton in Portrait Photography thanks to her “Portraits of Resilience.”

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Maclean’s magazine won two National Magazine Awards, both Gold. Writer Jason Markusoff took home the award for Feature Writing (“The New Underground Railroad”), and Nancy Macdonald for Short Feature Writing (“Waiting for Death in Thunder Bay”).

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The Canadian Geographic team also took home two Gold Medals. Wade Davis, Nick Walker and Chris Brackley won in the category of One-of-a-Kind Storytelling for their “Indigenous languages of Canada Poster Map,” and writer Charles Wilkins in the writing category of Long-Form Feature Writing for his story “Trash Nation.”

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FASHION Magazine’s work was recognized twice, as the publication captured a Gold and a Silver Medal. The magazine was named Best Fashion & Beauty Magazine in addition to winning Silver for Cover Grand Prix for “40 Years of Style.”

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The French-language literary publication L’inconvénient captured two awards after receiving its first-ever nominations at the National Magazine Awards. Poet Rosalie Lessard won the Gold Medal in Poetry for her piece “Base-de-roc,” the first time in the history of the National Magazine Awards that a French-language poem has captured the Gold Medal. Meanwhile photographer David Himbert won Silver in Photojournalism and Photo Essay for his Cuban story “Les Cubains et l’après-Fidel.”

WRITING & VISUAL AWARDS

In the 18 creator-focused categories, the Gold and Silver medalists are:

Long-Form Feature Writing
Gold: Charles Wilkins, “Trash Nation,” Canadian Geographic
Silver: J.B. MacKinnon, “Death of a Modern Wolf,” Hakai Magazine

Feature Writing
Gold: Jason Markusoff, “The new underground railroad,” Maclean’s
Silver: Marc-André Sabourin, “L’école à la chaîne,” L’actualité

Best Short Feature
Gold: Nancy Macdonald, “Waiting for Death in Thunder Bay,” Maclean’s
Silver: Christopher Frey, “Osaka To ‘Em,” Air Canada enRoute

Columns
Gold: Noémi Mercier, “Des gars, des filles,” L’actualité
Silver: Anne Thériault, “Anne Thériault, Flare

Essays
Gold: Stephen Marche, “Northern Shadows,” Literary Review of Canada
Silver: Clem Martini, “When Things Fall Apart,” Alberta Views Magazine

Investigative Reporting
Gold: Raizel Robin, “The $1-Billion Hellhole,” Toronto Life
Silver: Naël Shiab, “Marchandises militaires: la grande hypocrisie Canadienne,” L’actualité

Fiction
Gold : Diana Svennes-Smith, “Stranger In Me,” Exile/ELQ Magazine
Silver: Jason Jobin, “Before He Left,” The Malahat Review

Personal Journalism
Gold: Omar Mouallem, “Homeland for the Holidays,” Eighteen Bridges
Silver: Guillaume Roy, “À vous glacer le sang,” Québec Science

Poetry
Gold: Rosalie Lessard, “Base-de-roc,” L’inconvénient
Silver: Sarah Klassen, “Beauty; Sermon series in a Mennonite Church,” Prairie Fire

Professional Article
Gold: Daniel Punch, “Living Me,” Registered Nurse Journal
Silver: Linda Besner, “The Glass Tower,” Azure

Profiles
Gold: Danielle Groen, “Courage, My Love,” The Kit Compact
Silver: Malcolm Johnston, “Josh Donaldson’s Road to Glory,” Toronto Life

Service Journalism
Gold: Yanick Villedieu, “La guerre au sucre, L’actualité
Silver: Mathilde Roy, “Quand Facebook remplit les biberons, L’actualité

Best New Magazine Writer
Gold: Jessica Rose, “Lost and Found,” Toronto Life

Illustration
Gold: Lauren Tamaki, “Get the Scissors,” The Walrus
Silver: Robert Carter, “Family History,” Avenue Edmonton

Lifestyle Photography
Gold: Mathieu Lachapelle, “Les îles Féroé : à la frontière du monde et des saveurs,” Dînette Magazine
Silver: D. Picard, “Easy Riders,” ELLE Canada

Portraits Photography
Gold: Sara Hylton, “Portraits of Resilience,” The Walrus
Silver: Carlo Ricci, “Towing the Line,” Vancouver Magazine

Photojournalism and Photo Essay
Gold: George Webber, “Uprooted,” Swerve
Silver: David Himbert, “Les Cubains et l’après-Fidel,” L’inconvénient

One of a Kind Storytelling
Gold: Wade Davis, Nick Walker, Chris Brackley, “Indigenous Languages of Canada Poster Map,” Canadian Geographic
Silver: Inuit Art Quarterly staff and contributors, “30 Artists to Know,” Inuit Art Quarterly

EDITORIAL AWARDS

The gold winners for the editorial awards, presented to the staff of the magazine, are:

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Cover Grand Prix
Gold: Marcey Andrews, Lisa Cook, Daniella Zalcman, “Truth First,” New Trail
Silver: Brittany Eccles, Noreen Flanagan, Owen Bruce, Benjamin Shine, Anna Katsanis, Lucas Wilson, Linda Gradin, Rieko Okusa, Alexandria Rudolph, Amber Witcomb, “40 Years of Style,” FASHION Magazine

Best Editorial Package
Gold: Hélène Mallette, “Salé,” Dînette Magazine
Silver: Miriam Ho, Ruth Jones, Aisling O’Carroll, Carey van der Zalm, Michael Taylor, Nicole Bruun-Meyer, “Volume 37: Future Legacies,” The Site Magazine

Art Direction Grand Prix
Gold: Hélène Mallette, “Pigment,” Dînette Magazine
Silver: Nicolas Boissy, “Spécial nos parents,” URBANIA

Art Direction for a Single Article
Gold: Underline Studio, “Documenta Doubled,” Prefix Photo
Silver: Amélie Chamberland, “Changer le monde,” L’actualité

Editor Grand Prix
Lianne George, Chatelaine

For a complete list of winners in all categories, visit magazine-awards.com.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

The NMAF gratefully acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Media Development Corporation. The Foundation thanks its generous sponsors, CDS Global and the Reader’s Digest Foundation, as well as its partners Cision, Goetz Storytelling, Impresa Communications, Magazines Canada, RedPoint Media and Marketing Solutions, Rolland Paper, Solisco, The Arcadian Court, Toronto Life, Very Good Studios, and the Feathertale Review.

The NMAF gratefully acknowledges all its suppliers and its contributors who donated gifts in kind to support the awards program. We thank them for their generosity, interest and expertise.

 

Art Direction Grand Prix: 41st National Magazine Awards

 
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The National Magazine Award for Art Direction Grand Prix honours the individual responsible for the best art direction of an entire issue of a magazine.
This year’s National Magazine Awards jury considered an incredible array of magazines for the prize. On May 1st we announced the nominees for the 41st National Magazine Awards, and we are excited to welcome Canada’s best photographers, art directors, stylists, writers, editors, and more to the gala on June 1[Tickets]

Here’s a close-up look at the 8 finalists for Art Direction Grand Prix.

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Pigment

Dînette magazine
Hélène Mallette, directrice artistique
 


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LGBT+

esse arts + opinions
Studio Feed, art direction


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Anniversary: Celebrating 30 Years

Inuit Art Quarterly
Emily Tu, Edmond Ng, art directors


Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 11.06.38 AM.png

LSTW 02

LSTW
Carolyne De Bellefeuille, directrice artistique


Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 2.44.39 PM

Tim Hortons meets the machine

Report on Business
Domenic Macri, art director


Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 11.16.33 AM.png

Issue 23: Cheese

SAD Mag
Pamela Rounis, art director


Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 11.21.42 AM.png

Volume 37: Future Legacies

The Site Magazine
Carey van der Zalm, art director


Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 11.18.52 AM.png

Spécial nos parents

URBANIA
Nicolas Boissy, directrice artistique


 
The winner of the National Magazine Award for Art Direction Grand Prix will be announced on June 1st at the 41st NMA Gala in Toronto. Tickets are on sale now.
Check out all the nominees for the 41st National Magazine Awards.
Follow us on Twitter @MagAwards for all the nominations news and an awesome live feed on the night of the gala. #NMA18
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Winners’ Circle: an exclusive event from the National Media Awards Foundation

2018 NOMINEES (1)
On Tuesday, May 29, the NMAF will present Winners’ Circle, a special event that will bring together award-winning and nominated writers, editors, artists, art directors to meet, mingle, pitch and learn about the value of diversity.
All National Magazine Awards winners, and past and current finalists are invited to join us at One King West Hotel in Toronto, from 12pm to 2:30pm for this exciting learning and networking activity. The event is FREE and includes a lunch for attendees.
The Value of Diversity: A Panel Discussion
The two-part event will begin with a panel discussion moderated by the national columnist for StarMetro, Vicky Mochama. A regular columnist for the Toronto Star, Vicky writes about issues at the intersections of race, politics, gender and migration.
VickyM
Vicky will be joined by panel members Andree LauEternity MartisHadiya Roderique and Kyle Edwards for a discussion around the theme of diversity in the media.

 
Fast Pitch
After the panel presentation, it’s time to mingle and network with your peers. We’ll be facilitating introductions between writers, artists, editors and art directors. If you’re planning to attend and would like to have a chance to sit down with an award-winning writer/artist or an award-winning magazine editor or art director, let us know: events@magazine-awards.com.
We’re looking forward to welcoming you on May 29 from 12 to 2:30pm at One King West Hotel in downtown Toronto.
All nominees and winners from the National Magazine Awards are invited to attend. Contact us to RSVP or request more information. Please RSVP by May 23. Space is limited and available on a first come basis.

Joyce Byrne to Receive the 2018 Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement

OAEnglish
The National Media Awards Foundation (NMAF) is proud to present the 2018 Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement to Joyce Byrne, publisher of Avenue Calgary at RedPoint Media & Marketing Solutions.
If you are passionate about Canadian publishing, you have met or worked with Joyce. Described as a “champion of magazines,” Joyce has an all-in approach to her work that makes her stand out.

“Joyce doesn’t look for easy,” notes Penny Caldwell, former editor and publisher of Cottage Life. “Since bursting onto the magazine publishing scene, she has consistently reached beyond her own sphere to help others.”

Just before launching her career in the early 2000s, Joyce took a publishing course with D. B. Scott at Ryerson University. There, she met Anicka Quin, who is now editorial director of Western Living and Vancouver magazines. Quin recalls the meeting: “[Joyce] was there with her wicked sense of humour, and she quickly stood out as one of the only ones there who was really ready to be a part of this industry.”
And ready, she was. During her tenure as publisher of This Magazine, from 2001 to 2005, the publication excelled on the business and editorial side.

This Magazine has only been nominated once in its 52-year history for Magazine of the Year at the National Magazine Awards and it was during Joyce’s time as publisher, a testament to her leadership and the excellent magazine it produced,” notes Lisa Whittington-Hill, Joyce’s successor and current publisher of This.

In 2005, Joyce left This Magazine in the capable hands of Whittington-Hill and moved to Edmonton, joining award-winning Venture Publishing as vice-president and associate publisher. There, she focused her work on Alberta Venture and unlimited magazines. In 2008, unlimited became the first Alberta-based magazine to win a National Magazine Award for Art Direction of an Entire Issue, a remarkable achievement for the team of the newly launched publication. During that time, Joyce also helped launch Eighteen Bridges, a literary magazine with an impressive collection of National Magazine Awards.
In 2014, Joyce moved some 300 kilometers south and became publisher of yet another celebrated magazine: Avenue Calgary. So brilliantly has she led the team of the award-winning lifestyle publication that her role was recently expanded to group publisher.
As a publisher, Joyce favors a collaborative approach.

“While she knows so much about the industry and magazines—from an encyclopedic knowledge of cover concepts published around the world to an up-to-the-minute grasp on the leading ideas about where the industry is going and how to improve sales—she is a great collaborator and listens to ideas and input from all levels of her staff,” affirms Käthe Lemon, editor-in-chief of Avenue Calgary.

“Of all the people I’ve worked for or with, I have rarely if ever had the opportunity to work with anyone more dedicated to the magazine publishing industry or who loves magazines more—indeed, I’m not sure such a person exists,” Lemon adds.
A quick glance at her career illuminates Joyce’s commitment to magazine publishing. Throughout the years, she has worked with magazines ranging in topics from trade, politics and literature to business and city life, and remains as passionate as ever about magazines. In addition to her role as publisher and her various pro bono commitments, Joyce still lends a hand as a proofreader for the semi-annual literary magazine Taddle Creek.

“Volunteering is something we’re all supposed to do, to give something back to our community and our industry,” observes veteran magazine writer David Hayes. “Most of us have the best intentions. Some of us manage one or two commitments around our busy lives. Joyce is a tireless volunteer for countless causes, mostly associated in some way with magazine publishing or writing, in addition to all her paid duties.”

To say that Joyce’s volunteer experience is impressive would be an understatement. She served as a director of Magazines Canada from 2002-2012, where she sat on the public affairs and small magazines committees, curriculum development task forces, and the professional development committee, which she chaired from 2007-2013. In addition, Joyce has served on program development committees for the Ontario Media Development Corporation, on the board of Word on the Street (Toronto)—where she helped develop the successful Canadian Magazines reading tent—and on the board of Edmonton’s Theatre Network. In 2008-2009, Joyce chaired the Advertising Club of Edmonton (ACE) Awards, and from 2010-2014, the Edmonton Cannes Reel Screening fundraiser for National Advertising Benevolent Society (NABS). In 2013, Joyce received the ACE Fellowship Award, and was also named to the NABS Honour Roll the previous year.
Joyce has also served as a director of the National Media Awards Foundation, including a two-year term as president, and still remains involved as a board member. An industry builder, she is currently president of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association (AMPA) and a director of both the National Advertising Benevolent Society (Western Chapter) and the International Regional Magazine Association (IRMA).
Her efforts are noted and lauded by colleagues.

“I would be hard pressed to find a publishing professional more enthusiastic, engaged and knowledgeable about the magazine media industry than Joyce Byrne. She is a champion of the industry—its people, products and readers,” says Suzanne Trudel, executive director of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association.

Earlier this year, AMPA recognized Joyce’s publishing expertise by awarding her its Achievement in Publishing Award.
For her dedication and enthusiasm for a stronger and more inclusive Canadian magazine industry, her tireless advocacy for service and volunteerism, and her inspiring leadership in magazine publishing, the National Media Awards Foundation is proud to honour Joyce Byrne, a self-proclaimed “magazine junkie,” with the 2018 Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement.
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NOMINEES – 41st NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS
Finalists for the 41st National Magazine Awards will be announced tomorrow, May 1, 2018 at 10am ET on www.magazine-awards.comblog.magazine-awards.com and on Twitter at @MagAwards. The 41st National Magazine Awards gala is set for June 1, 2018 at the Arcadian Court.  Join us to Celebrate Canadian Creators. Tickets will be on sale on Tuesday, May 1.
 
ABOUT THE OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
The NMAF’s most prestigious individual prize  is the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, an award that recognizes an individual’s innovation and creativity through contributions to the magazine industry. The award is open to circulation experts, editors, marketing, sales and promotion professionals, publishers, creators, designers, production managers – in short, to everyone in the industry. It cannot be given posthumously.
The Judging Committee of the National Media Awards Foundation considers the nominations, along with nominations from members of the Committee itself. The Board of the National Media Awards Foundation selects the winner. For more information and previous winners, visit magazine-awards.com/oa.
Photo of Joyce Byrne by Jared Sych.

Off the Page: Terence Byrnes

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Terence Byrnes (Photo: Patricia Woodburn)

Off the Page is a regular interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. In this interview, we chat with Montreal-based writer and photographer Terence Byrnes. Last year at the NMAs, Terence was awarded the gold medal in the category of Photography: Photojournalism & Photo Essay for “South of Buck Creek.” Byrnes succinctly captures the premise of the photo essay by way of a subheading: “A Canadian memoir of black and white in America’s unhappiest city.”  Read on for Terence’s thoughts on maintaining sympathetic neutrality towards the residents of Springfield, Ohio; smart phones and the democratization of photography; and his advice for emerging photographers.

First, congratulations on winning gold at the NMAs for “South of Buck Creek,” published in Geist. Your photo essay describes Buck Creek as a “cabinet of wonders.” In your career as a photographer, have you found other subjects, or places, that could be described as such?

I shot for a while in Buffalo when that city was among the rustiest of rust-belt towns. The industrial desolation, abandonment, and sense of fallen empire were awe-inspiring. In a residential area, I saw a man, wearing only dirty white briefs, roasting a wiener in a hubcap where he had built a fire with twigs. This was at the end of a street of McMansions protected with black iron grillwork over every door and window. Is that a wonder? I don’t know.

TB_Interview_3

The essay portion of your piece notes that you took approximately 10,000 photos of Buck Creek, over a span of 45 years. How do you organize all of your photos?

Ten thousand was a guess. It’s more than that. Many are negatives, with some chromes. I worked from proof sheets to produce scans on a Nikon scanner. I moved to digital capture in 2003. Lightroom keeps track of it for me.

Do you have an absolute favourite from those 10,000 photos?

One day, I was photographing an oddly shaped building—it may even have been a skinny parallelogram—that housed a bar. “Bob City” was painted on one end of it. Railroad tracks, a sidewalk, and several streets converged and diverged behind the building, and dandelions had popped up in a patch of grass in front of it. I spent about 45 minutes finding the right position and height to put these elements into proper relation with each other. When I processed the film (this was probably 30 years ago) air bubbles had stuck to the best frame in the series, rendering it unusable. Wanting to salvage that frame eventually led me to early digital scanning of negatives and moved me out of the darkroom to the screen, where I patched the bubbles. I can’t say if this image was an “absolute favourite,” but it’s got a lot of history stored in it.

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Within the first few pages of the photo essay, we jump from the sixties with “Terria (1966)” to the early 2000s with “South of Buck Creek” (2001), then to the 90s, with “Joy (1999).” What were your intentions behind the non-chronological organization of this photo essay?

“Intuitions” is probably a better word that “intentions.” When you establish an order for a photographic series, some arrangements just look better. I suppose I want the eye to re-orient itself to the formal elements of each image so the photograph is actually seen. Also, ordering by year suggests development of some sort, or it implies a narrative. As it was, the images themselves were my first priority.

Very early on in the photo essay, you state that your role in Buck Creek shifted from spectator to participant. Certainly, that theme—of your enmeshment in the Buck Creek community—runs throughout: there’s the “crazy moment” when you “fantasized about adopting” one of the boys from the Vision for Youth residence; you carried the “Friends (1977)” photo around for years, hoping to eventually deliver it to one of the photo’s subjects, “scary guy.” What challenges came along with crossing that line from spectator to participant?

Great question. I had to maintain sympathetic neutrality toward everyone and to learn—more than once— that folks who looked down-and-out could be as smart, respectful, and as deserving of respect, as anyone else. Honesty and openness were crucially important. A subject might say, “Take my picture, but don’t ever use it,” and my agreement would have to be as good as gold.  People were blown away when I would come back a year later with free photographs. That’s how the street cred developed. Of course, there were rough spots and challenges that were both emotional and physical. I saw families living in misery and stripped of dignity thanks to bad luck, fear of gang activity, and profound physical and emotional disability (with no health care or institutional support). You want to help, but you can’t.

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“Marriage (1998)” features a woman in her bikini, with her two twin daughters. The narrative portion states, “In the later years of this project, women wouldn’t so easily agree to have their pictures taken. They were afraid, as one told me, that their faces would appear atop a nude body on the Internet.” It seems that while the Internet has encouraged people to document their lives—via Facebook, YouTube, Instagram—it’s also made it more difficult for photographers to act as the documentarian. Are there other ways in which the growth of social media and the shift to digital have impacted your career as a photographer?

Camera phones have, in a sense, radically democratized photography and, for many people, have done away with the cachet of the physical print. Academic criticism and identity politics have also had a less than salutary effect on the documentary form. Some months ago, I glanced outside my window here in the Point-Saint-Charles district of Montreal and saw an 11-year-old boy got up in a home-made superhero costume, holding a garbage can lid as a shield. I knew it was pure Arbus, but couldn’t resist. When I asked the boy if I could take a photograph, a teenage girl ran up and began shouting at me. Her assumption—thanks to her familiarity with internet images—was that I was about to do something that was immoral as well as illegal.

Your first camera was an Agfa Ambi Silette loaded with Tri-X film. These days, what’s your camera of choice?

Actually, before the Agfa, there was a Kodak “Pony,” which I had forgotten. You’ve caught me at a crossroads now, though. Should I move up from my Nikon D810 to the new D850 or switch to the mirrorless Sony A7R III? Probably the new Nikon.

In 2008, you published Closer to Home: The Author and the Author Portrait, which you had worked on for 10 years. That means that there was some crossover between the literary portraits and Buck Creek. What similarities were there between these two seemingly very different projects?

Both were closer to the subjects’ homes than to the studio. I tend to shoot on-site and to make it up as I go along. This can produce really banal results, but also great surprises in lighting, posture, expression, and mood.

What was the impact—personally and/or professionally—of winning a National Magazine Award?

I think it makes me an easier sell to editors who don’t know me. And if I pitch an idea, I’m more likely to be listened to.

What advice would you offer to a young photographer?

The advice I give myself is often so disastrous that I should keep my own counsel. That said, I think of current work that catches my eye. I love the work of Tamas Deszo, Sebastián Liste, and Ruth Kaplan. Or Michel Huneault’s photographs of Lac Mégantic after the train disaster. There are some wonderful documentarians out there who do far more than record event. I would have been interested in photographing the refugees/migrants who streamed across the border in Quebec’s Eastern Townships in the belief they would find a home in Canada. Good projects don’t have to be topical, but they do have to be fresh.


Previous to Byrnes’ NMA gold award, he received two NMA honourable mentions. The first was in 2009, for “The Imagined Portrait” published in Queen’s Quarterly. The second was in 2012 for “The Missing Piece,” published in The Walrus. For more information on Byrnes’ photography and writing projects, please visit his website

Interview conducted by Leah Edwards.

The call for entries for the 2018 National Magazine Awards is open now until January 22.