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(2023 - Spring/Summer Issue)


Imagine your artwork displayed annually before 11.2 million travellers, many of whom are from exotic locales, being showcased in installations throughout Pearson International Airport. This foot traffic is what world photographers Randy VanDerStarren and his son Spencer are rewarded with when YYZ fliers see their art photos of Toronto and surrounds in the VanDerStarren’s largest ever photo installation.

In this selfie-obsessed era, the Mississauga-based photographers have consciously made people and the global environment the main subjects in their latest collaboration, titled Take Your Seat. Published by Indigo Books, the hardcover book of photographs and stories uses a red-and-white director’s chair in every shot.

DS: Why a director’s chair?

RV: What that chair does is an invitation. Recognize that you are the director of your life. You get to choose. And those choices affect how we relate to our wonderful planet and also to our own lives. Are we living the lives we said we were going to? And so that director’s seat symbol is powerful.

DS: What differentiates your work from the average travel photographer?

RV: What I’ve clued into with Take Your Seat as a photo project is the adage, a picture says 1,000 words. This project says 1,000 words in the very language. It’s much more powerful. There are thousands of stunning sunsets and dramatic mountaintops, but what we’re trying to do has a journalistic message that will also resonate and set us apart.

DS: Give us an example. You have photographed the great outdoors like the Florida Keys where it’s all ocean. What did you look for there?

RV: The thing with the Florida Keys is it’s a laid-back, exotic place that’s not that far. There’s the natural side of the Keys, but we were also interested in capturing the human side. At the national and state parks we had complete access to beaches that no one had walked on for some time. So to see what the Earth would look like at these beaches versus what we picture in our minds was a rare privilege.

DS: What caught Indigo’s attention?

RV: The symbolism of the chair intrigued Indigo, because the book company is all about telling stories and our chair starts a conversation. First, you must ask, “why is this piece of furniture in the middle of this beautiful photograph?” And when you ask that question that opens the door to engage and share anecdotes.

DS: What lesson have you learned about photographing people around the world in the Take Your Seat project?

RV: I think with Take Your Seat, we have this global platform. But the gist of it is that the more countries we visit, the more exotic they appear, and the more powerful our story of connection becomes.

I know that whoever I photograph wants to raise their family in a peaceful environment, wants the best for their kids, wants to be respected for what they do, and wants to be part of something larger than themselves. And it all starts with this conversation that our chair invites you to join.

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