Putting Cape Breton in focus
October 26, 2015
By Nancy King - Cape Breton Post
Forty years and a dozen books later, Warren Gordon releasing new book on Nov. 12
SYDNEY — Warren Gordon’s more than four-decade photography career began almost by chance.
Friends Max MacDonald and Maynard Morrison were starting a school newspaper in the late 1960s for Xavier Junior College when they asked Gordon to serve as their photographer, despite not having any experience taking pictures.
“I figured, heck how hard could it be, right?” Gordon remembered.
He was then asked to be photographer for the yearbook and was also asked by the Boardmores to take photos of the drama group.
“I didn’t have a camera and I hadn’t taken a picture yet,” he said. “The pictures came out pretty decently, I guess, and I just kept on going.”
He began using an Argus 35 millimetre camera borrowed from his father. Eventually, he bought a Miranda model of his own.
“It was the very first camera that had a built-in light metre,” Gordon said.
In the ensuing decades, he has gone from working exclusively in black and white in the early days through to the digital revolution, working with the most modern equipment available.
The latest chapter of the career of the award-winning photographer will be written on Nov. 12, with the official launch of his most recent book, “Cape Breton Collection,” featuring scenic photographs from around Cape Breton taken between 1975 and 2015. Over the years he has published about a dozen collections of his work, which have sold about 200,000 copies. His annual calendar is also a popular seller.
“Almost no photographers publish books,” Gordon said. “It’s a whole different element to the business which gave it quite a boost. Cape Bretoners being proud of their island, that helps a whole lot.
“People (living away) tell me all the time they pull the books out every month or so and they look at the books and cry.”
The book even features a photo that he took on the day he first tried his hand at scenic photography.
“It’s a photograph of fish buildings in North Bay, Ingonish,” Gordon said. “I still like the picture. All the buildings are long gone, but it’s still a good picture.”
Gordon said he knew there was a market among locals and visitors alike for books featuring Cape Breton scenic pictures.
Gordon is also a rarity among photographers in that he still maintains a storefront presence with his studio on Charlotte Street in Sydney.
“The digital swing has really destroyed a big part of the business, most people that do photography now, they do it part-time, a lot of them wouldn’t ever have been photographers if it wasn’t for digital, they would have had to carry the heavy gear and they would have had to know how to use everything, everything wasn’t all automatic,” he said.
He started with a desk and store window at Tuttle’s Flower Shop at 355 Charlotte, before moving across the street to 360 Charlotte, before finally settling at 367 Charlotte, where he’s been located for about three decades.
As for his future, Gordon seemed reluctant to talk about retirement.
“As soon as I win the lotto,” he said. “I don’t think in this business you ever have to, unless you want to, think about actual retirement.”
Gordon noted that if he does decide to take a step back, he has a home studio and outdoor photo park in Sydney River where he can continue to work on a semi-retired basis.
One thing that has kept he profession fresh for him was his embrace of all sort of photography — from wedding to portraiture to aerial to scenic to industrial. He noted some clients come in with an old photo with pieces missing asking for it to be restored.
“I’ve had pretty good success with all of the various areas that I’ve delved into,” Gordon said. “I’ve been in an awful lot of places and seen an awful lot of things which I never would have seen in any other business.”
While she is currently focusing on music, Gordon’s wife Katheryn has also become an award-wining photographer in her own right.
Warren's latest book, “Cape Breton Collection, will be launched Nov. 12 at an event sponsored by Business Cape Breton.
A luncheon will be held at noon at the Kavanagh Room of the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion, where Warren will discuss his career. Tickets for the luncheon are available by contacting Business Cape Breton at 902-562-2201. The price is $20 plus tax and gratuity. From 4-6 p.m., the official launch of the book will take place at Flavor on the Water, located at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion. The public is invited. There will be live music and slideshows of Gordon’s work.
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