Proust Q 5.0 June 2010: Ian McCauslandJune 12, 2010
Ian McCausland, as you Winnipeggers might already know, is a great, busy commercial photographer. You can see some of his stuff at ian.ca and read his blog at ian.mb.ca. But the reason I wanted to put him under the microscope of the Proust Questionnaire 5.0 (What’s this? Scroll to the bottom, but not NOW) is because of the other stuff he does. He is not just a social-media guy, he … IS a social medium. And before you Fbook and Twitter haters/resisters click away, this is not a membership drive. It’s a tip of the chapeau to a guy who is the best face of what social media strives, I think, to be or to allow us to be: generous, curious, together and smarter and smarter. Ian is funny, well-read, musically well-schooled and he shares all of that, plus cuts through the blather of some pretty technical stuff to reveal the heart of the matter. He was doing it back in the 1990s when he and I were on a pre-Internet “bulletin board” chat thingy. And he’s still doing it, like when he recently shot free photo portraits to anyone if they agreed to use them and credit him on their social media home pages. In his guest post on Liz Hover’s Diary of a Web Gal blog, Ian writes about the experience and why he did it.
Now, here’s a little more about Ian in this month’s PQ 5.0.
Since we are conducting this interview via email, the world is ours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to be taking place?
Around a campfire, camping. Bugs aren’t too bad, the rowdies who insist on cranking AC/DC when they camp aren’t nearby and there is a loon on the lake.
Who and what would you be wearing?
J.Crew or reasonable facsimile, since we can’t just keep mail ordering clothes, that’s kinda weird.
And, most importantly, what would we be drinking?
Single malt scotch or a Guinness.
Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others?
Sense of humour, open-mindedness,
What do you like most about yourself?
My insatiable curiosity. I read tons of magazines & non-fiction books on all sorts of topics. I love learning about the wide range of people, stories or industries I get exposed to with my job. (Most recent notable nonfiction book read: Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker in Training, by Tom Jokinen, based on time spent at Neil Bardal Inc. in Winnipeg.)
That same trait can make me a real “Cliff Clavin”, which could come across as a know it all. I am also a big procrastinator.
What is your greatest achievement?
That fact that I have been able to make a living and support my family while doing something creative. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful for being a photographer who makes a living. To do it in a place like Winnipeg, rather than having to move to a major city, is even more amazing to me.
What is your present state of mind?
I’ve been doing professional photography for 22 years. I am thinking about all the changes in my industry in the last 5-10 years and how I will respond to those changes and move forward, for the next 22 years. There is just so much uncertainty in my industry, it’s all I seem think about. While at times it can be exciting, it’s also very challenging to do business in. Since my business is a creative service, I’ve always been forced to do a lot of work inwardly, redefining who I am, who I want to be, what I still want to do.
Where and when are/were you happiest?
Behind the camera, connecting with people, is where I am happiest. Spending a few hours digging through my music collection and redicovering lost gems makes me happy as well.
What is your first memory?
I am pretty sure I was three when I ripped my big toenail off in the spokes of my tricycle. I can remember sitting on the tricycle in the warm afternoon sun of our front door wondering what would happen if I put my toe in there and cranked the pedal. My mother and a mom across the street were having coffee, in the kitchen. My scream after the fact had them running. Then I recall spending hours at the Grace Hospital waiting for treatment.
What, currently, do you most love doing?
At work, I love it when people say, “Oh I am not very photogenic” and when I am done, they are genuinely surprised at how great they look, and how much they enjoyed the experience. Most people put being photographed right up there with filling a cavity at the dentist. If I am able to change that, I love it.
At home, I love to make my kid laugh with my uncanny ability to voice his Transformers accurately.
What was your worst job?
I haven’t done much other than be a photographer, I used to sell cameras while studying photography in school.
As a photographer I used to get all kinds of bad jobs. Usually it involves people who aren’t there for your creativity, they just need someone to push the button. The upside of all this digital technology, those same people now go do it themselves.
Your favourite colour?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
-That perfect moment captured photographically, knowing you’ve captured it, without evening looking at the back of the camera.
-My child somehow conveying how much he loves me, with a simple gesture.
-a tightly knotted Safeway bag that I have to unknot.
-A multi-tabbed Excel spreadsheet full of info from a client.
-Travelling through airports with 200lbs of gear.
If not yourself, who or what would you be?
I’d be a bike courier, cuz they ride all day, are in great shape and dress cool. Or maybe a bee keeper, I find bees fascinating. Are there any urban-beekeeping-bike-couriers? Hmm, I must Google that!
Where would you like to live?
I’ll mulled this one over so many times. With my work, I have been fortunate to visit every corner of Canada and at times some way off places. I’d love to own an RV and keep living all over Canada. Every corner has its charm.
What is your favourite journey?
I always seem to recall my time in the federal government volunteer program Katimavik right after high school. Three different communities in Canada with like-minded youth doing community work, and living on our own. I had never cooked, cleaned, done laundry or travelled on my own but suddenly a month after grad, I was off in the Laurentians doing it with 12 strangers. It was a life-defining experience that still influences me today.
What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged?
I love BBQ ribs. I just had them tonight. My wife Lynda is an amazing cook.
Name the person who influenced you most and how.
Mr. Coulson and Mrs. Jensen at Sturgeon Creek taught me photography for 2hrs every day all the way through 3 years of high school. They allowed me to come in on my spares to do more, encouraged me to try all sorts of different things. To have adults talk to you and teach you more like a friend than like a teacher was amazing. I am still in touch with both of them. They were great teachers!
Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why?
I love so much music but I always come back to The Clash’s London Calling. That is my “Sgt Pepper”. It touched upon so many genres, and showed me that “punk” wasn’t just one style of music but a state of mind. Joe Strummer was/is my hero. I have bought that album three times but still have my original vinyl on my wall.
In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire?
Artists who stay strong in their convictions and/or forage new ways of thinking in their medium, regardless of criticism. Among musicians, Miles Davis, Rickie Lee Jones, David Sylvian. Photographers: Eugene Smith, Robert Frank, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn.
Who is your favourite fictional hero?
I know this is cliched, but Sal Paradise in On The Road. The right book at the right time. I haven’t read it for a few years, but I think of him from time to time, as I experience different things, or places, with my job.
What fault can you most easily forgive?
Indecision. I know how hard it can be to make a decision!
What fault can you not forgive?
Being judgmental. I can’t stand people who dismiss others based on appearance or what they’re into.
What is your motto?
“Remember who you wanted to be”
How would you hope to die?
I hope to die living a life that would be worthy of a full page obit in the Globe&Mail. I love reading those. A peaceful death but with some sort of legacy worthy of mentioning.
Anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to volunteer? Deep dark secret?
I’ve been online since 1992, before the web. Back in the heady days of 94-96 we honestly thought the internet was going to change the world, for the better. Then the bubble popped. It’s been a long road, but I truly feel we’re now entering that time where the connectivity is radically changing how we relate in the world. When your mom is on Facebook, and your dentist is on twitter, you know it’s not just for the geeks anymore!
Any last words?
“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”
Admit it. You read those celebrity Q&As and you know you’re easily as worthy of being profiled. I know I do, but my friends are way more interesting. So, with nods to the “confession albums” of the late 1800s made famous by the fabulous Marcel Proust’s answers, to French TV host Bernard Pivot who adapted the questionnaire, to Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton who gave it another spin and to Vanity Fair, which uses its own elegantly spun version to anchor the magazine’s back pages, I submit for your entertainment and enlightenment, my own version of the Proust Questionnaire, re-retooled for a blog age.