Proust Questionnaire 5.0: Meet Montreal photographer and teacher Tim Snow

September 10, 2012

The name Shaun comes up twice in this Proust Q profile and that makes me double happy. One of those occurrences can be guessed easily by those of you familiar with my goings on over the past 15 months. The second made me smile double wide because it’s one of my favourite movies (sb’s too, btw Tim).

That Montreal photographer and teacher Tim Snow made me tear up and smile a couple of times as I read his answers for this month’s Proust Q 5.0 is no surprise. I know Tim from his freelance work for The Gazette, where he usually blows me away with his photos, including one of Eddie Vedder, with his head tipped back in pure abandon, that was pure gorgeousness. More intimately, this being the era of social media, I know him from Twitter and Facebook, where we have talked about family, art, music and work. I rarely see him face to face, but his 1,000-watt smile radiates in every youtube link to a punk thrasher that he’s sent my way just because.

So here’s Tim. And you can find out more about what Tim does here and here.

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?
We are sitting on the wrap-around deck of my cottage up in Vermont’s Green Mountains, sipping tea and taking in a crisp fall breeze.

Who and what would you be wearing?
Probably some too worn out to wear but doing it anyways punk rock t-shirt and a pair of shorts. It may be chilly out but we are being kept warm by the fire, so it’s all good.

And, most importantly, what would we be drinking? Tea! David’s Tea Coco Chai Roiboos or Orange Pekoe. I stopped drinking alcohol at 18 for personal reasons and haven’t had a sip since, so I usually stick to tea and water unless I am out hiking and drinking Gatorade.

Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others?
Drive, determination, fearlessness. Self-confidence. Good hair.

What do you like most about yourself?
I like myself?

I sometimes lack the drive, determination, fearlessness and self-confidence others possess. I also lack the good hair. Also, I have a terrible memory.

What is your greatest achievement?
Following my dreams to become a photographer. I am in no way at the level I aspire to reach, but so far so good and I strive to improve my eye and my business every year. Hopefully one day I will make it to a level where I am completely comfortable, but that is many years away.

What is your more treasured possession?
Hmm. I have absolutely no idea. Maybe my wedding ring? Though I suppose it’s not the ring that I love but what it represents…

Where and when are/were you happiest?
When I am completely spent, depleted and have no power left, but I somehow make the last push to the summit of a mountain. Completely exhausted, I sit down and stare in every direction, taking in the sights and realize that the only reason I am up there is because I didn’t give up.

Also, when I nail a photo. Just nail it, it is one of the best feelings!

What is your first memory?
I wish I had some kind of cheery cute story, but I have such a bad memory it really bothers me.

What, currently, do you most love doing?
Working, hiking and spending time with Sarah.

What was your worst job?
I had a job washing dishes for one night. It was brutal, fat drippings in a 3×2 foot pan that I had to wash in a 1×1 foot sink…not cool. I think I was 14…

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I want to get to the point in life where I am comfortable. Where I don’t have to worry about the next check that is supposed to be in the mail but hasn’t shown up yet. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be a millionaire or anything, I just want financial comfort. I am not destitute or anything, but freelancing can be tough sometimes.

Of misery?
Feeling like I have let down those who love me. I have been there a few times, and it is the worst.

If not yourself, who or what would you be?
John Cusack. But I suppose I’m OK being myself.

Where would you like to live?
I like my current house, a simple bungalow. It’s nothing special, but it’s mine. I would love to add a house in Vermont, Ireland and Santa Monica, but that’s all way out of reach for now…

What is your favourite journey?
The one I will take tomorrow! (Tomorrow being a fictional date in the future, not a real-life time and/or place) (I’m trying to be philosophical…)

What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged?
I have to say that the past couple of weeks have been awesome! I am part of the team of photographers for the Osheaga and Heavy MTL festivals, and I have access to the backstage catering for the bands. Insane … as usual the head chef was Chuck Hughes from Chuck’s Day Off/Garde Manger. Shooting some amazing bands and eating some of the best food I have ever had … my job rules.

I have actually started becoming an OK “chef”. I try to cook as often as I can, and actually have a few pretty good recipes including Pulled Pork, Fish Tacos and a Senegalese Peanut Butter soup!

Name the person who influenced you most and how.
I have a few:

  • My dad. He passed away last summer (My dad and Shaun [Best] passed away within hours of each other [June 2011), something which Denise and I have spoken about many times). He did so much for me, made so many sacrifices and encouraged me to follow my dreams even though he probably thought I was nuts. I miss him every day.
  • Ian MacKaye. His music and his fearlessness to do what he wants paved the way for an entire movement. His DIY spirit remains to this day, and he is genuinely one of the nicest people I have ever met.
  • Photographers old and new like Zack Arias, Joe McNally, Peter Read Miller, Walter Iooss Jr, Arnold Newman, Glen E. Friedman, Steve McCurry, Chris Orwig, Steve Simon, Larry Towell, Gordon Parks, Sam Abell … and all of the Gazette guys who have helped me tremendously as I still continue to develop as a photographer.

Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why?
I find it impossible to pick just one since there have been so many small things that have added up to who I am today. I think picking just one would do a disservice to everything else.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?
Shaun from Shaun Of The Dead.

What is your motto?
I’ve never really had a carved-in-stone motto, I have lots of quotes I love but have never really adapted them as my personal motto. I’ve always loved James Dean’s “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today” but that’s kind of too idealistic the older I get. It’s a great sentiment, but not very realistic. I’m just not that fearless.

I strive every day to better myself as a photographer and as a person, and I have also been trying to inspire others to do the same. I’ve been very influenced by Chris Orwig lately, his passion for photography and life is refreshing, especially to someone as cynical as I tend to be. Reading his books got me thinking about how I approach my own teaching and workshops, and how I want to influence the people who trust me to teach them something. So I came up with this:




I guess this would be my motto lately. I want to connect with the people I am photographing on a deeper level to make photographs that have more depth. I want to connect with the people I teach to inspire them as much as I can.

I want to continue to push my personal envelop and to create photographs that have resonance with the people who see them.

I want to share my work and my knowledge with as many people as I can. Especially my knowledge. I got where I am today because I have put in years of work and will continue to do so as long as I live, but the thing with photography, as with anything else in life, is that if you put in the time and the work, you will get there one day. There is no secret to it, put in the hard work and you will see the benefits.

How would you hope to die?
With a smile on my face knowing that I have given it everything I had.

Any last words?
I’ve got too much life left in me for last words.

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.


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