Interview: Shannon Heather

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Even if you don’t know Shannon Heather (aka Shannon Myers) it is likely that you have seen her work. As a photographer, she has worked with a veritable who’s-who of Saskatoon musicians, including Fountains of Youth, The Karpinka Brothers, The Deep Dark Woods, Sexy Mathematics and We Were Lovers. The chances are good you have heard of her if you have taken online photography classes.

Even better, Shannon was also given the highly unlikely task of making Saskatoon’s rock heroes The Sheepdogs look pretty for their world debut in Rolling Stone magazine.

All in a day’s work, right?

“I’ve always been surrounded by musicians in the Saskatoon scene – probably as a reflection of my inner desire to be a musician myself,” says Shannon. “Fortunately I knew early on that photography was more my forte.

“While part of show-shooting for me was about affordable access, there’s an undeniable appeal to the visual. Even if I don’t have my camera, I’ll inadvertently compose a shot mentally when there is interesting lighting or a striking pose.”

While she is currently in Montreal completing her degree at Concordia, Shannon still makes frequent pilgrimages back to Saskatoon – a good idea for her professionally anyway considering how the prairies are booming with talent nowadays.

And it was her ties to her hometown that lead to one of her more high-profile assignments: capturing The Sheepdogs in the wild.

Shannon Sheepdogs

“They’re good friends of mine and I did a promo shoot for them a few years back, but the whole situation was really their doing,” says Shannon. “Rolling Stone liked the car one and it ended up representing them in the contest. That in and of itself was an incredible break, but it was furthered when one of the RS photo editors contacted me about shooting the ‘Dogs around town for the issue that would announce the winner.

“I got the good news on the first morning while at the Ness Creek Festival, sitting inside my tent in the rain. Needless to say, I celebrated that weekend.”

While capturing live band shots can be daunting for even seasoned photographers – fluctuating light, constant motion and energy are factors that can reduce even the most seasoned pro to a quivering mess of tears – Shannon’s techniques have more to do with evoking a flicker of unknowing attitude rather than trying to immediately catch a wayward guitar flying through the air.

Shannon Fountains of Youth

“My style has always been very candid, regardless of whether the shoot is pre-planned and has a theme,” says Shannon. “I have ideas in mind when I shoot, but the ultimate outcome is so dependent on the subject, scenario, time, etc, that there is always a ‘live’ element. I don’t offer much direction to my subjects unless I see something specific that I’m not getting, because I prefer that natural vibe.”

With several other projects already behind her, including a shoot with Montreal fun-boys Chromeo and a solo exhibition at the Paper Gallery in Montréal, Shannon warns that photography isn’t just a way to be connected to a music scene. Rather it is an innate sense or a fucked up instinct that leads her to constantly see the world and its inhabitants as potential subjects.

“I can look like a total creep sometimes when I’m shooting and have been stopped by cops asking what I’m doing,” says Shannon. “While working on a series called (Un)Familiar Neighbourhood I was creeping around at night with a camera and tripod, staging long shots outside of people’s houses. One night a guy walked past me only to return and continue to follow me to my next location and jabber at me about his drawings until finally I had to explain that having him around was like having someone read over your shoulder.

“It was like the stalker became the stalkee, but I guess that’s what happens as a female photographer,” she continues. “Even when I’m creepy as fuck, with leather gloves and wearing all black, I’m still small and unthreatening.”

All photographs, including the self-portrait, courtesy of Shannon Heather.

Check www.shannonheather.com for more of Shannon’s work.