In early February 2012 I was sitting at home, bored and thinking what could I do to entertain myself. Being a photography enthusiast I grabbed my DSLR and along with my wife brainstormed some ideas about potential subject matter. At the time I was living in Salem Massachusetts in an old house built in 1800 (possibly 1790) and the topic of ghosts came up. Having done some light painting photos back in 2006 I came up with the idea of a fake ghost photo.
To begin with we thought of having one of us run around the corner of the hallway into the living area to capture some light streaks in motion. Then I remembered a Christmas present I had received – a small RC helicopter that had a floodlight at the front. Suddenly I was thinking of possibilities for photography opportunities. I then thought of old horror movies like “Poltergeist” and “The Entity” a mix of stairway ghosts and electricity came to mind and this was the birth of a photo that went on to win me national acclaim.
Fast forward a few months, and I am at home after a day at the office, jaded and waiting for dinner to be ready and the phone rings. An unusual number so I am hesitant to pick up thinking its likely just a telemarketer. I answer and for about 10 seconds am confused as the person on the other end is talking about my photography and saying I am a finalist in some contest. Then I suddenly remember that a month or 2 before on a whim I had seen a banner on YouTube for a contest staged by Oscar winning director Ron Howard and Canon Cameras and entered the photo into it for fun.
Over the next month I used all my online and social media savvy to get my photo noticed and voted for by friends, family and colleagues. It paid off dividends when I received a call from Canon’s PR agency informing me I was one of the winners and was in the running to be selected by 1 of 5 celebrity directors to have my photo serve as inspiration for their film to feature at the Project Imagination film festival in Manhattan. Being from a small town in Scotland I never would have thought 10 years prior that (a) I would be living on the other side of the Atlantic and (b) I would be a winner in a US wide photo contest.
A month or 2 later a series of emails went out from Canon’s PR agency informing people of the celebrity selection process. The second email that went out was regarding Twitter founder Biz Stone’s selections. I was amazed to see my name and photo mentioned in the selection. I called my family to inform them and couldn’t believe how things had turned out.
A lot of waiting, talking online with fellow winners and joking amongst colleagues at work followed. Finally I received an invitation the the Big Apple to see my vision come to life in front of a cinema full of talented photographers, and celebrity guests. I spent 4 nights in Manhattan – surprisingly my first trip there for a guy who had spent 7 years in the Boston area and I can say it was a real trip to remember. I arrived at the Lincoln center in the theater district of Manhattan with my wife and great expectations for what the night would bring.
The reception before the films where shown was a real extravaganza. As I walked in I could see my photo on a massive monitor with a clip from the movie it was incorporated into. It was almost like a spoiler – but a happy one as I was glad to see it was used in a very literal way. I mingled with some other contest winners, introduced myself, took photos and just basked in the atmosphere of such an event.
We all went into the auditorium about an hour later to view the films. 10 films where shown in all – 5 directed by celebrities and 5 by contest winners on their own budget. I can in all honesty say the quality of the films was fantastic – every film for me had some draw and I was very interested to see how others pictures had transitioned to the big screen. The second film of the night was directed by Biz Stone and entitled “Evermore”. It had strong themes of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic poem “The Raven” and was a dark but ultimately uplifting drama starring Lisa Eldestein (House), (As Good as it Gets), (What Women Want) to name a few. To see my photo on the big screen in front of a theater of hundreds of people was a surreal and amazing experience to say the least.
After the films ended everyone gathered for a party upstairs in the Lincoln Center’s main lobby. It was weird to be in a room with people like Jamie Foxx and Eva Longoria etc. I was very pleased to get the opportunity to spend some time chatting to Biz Stone (Twitter Founder) to thank him for selecting my photo as well as having the courage to portray an experimental light painting in such a literal way – a way that truly honored the original photograph. It was a real highlight of my creative journey so far and it only gives me more encouragement to keep pushing the boundaries of art and photography. Sitting here now a couple of years after the whole adventure began in the woods of Maine, it only confirms the fact that if you try in life – anything is possible.
Below are some photos from the evening itself as well as the film that the photo helped inspire.