Patient Observation with Corey Isenor


Portrait of Papirmass Artist Corey Isenor

You could say Corey Isenor is a classic photographer, observing his surroundings and letting things happen. He pays close attention to the quiet scenes of his native Nova Scotia (and a handful of other provinces) and documents rocky landscapes, reflecting pools, and bare-boned trees. With inspiration as grandiose as Ansel Adams, we’re not surprised!

In this month’s artist interview, Corey encourages us to see our own surroundings in a new way and reminds us that you don’t need a fancy camera or need to travel to an exotic locale to make an interesting photograph. If you’re patient and take the time to look, you’ll discover something in your own city that’s just waiting to be shared. Continue reading below to learn more about Corey’s inspiration and how he creates his beautiful photographs!

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Mountain in Yukon by Papirmass Artist Corey Isenor

Tell us about your artwork for Papirmass (not pictured).

The photograph was taken on a summer evening in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, or rather in the Lunenburg harbour, while on a stroll through town. I lived in the small seaside community of Lunenburg (a UNESCO world heritage site and home to the iconic Bluenose schooner) for 2 years and photographed the region extensively.

What’s a day in your life look like?

Unless I’m working with a client on portrait or documentary work, I tend to go out exploring the world through hikes and long drives in the car, looking at the local landscape and searching for spaces I haven’t been to before. Otherwise, I’m often attending concerts or music festivals, and frequently documenting the events as they unfold.

What is your creative process?

I never plan time to be creative. I prefer to improvise and explore, honing my skills of observation and perception, while also remaining open to any and all opportunities. I try to push myself to constantly change or focus on improving my work by making sure I recognize where it’s at, where it’s been, and where it could go. I also make sure not to be precious about work that’s already made. So taking more photographs is always better than taking less. I get a boost of energy whenever I try new ways of making work, ie. new film types, camera lenses, filters, camera formats.

Crow on Stop Sign and White Tree by Papirmass Artist Corey Isenor

Do you have any creative rituals or routines?

Being in new spaces and landscapes is what inspires me most. Add a little cannabis and I can really step outside my normal headspace.

Do you have a studio?

As cliché as it might be, the world itself is my studio. I prefer to shoot candidly and in a documentary style, always observing rather than setting up a situation. However, I edit photographic work on a computer, which most often sits in my bedroom on my desk, a space much less glamorous than an office or studio.

What are your most important tools?

My cameras and computer. I use both digital and film-based cameras, and though I am entirely independent when working within a digital medium, I still require a photo lab to develop the film-based work I make.

Bayside+Stone by Papirmass Artist Corey IsenorWhat inspires you to create?

Often seeing work by other photographers familiar and new motivates me to make work, as well as being in new situations or places I haven’t been. Documenting the world can be very satisfying as there is an endless supply of source material.

How did you learn your craft?

As a kid, I took painting lessons and was familiar with drawing and mark-making, but I never experienced taking photographs until I began my studies at Mount Allison University. I was drawn to photography while there and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, with a Minor in Art History. I’ve stuck with it as a practice ever since.

How do you make a living?

Currently, I work for one half of the year as a Still Photographer on a local television show, and I devote the other half to performing live music and working independently on commissions and occasional graphic design projects.

Ice Chair by Papirmass Artist Corey Isenor

How do you promote your work?

I promote my work through my personal website, on social media, and most significantly through Instagram. I exhibit my work in galleries and other venues as well, but that all depends on collecting enough work to make a series.

Any advice for aspiring artists?

Patience is the best trait, and becoming patient sooner than later will make the pace of everything else much more tolerable.

What’s it like to live a creative life?

I would guess most artists say the same thing, and I’m no different: I hate the lack of financial security. If survival didn’t constantly require currency (making, owning, trading, saving), a lot more true creativity could thrive. On the other side, being a creative individual makes solving problems and resolving life challenges much more approachable.

What are you most excited about?

Aside from the summer weather, I’m excited to receive four rolls of 8mm film and matching digital scans from the processing lab. It’s the first motion picture I’ve made on film before and it was done using a very old machine that might not work at all.

Foggy Highway by Papirmass Artist Corey Isenor

Favourite artist?

Ansel Adams

Favourite film?

“Days of Heaven” by Terrence Malick

Favourite book?

The Dictionary

Kayak Frame by Papirmass Artist Corey Isenor

Favourite Musician?

Neil Young

Favourite city to visit?

Dawson City, YT

Favourite meal to cook?

Chicken Parmesan

Favourite Online Art Blog/Account?

Sand, Pebbles, and Seaweed by Papirmass Artist Corey Isenor

Our August 2019 Edition will feature work by Corey Isenor. Subscribe to Paprimass by July 31st to receive an exclusive photograph from Corey and explore more of his work in our online gallery!