|Curtis Jenson, Jeff Goldblum, Damien Gilbert|
Damien Gilbert is speaking both directly and metaphorically. As a regular jack-of-all-trades in photography, film and video production, Damien’s approach has made his life exciting and unusual. He’s known by almost everyone in the art scene in Thunder Bay. He’s reliable and dedicated to his work, and he’s the most affable guy you could meet, unafraid to approach anyone.
On his way to Iceland, stopping over at the Washington Dulles International Airport last year with his friend Curtis Jenson, Damien spotted the actor Jeff Goldblum being harassed by airport security. Goldblum was furious. His bags were strewn around, all of them open, contents in view for everyone to see.
As soon as Goldblum had his bags organized, Damien strolled up to him and asked if he and Curtis could get a photo with him. The three of them ended up sitting on a bench together, chatting.
Damien gets hired because people like his work as much as they like him personally, which results in compounded opportunities. While working on a 48 Film Challenge, without pay, one of the crew invited Damien to help him out on other shoots giving Damien three different paid jobs in three different countries.
“It’s awesome. I’ll work for one person, for free, and suddenly get hired by a bunch of other people. Like being hired right after Con College to do a wine documentary in California.”
Although he was paid as a production coordinator for this LCBO documentary, filming in wine country, the job felt like a vacation. “That was an awesome gig, for three weeks. And right after film school. That was good money. We stayed in the nicest hotels, eating the best food every day, filming in the sun in the nicest locations.”
His worst experience was in the Virgin Islands. “I don’t want to knock the film, the people were great to work with, but the conditions were the worst. We were down in a bunk house with cockroaches, mosquitos, no air conditioning at 30 degrees plus at night, while the directors were up in the air conditioned mansion with a pool.”
Damien has done music videos, stunt videos, action sport videos, around forty short films, six feature films, four television shows, dozens of documentaries, and has published his own photography.
His diverse abilities have allowed him to work different jobs on films, but his forte is as a cameraman. And he’s very good at it.
“I’m not just there to be a generic shooter,” says Damien with some pride based on experience. “Sometimes you’ve really got only one shot at getting the moment when there’s no way you can redo anything. I try to shoot everything like that.”
More and more Damien is creating his own photographic work rather than seeking out jobs elsewhere, becoming an artist in his own right, experimenting with ideas and going with what intrigues him, not knowing what will come next. He’s hoping to put out a book and have an art show to share the results of an extensive photo shoot he did in Scandinavia last year. He’s also doing blog work, documenting little photo adventures, up at Mt. McKay, Wolf River Falls, the bluffs and elsewhere. Currently he’s doing a series of women in winter hats.
The more Damien delves into his own projects, the more he becomes interested in taking on clients only if they offer him something outside his forte. “I’m not worried about competition or what other people are doing. I like being edgy,” he says.
Damien isn’t out to be an artist with a capital A. He doesn’t talk the art talk and his original influences are pretty rustic; skate board videos, Jackass and Tom Green. But his reasons for sliding sideways into the art world are because he loves to play with ideas and he genuinely likes people and what they can get up to. He’s more an observer with a camera than most artists would be, unapologetically getting involved, racking up the “selfie” count yet revealing his love of people, places and events. And he does his thing even if people don’t like it. So his photography, which is both an outlet for personal expression, also unintentionally reveals a great deal about quirky Thunder Bay and the fascinating people who live here.