Gerry Kingsley is an internationally published portrait photographer and cinematographer born and raised in Northern Ontario, Canada. He’s known for his portraits of actors, authors, and public and corporate figures. As a cinematographer, he has recently completed principle photography on the feature film Swan Song and is prepping work for the upcoming feature film Fidelity. We chatted with Gerry to learn about his journey as a photographer.
So, how did Gerry become a photographer?
The problem I always had up here was that art was always discouraged for a lot of kids… it was never really a realistic thing for someone living so far up here.
In Gerry’s Northern Ontario town, photography wasn’t seen as a realistic career path. When his dad brought home a polaroid camera he needed for his job, Gerry’s interest and passion for photography were sparked.
Still, the reality of needing to make ends meet after high school led him to work in IT, web design, and digital art.
After the financial crisis of 2008 caused the IT company he was working for to shutter, he took the crash as an unlikely opportunity to return to his first career choice.
I was at a pivotal moment. I was still doing photography as a hobby, and I thought since I really have a window here to go into a new direction, I’ll just take it and see what happens.
He started out the way many photographers do, working odd jobs getting hired by friends and family and eventually getting more gigs through referrals. After shooting mostly weddings for a few years, Gerry decided he wanted to shift the direction of his career and opened a small portrait studio.
After catching the eye of a local director and some producers, and landing teaching jobs at the local college and then University, his career as a cinematographer began flourishing. Now, his goal is to do photography for one feature film a year while filling the rest of the time with portraiture.
So, how did Covid impact these plans?
The opportunities for photography were nil. Most of the work that I was doing was remote digital compositing.
Working on the most recent Resident Evil movie, Gerry’s in-person portrait sessions were high-pressure, with only a few minutes to capture the shot.
With fewer in-person opportunities to shoot during the lockdowns, Gerry has been making use of the time to work on a book and continue developing his craft through personal work.
Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Focus on yourself, compete with yourself. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds and get sucked into social platforms.
Gerry’s advice to photographers is to show up and do the absolute best job you can, even if you’re not excited about the job. People will recognize your skill and work ethic, and want to hire you for bigger and bigger jobs.
He also stresses the importance of developing a workflow for the business side of things early, to save yourself time in the long run. Skills like learning how to properly manage your clients and finances will free up more of your time for developing your photography skills.