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Part 9 Design

Chris from Part9Design came by a while ago for new photos for his website. Photoshoots like this one remind me why I love my job so much. Chris and I hit it off immediately, we found so much to talk about I almost had to remind myself to take some photos!

Here’s Chris from his About page:

It started early. My father built homes. I was exposed to home building sites as a kid, learning the basics through high school drafting and had the first house of my own design and drafting built before starting university. By the time I’d graduated from the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Architecture, Bachelor of Environmental Studies (now Environmental Design) I had already been designing built homes for four years. I thought becoming an architect was my path… but after briefly working for an architect in Calgary, I abandoned design entirely. It just wasn’t for me.

It was a few years before I came around to the idea that a career in design was still a possibility, and an understanding that I still loved designing homes – the small scale stuff, and just did not like working on the scale of buildings that ‘Architecture’ focuses on. With the caring encouragement of two old friends who are now both architects, I picked up the design bug again and accepted a position at Dominion Lumber designing homes for a few home builders in the late ’90s. That progressed to Star Building Materials with a few staff (Qualico Corporation), then a small design firm for three years before striking out on my own by founding part9design in the fall of 2009.

The clean and effective website was design by my friends Holly and Shannon  at Waterloo Design who are extremely talented. If you need a new website, I’d encourage you to check them out!


Kate dropped by the studio the other day to shoot just for fun. We’ve worked together over the years but we realized we had never just shot for fun, so it was great! The light in the new studio space is wonderful and Kate popped by just as the sun was setting.  After it was gone we did some more studio lit images.

Fifty X 50 : Oly Backstrom

I met up with Oly on another one of those unnaturally warm and sunny days in November. He suggested we meet at the foot bridge that connects the small park on Wellington Crescent on one side of the Assiniboine to the Omand Creek park on the other side. It’s built into a rail bridge. When I inquired that maybe this bridge was some sort of metaphor to his life, Oly replied he simply chose it as he spends a lot of time in the parks and lives in the neighbourhood. Little did I know what that meant! Our session was punctuated by Oly running into at least three different people he knew, and I think several others who chatted with us simply because they recognize Oly as part of the community! While were on the foot bridge a train came through, a rare occasion. We laughed again about freight trains as metaphors and stood on the bridge while it rolled by us, mere feet away. It was a pretty cool experience. Connecting with Oly and learning about his work and how passionate he is toward it, was equally as cool an experience.


My real name’s Orland, not too many people call me that. My friends just decided at one point in time that Ollie sounded more Swedish, and was a better fit to Backstrom, so my friends started calling me Ollie, and it’s what I ended up running with. I turned 50 January 31st. I’m a Winnipeg-er. I’m not a born and bred Winnipeg-er. I moved here in 1987. I’m originally from Saskatchewan. Started growing up on a farm near what’s now a ghost town. I went to a one room school until I moved my family to Swift Current when I was about 12. So I’ve been here in Winnipeg for almost 30 years, and I’ve been working at a non-profit organization called SCE Lifeworks for 22 years. And it helps people with development disabilities find work in the community. I started there in 1994 with a three month term, and have been there ever since in about six different positions.

It feels great to be 50. Part of the reason I think it feels great is I’ve learned a few things to make sure I’m doing what I need to do to make it feel great  I think I’m a little better at not being my own worst enemy the older I’ve gotten, and I think I’m a little bit better at being my better self as I’ve gotten older.

I think turning 28 was probably the toughest milestone transition. 28, in and of itself, wasn’t a transition year, but when I turned 28 I thought, “Well, I might as well be 30 now.” But being 50, I didn’t really reflect a lot on it being a big milestone until we actually started talking about it. It was almost like I avoided thinking about it [chuckles]. Now that we’re talking about it, I just find that really interesting. Maybe part of it is, a lot of us are busy enough not to be quite as reflective as we used to be.

About eight years ago. I think the stress of work was starting to get to me, and I was starting to have heart palpitations, and I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t exercising or anything. Then I joined the Refit and that was an amazing move toward helping me manage my stress and hitting the reset button for work the next day. That’s been one of the big things, to be honest.

This wasn’t a revelation at 50, but I think there came a point in time where I realized that I do have to be a little more purposeful about my own thought life. There was a period of time in my life where I had a pretty dark cloud over my head. I could be a little bit hard on myself and let that eat me up. I’d get into some negative thought cycles that I needed to be purposeful about getting myself out of.  I had more control of that than maybe I originally thought I did, so that was another revelation. If I started getting into a situation where I was beating myself up a bit too much, I’d be grabbing the steering wheel of my thought life and steering it back onto the road. I think there are people who struggle with mental health challenges who may not have as much control and maybe there were periods of time where I felt that, but I realized there was a point where I had to try I had to grab the steering wheel and get it back on.

A big an epiphany come to me in the early 90s when I read a book by Viktor Frankl called “Man’s Search for Meaning” Its about his experience in the concentration camps, seeing people have their humanity stripped away from them. He observed how some people even though every aspect of their life was being controlled, they never let go of that sense of control that they had of their own approach to life or the way they treated the people who were in the concentration camp with them. It isn’t all nature or nurture there will always be a little seed of control and freedom that you have to make choices. Reading that really kind of shook me up and made me re-evaluate the hole I was kind of digging for myself.


Coming out of university and still waiting on tables, I knew that I wanted to do something that “helped people” and I had no idea what that meant. I had no idea what the lives of people with intellectual disabilities looked like or how people were supported, but discovered this organization that happened to have this vision of solely inclusive service. I wish I could say I looked at my career options and that’s what I chose, but that isn’t the truth at all. I stumbled into it, and I was fortunate enough to fall into this work and have some great people around me who were able to inform me about how people with intellectual disabilities should be fully included, and how we  have to be purposeful about including people in society.

In my work I’ve had a chance to play a role in helping people build some new points of references in Manitoba and Winnipeg about where people with developmental disabilities fit and how people with developmental disabilities can contribute meaningfully in the workplace and other places. But of course, a person always wishes they played a bigger role and that’s an ongoing journey and struggle too.

In Manitoba there are still a lot of people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autism coming out of high school, for example. It’s an invisible field, but people are still often going to day programs doing recreational activities coming out of high school. And some are still working in workshops as well, at least partly segregated from the community. In my work I’ve had a chance to work with some other great champions in the community, to show people can make that valued contribution, and make really meaningful community connections in the community, and live fulfilling lives in the community.


So the next part of our journey, and part of what I’m trying to influence is the idea that the people we serve are capable of taking on more valued roles, and taking on more complicated work. One of the big projects I’ve been working on the last six years is Project Search, where high school students with developmental disabilities are embedded within large, valued organizations where you typically wouldn’t see many people with intellectual disabilities or autism. But they’re fully embedded within those businesses for what would have been their last year of high school working through free work experiences or internships. We’re trying to identify atypical roles, and more valued roles within those organizations. It’s happening at Manitoba Hydro, Government of Manitoba, and HSC Winnipeg.

My hope is that we are building our own point of reference of what people are capable of. The longer we’re embedded the more we develop eyes to see ourselves where people could fit in that value, and do complicated tasks that people would have never thought of.  The longer we’re embedded my hope is that our colleagues at HSC Winnipeg, and Manitoba Hydro, Government of Manitoba develop their own eyes to see that too.

When we started Project Search conceptually our partners at Manitoba Hydro and Government of Manitoba were keen on the concept. But when the rubber hits the road they’re trying to figure out with us, “So where are people going to work? What kind of work experiences are people going to get?” Because the only points of reference were the ones we had shown them, and that was those typical roles, those logical cleaning roles. And so over time those attitudes within those organizations have started to shift, and it’s been gratifying to see there are wins to that, but still a lot of work to do. For people with developmental disabilities what they are transitioning into out of high school,  it’s a pretty good chance that that’s what they’re going to be doing for a fairly long period of their life – maybe all their typical working adult life. So if we can play a role to present a different way forward and build that new point of reference, even if people aren’t coming into Project Search, they can see the possibilities and identify them elsewhere. That’d be gratifying for me.

dscf7585_ian_mccauslandI remember a time, I wouldn’t have been in this work for very many years. I was probably as gratified from the work, but also frustrated with some of the systemic barriers to move things forward. I remember a conversation I had with a really good friend who was in similar work where he was just as emotionally invested. he said, “Some days I just want to punch the clock, at five o’clock and just want to go home and forget about it” And I remember thinking, “Yeah, I kind of get that,” at the time, but I don’t feel that now. I think the systemic barriers are still there and the frustrations still there, but it the longer you are doing the work, while the change might be incremental, you can look back and say “Yeah I’m glad I’m not checking out at 5:00 after making widgets. I’m glad I could witness this progress.”

I think I’m finding finding a better way to channel that frustration and contextualize it, but also realizing I’m sticking with it, I’m not going anywhere. If there are systemic barriers I want to be that guy that keeps on poking at them.


You don’t have life all plotted out and planned out. And don’t panic about that, but also be aware there are opportunities that are going to fall in your lap that you maybe don’t see as opportunities yet. Something that looks like a little bit of a side road might just be that road you end up staying on and that might not be a bad thing. So don’t panic if you don’t have it all plotted out. There’s a part of me who wants to say to the 25-year-old who has it all plotted it out [chuckles], “Be ready for things to play out much differently than how you expect it and that’s okay, and you might be richer for that too.”

I can still relate to the 25-year-old where I haven’t plotted it out, so I’m trying not to panic about it. For my next 50?  Just keep on being persistent. Keep on finding ways to channel frustration in a productive way. The other thing I think about as being 50 is, I’ve been very lucky with my health. At some point in time, life is going to serve me a curveball with my health in the next 50 years that I’ve never had to deal with before. I don’t have any wise things to say to myself, other than to not take for granted what you have now, embrace that as part of the package of living when it happens.dscf7635_ian_mccausland

Churchill Wild food shots

Recently I collaborated with Shel Zolkewich to shoot a series of food shots celebrating the menu of the Churchill Wild Lodge. Shel did the food styling and I did the photography.

The gang at Churchill Wild were fascinated with the process of assembling these shots and did a profile on Shel and I on their blog:

Hours and hours of work can go into one shot.

“Even longer if you have to pick the cranberries off the tundra,” said Zolkewich with a smile in her voice.

“You see a beautiful photo of food and you think it looks great and so appetizing,” continued Zolkewich. “Then you sort of delve into why it’s working for you and why it’s hitting all your triggers. What you think it might smell like or taste like. There are a hundred little details that may have gone into that one photo. Like scouring the cupboards of other people’s kitchens and my own searching for all kinds of props to make it work.”

And it did. Beautifully.



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The Creaddo Group

Recently I had the Creaddo Group drop by  the studio for some new photos for their website.

From their website

The Creaddo Group is an agency dedicated to helping charities think differently and rise to the next level. We work with your organization to lower costs, increase revenue, approach prospects, and engage new donors.

Inspired by my use of triptychs in other project, the team wanted me to create images the same way. I find triptych‘s a great way to reveal more of the subjects characters, a chance for you see them at their most confident, their happiness and at their most joyful!

Sarah, Katherine, Mary Beth, and Jennifer are all amazing women and we wanted to show that to the viewer. It was great fun to work with them.




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Wet Plate photography seminar

Ken Miner came through and held a seminar on Wet Plate photography. The process is also know as the Colliodion process and dates back to the 1850’s, the dawn of photography.

The process has gained a new resurgence as a reaction to the perfect, glossy, fast world of digital. As much as “normal” film is coming back  bit, and people constantly ask me if I’d ever shoot film again, processes like Wet Plate appeal to me the most. It’s the ultimate in hands-on and slow and it creates an unique image you simply can’t replicate with any other technology.

Ken_Miner_by_Ian_McCausland-1Ken’s been a practitioner of the process for several years and there was a lot of excitement from the small group to learn the step necessary to make an image.

The morning started with Ken photographing each of us while we all watched and made notes and asked questions.


the process is called “wet Plate” because the entire process from start to finish has to happen while the plate is wet, so the coating and sensitizing, exposing and developing all has to happen in succession on site!

Ken_Miner_by_Ian_McCausland-9The plates are sensitive to UV so even in nice light exposures are 6-8 seconds. People have to hold still! Then right after the exposure it’s back in to the darkroom for developing, then fixing the image,which can happen in daylight!

Ken_Miner_by_Ian_McCausland-4Ken_Miner_by_Ian_McCausland-10I sat first so my portrait came out a little dark but it was still very cool to go through the process as a subject to understand how it feels. 
IMC_1533After lunch we had  Style Hunter Fox, come by with some period clothing and we all took turns at photographing her. It was a bit nerve-wracking but very exciting to go through the steps and have an image work!



A couple days later Ken took the seminar outside! Ken has a customized darkroom in the back of his van, which allows you to shoot on location.


The cool part of the fixing process done in daylight, is the subject gets to see themselves emerge from the plate, like magic! Their reaction is the best part of shooting portraits with this process!Ken_Miner_by_Ian_McCausland-7-2I put a call out on Facebook for a subject and Kristy formerly of the Lab Works, came by for a few plates.

This first one I was just trying to make an image of any kind, didn’t spend much time with the pose or expression, and it shows!


The next plate Kristy and I spent a bit more time on finding pose that she could feel relaxed in for 6 seconds and then I prompted her a bit more to find the right expression.IMC_1542
The next one I wanted to try something different, Kirsty is a passionate practitioner of yoga so I wanted to see if she could hold the pose for 6 seconds! She nailed it!
IMC_1545Needless to say, this was a LOT of fun! Everyone who attended the seminar is vowing to continue making images and we’re all working together to source the necessary materials. I hope to share more images very soon!


Imaginet are a Winnipeg based consulting firm that was being profiled in a trade magazine. They were looking for something a little  different that showcased the two principles and their distinct personalities. We utilized an empty space next door to give us the room we needed to light things properly. It’s a real treat to be able to shoot B&W as I LOVE Black and white!


The Cellar Door for Banville & Jones

For a recent feature in The Cellar Door I captured three amazing sommeliers,Andrea Mike and Jill, from Banville&Jones cooking up their comfort foods and pairing them with wines. Not only are these three knowledgable about food and wine , their super fun to hang out with and we had a great time!_IAN0459 _IAN0063 _IAN0289_IAN9996 _IAN0548 _IAN0202


Then right after that we went down to the Fairmont to profile Chef  Eraj Jayawickreme. Eraj is new to our city and brings his amazing skills, love of gfood and wonderful sense of humour! We had so much fun._IAN0704 _IAN0592

Sony A7s and Wasabi

Back in October I was lucky enough to try out the new Sony A7s, the latest camera in the A& line up. While its getting raves as a video camera, I had fun using it for still. I dropped in the food blogger event at Wasabi to try it out. Wasabi is the perfect location to try out a camera designed for low light. The cozy atmosphere and dim lighting makes for a wonderfully cozy environment and their sushi is unrivalled in this city.

As you can see here the Sony handled the task amazingly well. The more I play with this camera the more I can see myself using it. While I didn’t have wireless capabilities set up and running, I could have easily been tweeting and instagraming these images immediately as part of the event.As good as the iPhone is, it’s no match to this full frame chip!

You can view all the pics posted from this event here
Many Thanks to Wasabi of the invite to this event!










Polo Park Holiday Campaign

Piercing through a snowy landscape, our glowing beauty captures the ethereal mood accented with plenty of sparkle this holiday season. Winter whites, royal to deeper blues, grays, silvers, and soft pops of brights set the tone. Brilliant faux furs play a starring role this season in a variety of colours, mixed with a great breadth of jewels and crystals, evoking an air of elegance and pure luxury for Holiday 2014.
Thanks to our Style Team:
Hair: John Graham at Aevi Spa Salon Boutique
Beauty: Jocelyn Caballero
Model: Kate Yacula at Swish Model Management
Styling – ‪#SwishProductions‬
Production – Direct Focus Marketing Communications
Photography: Ian McCausland Photography

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