Darren Holmes Q&A

Darren Holmes (Photo: Julie Oliver/Ottawa Citizen)

Darren Holmes is a Canadian portrait photographer. Born in rural northern Ontario, he has strong ties to organic, expressive, unrefined imagery and is inspired by surrealist/photomontage approaches. Over the past decade he has exhibited in Portugal, Hamburg, Paris, Moscow and other cities. He has been invited to show his work and speak at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and in Kiev and Moscow.

He was commissioned to create the artwork for Anita Amirrezvani’s hardcover novel, The Blood of Flowers for the U.S. and several other countries. He has been published in Europe and North America in many periodicals such as Photomasterskaya (Russia), Elegy (France), Slipstream Magazine (U.S.) and the respected U.S. photography periodical SHOTS.

He answered Style’s many questions.


Ottawa Citizen Style: Who are your style icons?

Darren Holmes: Björk gives off this vibe of having absolutely no inhibitions, without that voice most mortals have that says “you should think twice about wearing a dress that looks like a swan to a gala event”. We need more swan dresses and swan dress-wearing people in this world.

OCS: What’s on your bedside table?

DH: Every night, I’ve been reading books from a set published in 1899 called Six Thousand Years of History. It tried to sum up human progress from antiquity to the time of writing. [It’s] full of great proud passages like “fully one-third of the teeth extracted in civilized countries are now removed while the patient is under anesthesia.”

OCS: Best home accessory?

DH: Our John DeKay bullfighter reproduction, which we found second-hand. It owns our living room. Wait … the deer antler that we found in my mom and dad’s back yard. Either one.

OCS: Best recent fashion find?

We were out one night and a leather hat blew across a street directly into our path.  Nobody was around, so I figured it was mine to take care of for now. It’s got a loner/desperado kind of vibe to it. Someday I’ll leave it on a bench for the next person.

OCS: Whom would you invite for dinner if you could choose anyone in the world?

DH: I’d take Oscar Wilde out for drinks. He would just expect me to listen quietly and laugh at his jokes. And then he’d stick me with the cheque. And that would be okay.

OCS: You can see the debut of any piece of music in history. What would it be?

DH: Sitting in on Abbey Road album sessions would be pretty great.

OCS: What’s your earliest memory?

DH: Being in an apartment somewhere, with a fancy carpet. It was the early 70s. Remembering the colours. And hearing strange thumping from above. Perhaps someone walking? And being scared.

OCS: Your biggest fashion faux-pas, when, where and how?

DH: I tend to wear wool socks in any weather.

OCS: Proudest moments?

DH: That beautiful, perfect time after proudly pronouncing an image finished … and before waking up the next morning and looking at it again.

OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?

DH: We had our dining table custom-made by a local carpenter. [My wife] Chantal drew the plans. They built it and we finished it. Parts of the top shrank with the change of season and created gaps, so the guy came back and slid shims of wood in to fill them. It’s imperfectly perfect.

OCS: Qualities you most admire in a person?

DH: The ability to just be themselves. Hip always smells like bullshit to me.

OCS: Who would you most like to photograph?

DH: Neko Case won’t return my calls. Doesn’t she know we’re married?

OCS: Describe a perfect day off (it can be anywhere in the world).

DH: Paris Plage, which is a fake beach along the Seine, in Paris during the summer.  People sit in giant sand boxes and pretend they’re on a real beach somewhere else.  I’d go there and take pictures of it but Martin Parr owns that.

OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead?

DH: That changes hourly, but Hieronymus Bosch could have been the epic film director of his day. Stories piled on top of one another.

OCS: Favourite local artist (if different from above, and doesn’t have to be a visual artist)?

DH: Singer/Songwriters: Keturah Johnson, C.C. Trubiak. Seriously.

OCS: Best book you read in the past year?

DH: I don’t read books as much as re-read them. Forecast, a graphic zine edited by Nicholas Blechman, and Twisty Little Passages, a book about the history of interactive fiction by Nicholas Montfort.

OCS: Favourite food?

DH: Some amazing amalgamation of Indian and Mediterranean food. Does this exist already? I’m sure it has a great name.

OCS: Most-oft-played song on your iPod or mp3 player?

DH: I don’t have an mp3 player but I’ve been listening to tracks I’m producing with C.C Trubiak a lot lately.

OCS: Wine, beer or both?

DH: Both. Red wine, and smooth beer. Not together! Well, maybe…

OCS: Mac or PC?

DH: I’m generally the agnostic type. Before computers everyone probably argued about brands of pens, it’s a human thing I guess.

OCS: Fine dining or plain old diners?

DH: I lean toward diners and taverns mostly. You should able to eat in a place where you can swear at random without consequence.

OCS: Best restaurant in Ottawa?

DH: Gaia, on my side [Quebec] of the river. Amazing salads. We came across my new favourite beer there, La Dieu Du Ciel.  Spicy! I can’t forget Shafali on Dalhousie. Before we went veggie, I loved the lamb vindaloo there. It still makes me wistful …

OCS: Person, place or thing that makes you proudest/happiest that you live in Ottawa?

DH: Just the environment in general … the air is clear. The act of living feels good here, like drinking a cool glass of water.

OCS: Fave blog or website?

DH: Tumblr blog archives are my porn. Seeing stuff appropriated and gathered together somewhere else, according to people’s personal freaky obsessions. You look at stuff differently when it’s thrown into a different context with other stuff.

OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?

DH: They’re both evil, but I can be a voyeur on Facebook so it’s automatically better.

Self-portrait by Darren Holmes

Darren Holmes (Photo: Chantal Lancaster)

OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?

DH: My photography work. I get to play act, direct dramatic, theatrical projects and meet the most absolutely inspiring people that share a desire to create interesting images.

OCS: Favourite place to spend time?

DH: I’m all about getting out into undeveloped, wild environments. In terms of sensations that are fundamentally calming, the sound of wind moving through a forest canopy is right up there with a heart beat for me.

OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?

DH: It may likely be something like “He seemed to be a good spirit. And tried not to do too much harm. For the most part, he pulled it off.”

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