Thursday Q&A with photographer Andrew Balfour

Andrew Balfour, seated on his favourite piece of furniture, with his preferred brand of laptop. (Photo: Andrew Balfour)

Born and raised in Ottawa, Andrew Balfour has been working as a portrait photographer for nearly 30 years. He works regularly for government and business clients all over town. Andrew lives & works in a former power station in the Glebe (pictured in the image at left.)


OCS: Who are your style icons?

AB: My brother. I hate shopping. My brother takes me shopping in Montreal and that’s the only time I enjoy it because I know with his advice, I’ll buy things that actually look good.

OCS: What’s on your bedside table?

AB: iPhone, headphones, whatever I’m currently reading — at the moment that’s The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll.

OCS: Best home accessory?

AB: Weber charcoal barbecue and outdoor speakers so I can listen to music while I cook.

OCS: Best recent fashion find?

AB: Purple Adidas shoes from

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

AB: My Dad who died in 1985. I’d barbecue steak.

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

AB:  Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) by David Bowie (1980) or London Calling by the Clash (1979).

OCS: What’s your earliest memory?

AB: I am very much trying to live in the moment right now. I’ll think about the past when I’m old.

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

AB: I frequently forget to zip my pants when I get dressed. I recently did a portrait of a diplomat and then realized that  my fly was undone. It’s actually happened on so many work occasions that it’s no longer embarrassing to me.

OCS: Proudest moments?

AB: Being asked out on a date by the most beautiful woman and then marrying her three years later. Work highlights? Having my photographs on eight million postage stamps and hanging in the Supreme Court.

OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?

AB: Our couch looks like it’s from a cartoon and it fits both of us perfectly for time together every morning and evening.

OCS: Qualities you most admire in a person?

AB: Having recently had surgery to repair a bleeding lung, I admire the blood donors, nurses and doctors at the General Hospital who saved my life. Words can’t begin to express my admiration and gratitude

OCS: Whom would you most like to photograph?

AB: Performers (musicians, dancers, artists) and I’ve always wanted to photograph a monkey — call me if you know one who needs a portrait.

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

AB: Leisurely breakfast with my beautiful wife, followed by museums, good food and conversation at dinner, music or dance performance at night.

OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead?

AB: Edward Weston, photographer (1886-1958)

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

AB: Genevieve Thauvette — her work Ombres hangs in our living room and I enjoy it every day. Her work is like looking into another world where facts blend with fiction.

OCS: Best book you read in the past year?

AB: “In One Person” by John Irving. It’s about making the most of the life you were given. The characters and relationships are written so vividly. Also It Chooses You by Miranda July. So good I read it in one sitting.

OCS: Favourite food?

AB: Barbecued steak (from Glebe Meat Market). I ask to have tenderloin cut an inch and a half thick. Grill for six minutes total at high heat 550º (for rare). Serve with grilled asparagus (from Nicastro’s) and grilled potatoes (from Glebe Metro).

OCS: Most-oft-played song on your iPod or MP3 player?

AB: It’s impossible to pick only one. I listen to something by David Bowie every day — I have 36 of his albums, so there’s a lot of variety within that one favourite artist. Other artists that I listen to a lot are: the Clash, Cat Power, Run DMC, Black Keys, White Stripes, Patti Smith, Hole, Lucinda Williams, Sigur Ros, Charlotte Gainsbourg. New songs by Icona Pop and Black Moth Super Rainbow are getting a lot of play right now. Whenever I make a mix every third song is Bowie — that is my secret to a great playlist.

OCS: Coffee, tea or both?

AB: Coffee (from Francesco’s) all day and tea in the evening, milk with meals

OCS: Mac or PC?

AB: Mac

OCS: Canon or Nikon?

AB: Nikon

OCS: Fine dining or plain old diners?

AB: Diner because I can be sure they will have bacon.

OCS: Best restaurant in Ottawa?

AB: Taj Mahal — today was my third day in a row eating there

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

AB: The Glebe

OCS: Fave blog or website?

AB: Tony is a one man army, doing all kinds of interesting photo and book projects. New posts happen every Sunday. What’s new in visual culture posted every day.

OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?

AB: Facebook, Tumblr and occasionally Twitter

OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?

AB: I never feel guilty — as long as I live with balance, there’s no room for guilt. Define “guilty pleasure.” Right now I’m listening to Kid Rock, eating candy and wearing pyjamas (at noon) — does that still count even though I don’t feel a bit guilty?

OCS: Favourite place to spend time?

AB: Home.

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

AB: They can say what they want — I’ve done my best. I don’t care what they’ll say because I’ll be the dead guy at that party.

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