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JVLphotography – 2014 recap

Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen
It’s en-vogue to do a retrospective of one’s favourite photographs from the year. What sort of bugs me about this is it’s usually photographers selecting their own work, and why not? We got through it, took some good photos, probably more than a few bad ones, and maybe we need a bit of a pat on the back. Truth be told, while I’m happy with a lot of the work I produced this year, I find myself compelled to share the work of others whose photography I truly admire. People like Cole Burston, an Ottawa-based photojournalist, have produced a beautiful array of images from this city that seem to perfectly sum up the collective experience of our community. The duo of Amanda Large & Younes Bounhar of DoubleSpace Photography have absolutely blown me away with their world-class architectural imagery. Luke Copping, in Buffalo, has become one of my new favourite editorial and portrait photographers; I study his work trying to pull out his lighting secrets.

I could pull out my own favourite images, but that’s what my portfolio is for. Instead, I’d like to take the time to thank the people who helped me pull this past year off; my third year in business, and my best yet. The assistants, the council, the second shooters, the models and, all of them, the friends that help me make the photographs and do the work that I love.

Alex Tetreault

If there’s someone who’s travelled the most miles with me over the past two years it’s been Alex. We drove to Muskoka last year for a cottage shoot and spent four days on the road in the GTA on my “Burlington or Bust” Extreme Family portrait tour. Alex is a hard working father who has come to my aid at any time, for any job. He lets me abuse him verbally and takes the time to remember that I get cranky when I don’t eat on a job. Alex was feeling a bit of burnout between working on his masters degree, as a teachers assistant, as primary caregiver to his daughter, and trying to be a husband to his wife and, sometimes, me. He had to go on extended photo furlough in order to focus on his priorities. I miss him.

Chris Cormier

Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen
Chris has also been assisting me for a few years now. He’s an Architect by schooling and has been working to break into that business. I tend to pair him up with clients in construction or for my architectural interior photos where, at dusk, he becomes a valuable 2nd shooter on the John Donkin & RND Construction Sandy Hill home that won Green Custom Home of the year at this years GOHBA awards. Not long after that, he got a job with John Donkin but still assists me on his off-days when he can.

Quinn Brown

Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen
Quinn is an independent videographer in Ottawa. He’s produced all my FJ Westcott Tutorial videos and also assists me on many of my corporate shoots that take place on weekdays. Kind of a gear-head, he knows the equipment well and is quick to pick up the functions of some of the more complicated lighting equipment. He even dresses up nice when asked 🙂

Myriam Cyr

Myriam Cyr - Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen

Myriam’s new to me as an assistant but I’ve been very impressed with her humour, work ethic and value-add that includes her experience as a makeup artist.

In the process of always trying to elevate those around me, inevitably good people will move on to better projects. So it’s equally important for me to constantly be bringing new people up, helping them while they help me.

Ian Murchison

Ian Murchison - Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen

An incredible industrial designer, Ian is equally gifted with a camera and lens. I was happy to bring him on as a second shooter for one of the two weddings I photographed this year. I don’t do a lot of these, I think there are far better wedding photographers than me in Ottawa but, when a friend asks, I know they’re familiar with both my style and personality. The fit isn’t so much my photography as it is their comfort level with me as a person.

David Ian Johnson

Davey J - Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen

David assisted me a lot in 2013, working with me on a few of my Ottawa Magazine “Daytrippers” assignments. He also happens to be an incredibly gifted photographer, chess champion, and all-around nice guy. A secret tip to all you aspiring commercial photographers out there: work with people better than you. David is certainly that. His raw talent pushes me to do better work for myself. By the time I photographed my second wedding of the year he was by-far the more experienced of the two of us.

Davey J & JVLphoto - Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen

Hot Models

Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen
Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen
The internet is about two things: cats and babes. I learned pretty fast that hot-young-things sell. And, while I’m not the kind of creepy exploitative photographer who gets all the girls to dress in bikinis and high heels, I definitely appreciate the help from lovely ladies like Lauren Hunter and Desirae Odjick at my workshops and for my tutorial videos. And let’s not forget the “Babes” in my “Babes & Burgers” series, in case you missed it.

Good friends & Council

Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen
Ottawa Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen
What I lack in personal motivation I make up for with ambitious and talented friends. I wouldn’t be in business today if it wasn’t for my friend Younes. I’ve also been privileged to get to know the incredibly talented RĂ©mi ThĂ©riault. All of us cover similar fields of photography in Ottawa but, unlike some of our predecessors, there’s more of a discourse of business, work, photography, creativity and style. We push each other to do better, encourage others in the photographic community and help promote the good business of photography. Rather than lament and bemoan everything new that comes their way, they embrace it and push forward. This is another matter of surrounding myself with people more talented than me; it helps push me to do better.


My monthly-ish gathering of photographers and photography enthusiasts. Back when I was leading some photowalks, I realized that most people were just there to grab some beers afterwards and talk. So I skipped the walking part and went straight to the bar. We don’t discriminate and even “photography enthusiasts” can be loosely defined. Some people talk about gear, some business, and others art. Some just talk about life and that’s all okay because that is all part of the big picture when it comes to photography and community. Some days there are only a few of us, sometimes almost fifty, but it’s always good company and a great way to re-connect with the passion of photography, lest it become a burden like so many jobs can be.

I’ve probably missed a few people in all of this, my clients, my family. Everyone comes together to make a commercial photography business like mine work. Ottawa is an insanely small community too, so it can get very competitive at times but I’m glad that, in most cases, my competitors are also some of my best friends. I can be happy when they get the work instead of me and know that, if I work hard enough, my time will come too.

Happy New Year.

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