Photographer for the people
Leif Norman is Winnipeg’s photographer about town
It all started with a child’s fascination. In 1986, on a family trip to Montana and with a camera in hand, 12-year-old Leif Norman wanted to photograph a cactus.
“I remember getting down and looking at it and suddenly it occurred to me, I could photograph this 10 different ways,” Norman says. “That thought was percolating in the back of my mind for a long time.”
Now 37 and a full-time professional photographer, Norman says that thought stayed with him ever since.
“I remember just liking the idea of setting up a shot,” he says.
In 1999, Norman took this well-brewed photographic idea to the next level. He bought every book and magazine about photography that he could get his hands on. He even set up his own darkroom.
Then he hit the pavement to photograph things that interested him.
“(I photographed) lots of punk bands,” says Norman, who was himself in a band. “I just started experimenting and going nuts and just doing it.”
This included getting a job at Computech Camera Repair on Sherbrook, where the self-taught photographer became intimately familiar with all kinds of equipment.
“Every great 35mm film camera that was ever made, I worked on it,” Norman says. “Subsequently, if someone hands me a camera, I can work it.”
That same year he had his first photograph published right here in The Uniter. His picture of smoke pouring from a fire at Elim Chapel graced the cover. But there were bigger things in store.
In 2004, Norman started taking pictures for the Winnipeg Fringe as the festival’s official photographer. Since then he’s taken on the same role for the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers, among others.
However, his clients’ limited needs meant most of his work was never seen.
“I do all this work, I give them a thousand images, and maybe two or three ever see the light of day,” says Norman. “Then it fades away and no one ever sees them again.”
So, Norman decided to create a forum where people could see his work.
“I’d been fighting with the idea of what a website should do and what it needs to do and how to do it,” he says.
This summer, after a few years of this conflict, Norman finally found a WordPress blog format that suited his needs and started www.leifnorman.net.
The blog allows him to post additional pictures from his many shoots. He says his clients don’t mind.
“I see it as being beneficial for everyone. Why not, right?”
The new blog also allows Norman to pursue another interest.
In his self-assigned role as Winnipeg’s unofficial official cultural photographer, Norman documents different interesting parts of the city for posterity. So far, he’s shot Ragpickers, Parlour Coffee and Vintage and Funk, among others.
He also dropped by the grand opening of the University of Winnipeg’s Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex to pick up the other photographers’ slack.
“The media is going to run one or two photos and that’s it. I took dozens and dozens of pictures and they’re permanently there (online).”
Published in Volume 66, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 17, 2011)