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Ottawa Editorial Portrait Photographer – Catherine Sinclair for Ottawa Magazine

Ottawa Editorial Portrait Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen photographs Ottawa Art Gallery senior curator Catherine Sinclair

I love taking environmental portraits, and as an editorial portrait photographer I get the opportunity to photograph unique people in very cool places that the general public may not have access to. This was the case when I was contracted by Ottawa Magazine to photograph Catherine Sinclair and the galleries recent donation of work by the late Gerald Trottier.

For whatever reason, in my minds eye, the storage room for one of the largest acquisitions in the galleries history would be some sort of Indiana Jones endless cavern of crates and cool artifacts allowing for a treasure trove of environmental portrait possibilities.


OBVIOUSLY what’s really there are a few dimly lit rooms, some paintings hung, a few others in boxes or covered in bubble-wrap. Not exactly the dramatic environment of my dreams, but still, pretty cool if you know what to look for. I needed to include some of Trottier’s work, and the large hanging paintings were clearly going to be best use of a background. I had Catherine hold up the best-looking (while still small enough to lift) self-portraits and we worked with the neat sliding grates that held the artwork for something a bit more graphic. I always try to leave some good negative space in an editorial photograph so text can be overlayed.

Ottawa Portrait Photographer - Catherine Sinclair

The dim puke-green fluorescent lighting in the room was flat, and unflattering. I added a softbox to camera right and played around with a flash with a teal gel, complimenting the artwork’s tone, to bounce around the background and create some visual interest. So while the scene itself wasn’t moody and dynamic, I was able to fashion it into what I needed with a few lights and well placed subjects.

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