Photographer of The Week: Tracey Ayton, Vancouver
The stylish Tracey Ayton is our photographer of the week. She has an incredible sense of aesthetic and an eye that has taken her career to great places. A published photographer, Tracey’s work has been featured in local magazines the likes of Style At Home, Canadian House and Home, Gray Magazine, Westernliving, and some other international ones like Martha Stewart, Domain Homes, Huffington Post, and Kinfolk, just to name a few. On this occasion, we decided to go behind the scenes on the life of a photographer.
Her photography is synonymous with bright spaces, clean environments, romance, and curiosity, because when she chooses an angle, her objective is to showcase the beauty of the object or space, but also leave the viewer wanting to see more. Attention to detail is the best asset for this interior, food & lifestyle photographer who also does styling. Her story is as interesting as her photographs, and in this interview you’ll learn how she got started into photography and the steps she took to be where she is today. You can find her on Instagram or at any of the workshops she’s been teaching lately.
How did you discover your interest in photography?
About 25 years ago, I signed up for a course in Graphic Design. Within the first week of attending, I found that it was hard to keep up with the class. I remember a fellow student informed me that she noticed that I was struggling but she was quick to mention that she also recognized that I was creative. She suggested that I check out some photography courses because it would allow me to use a tool in order to create my vision.
I followed up on her suggestion, quit the Graphic Design course, received a refund and put the money towards photography classes. I took part-time photography classes onwards for about 5 years. I absolutely loved it! To this day, I have no idea who this fellow student was, I can’t remember her name but she made such an impact on the direction of my life that day, I am forever thankful to her.
You have a focus on interior photography, how did you take that direction?
I had always loved interior design and subscribed to numerous publications throughout the years. Even when I was a kid, I loved to rearrange the furniture in my room. I’d paint the walls different colours on a regular basis. After attending a few photography courses, a friend talked me into shooting her wedding. I guess she figured that just because I was a photography student, it meant that I could shoot an entire wedding!! Needless to say, I captured her wedding beautifully that day.
The night before the wedding, it was extremely stormy and I couldn’t sleep. What would I do if it was raining? The next day came, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing and it made for some fantastic photos. My wedding photography career was set. It expanded into a full blown wedding and family portrait business for me. In addition to that, I worked at London Drugs for about 10 years and continued with the portrait photography for 15 years. Around the same time, I found another passion: Interior Design. I ended up taking a few part time classes and loved it. But my day job and photography business kept me too busy to pursue it.
So when did you make the switch from weddings to interiors?
After so many years of shooting weddings, I had reached a point in my career as a wedding photographer where I had, enough of working on weekends. I missed my friends, family and the best weather of the year. On one occasion, the event had reached its mid-point when the bride and groom were about to make their entrance. I found myself immersed in taking photos of the flower arrangements, the cake, table settings etc. I totally lost track of time only to have a family member inform me that I should go take photos of the bride and groom as I had missed their “entrance”.
That is when I knew I should get out of the wedding photography business. Around the same time, I was flipping through an interior design magazine (I still have that particular issue) and had my “Ah ha” moment. “Why was I not photographing beautiful interiors? From then on, I weaned down my wedding/portrait business and quit London Drugs.
In order to get photos of beautiful homes for my website, I knocked on a few doors and it turns out that the homeowners recognized me from the “photo girl” at London Drugs, and allowed me to photograph their homes. From there on, I started blogging, gaining clients and contacting the same interior design publications I had been pouring over all of those years, and where I am now published in.
How would you describe your creative process?
Hard to answer this one. I think I just have a creative eye and use the camera in order to capture what I see and make it a photograph. I’m more of an artist than a technical photographer for sure.
Now let’s talk about interiors. You recently moved outside of the city to a little beach town; Why did you decide to make that move?
I loved living in the city!! My husband is the one that got restless and recognized that if we sold our city house, we could build a bigger house by the beach. However, I dragged my feet for five years not wanting to leave but after noticing that our neighborhood full of history was changing due to the real estate market, I felt that we simply didn’t fit in. We had the chance to sell our home, move to a beach town and live 30 steps from the beach. We also would be able to build the house of our dreams there… well, pretty close anyways 🙂
So you built and designed your new home. What design/aesthetic elements were you looking forward to incorporating in your house?
My husband and I really love the feel of the Nantucket style homes. We both love the ocean and the area in which we built depicts just that same feel. The home has white shingles, shiplap, a metal roof and more traditional windows that have multiple panes on them. We were able to factor in a lot of what homes would boast on the East Coast.
I understand you also have an interest in heritage homes that are about to be torn down. Where did this interest come from and why do you photograph them?
We bought our first home about 13 years ago in Vancouver, located in a neighborhood rich in history, and it was built in 1927. The majority of homes were built pre-war early 1900’s, were made of old growth lumber, and were built by lumber barons straight from England, hence the “English feel” of homes i.e. Tudor style, colonial etc.
I am a proud 4th generation Vancouverite. On my mom’s side, my great-great grandfather started up a steel business in 1910 and on my father’s side, my grandfather used to sell popcorn at the entrance of Stanley Park.
After seeing so many of these beautiful homes get torn down and several “spec homes” replacing the spaces, my neighbourhood was drastically changing. I took an interest in the architectural details that these homes had. I found the whole demolition process depressing. But it intrigued me to see the intimate spaces where families celebrated their lives, just get knocked down in hours. This happened so much that I started documenting them in my spare time.
Do you see a common style in Vancouver homes?
I think Vancouver is a mish-mash of many styles. Our city is populated with many cultures and influences. Vancouver is a very young city in comparison with other cities and its evolution is always nice to see. The problem that I have now with what is happening here is that a majority of homes now are “spec homes”, built with the most inexpensive materials and you can see that. The neighbourhoods lose their interest and beauty. Downtown Vancouver has a lot of high-rises which seem to lack imagination. I’m open to redevelopment and understand the real estate market in Vancouver, but I just wish there was more thought put into architectural designs. People seem to be building for one purpose and that is only to make a lot of money.
And lastly, we’ve seen this little pup in some of your photos, so who’s Frankie?
Frankie is our 2-year-old adorable “Spinoni”. She’s a little trouble maker but we love her to bits.
Tracey’s portrait by Elayne Wandler.