By MYRON LOVE Kayla Gordon is best known in our community for her lifelong work in theatre.
But the former Winnipeg Jewish Theatre artistic director and founder (and current artistic director) of Winnipeg Studio Theatre has in recent years been pursuing another passion, combining travel to exotic destinations and photography. For the month of January, in what is her public debut as a photographer, Gordon has two of her framed photographs on display at Bev Morton’s Wayne Arthur Gallery on Provencher as part of a group exhibition featuring the photographic works of the 12 photographers who comprise T.H.E. Collective.
“Photography is a hobby for me,” Gordon says. “My dad used to dabble in photography. He had a darkroom in the basement. I have been playing around with photography for a long time. In the family, I have always been the resident photographer.”
Gordon began viewing photography more as an art form about seven years ago when she went on her first photography tour. That was an African safari in the company of six other photographers.
She followed up that trip the next year with a heli-photo visit to the Bugaboo Mountain Range on the Alberta/British Columbia border. “Over five days, the helicopters would drop us off on different mountain tops to take landscape photos,” she says.
Since then, she has been on photo trips to Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands, Arizona and Utah, Peru and the Galapagos Islands in 2015, and Cuba last November. (Gordon’s photos on display at the Wayne Arthur Gallery are both from her Cuba trip.) “Each trip is a different focus,” she says. “We stay away from the traditional tourist places. We go to smaller communities where we meet the local people.
“Cuba and Peru were my favourite places. The people there were really open.”
She also takes a lot of pictures locally in conjunction with The Collective (which was founded, she says, by her friend and sister photographer, Alex Morrison).
Gordon says that in her photography, she prefers to focus on people. Even when doing landscapes, she tries to centre her photographs on animal life within the landscape.
“Shooting people is my strength,” she says. “I try to tell stories through my photos.”
She only draws analogies between photography as an art form and her experience in the theatre. “In both set design and photography, you are looking at colour arrangement, getting the right lighting and balance. The scenes you try to create in a photograph are similar to the scenes you try to create on stage.”
The aspect that she most enjoys about photography, she says, is the sense of relaxation it gives her. “When I am out there shooting,” she says, “I am in a zen moment. I am essentially by myself in the zone.”
Gordon says that she has thus far accumulated about 16,000 photos during her travels near and far. “In Cuba, I took 2,000 photos,” she says. I try to edit them and choose the best 300 or so for my Facebook pages and Instagram.”
It has only been recently that she has begun framing some of her photo art.
On the theatre side, Gordon leads a yearly tour to New York and Broadway for budding young actors and their families. “This year, for the first time, we are offering photo workshops for tour participants who will not be going to the theatre workshops,” she says.
The next Winnipeg Studio Theatre production is going to be the Grammy- and Tony Award winning rock musical “Green Days’ American Idiot (February 23-March 5) after which Gordon says that she is taking a hiatus to enjoy being a first-time baba.
As to the future, while Kayla Gordon is not yet ready to retire. She is planning to cut back within the next year on her theatrical work, focusing more on contract assignments and spending more time on photography.
“Photography is a good, creative outlet,” she observes. “ I can do it on my own without the responsibilities of producing and directing plays.”