On Canada, photo diaries, and inspiring women: a visit to Toronto to meet up-and-coming photographer Arden Wray.
Photos by Kayla Rocca
Who is Arden Wray?
I am a young-ish woman, currently based in my hometown of Toronto, Canada, who is always curious about people and places. I am nosy. I want to dig deep. I like the practice of looking closely — at a detail in a space, at someone's face, at their body language. I used to explore this and pay attention to it by writing down verbal descriptions of things or moments I saw and liked. I still plan shoots this way. I write out my ideas where most other photographers will sketch. I started photographing my friends when I was in high school then went on to study photography at university in Montreal for my undergraduate degree. From there, I've been creating images for my own pleasure and working freelance shooting primarily travel work and portraiture.
Above: photos by Arden Wray
You’re a fairly prolific photographer who always seems to be pursuing a new project. Can you share more about what inspires you?
I have always most loved photographing women. I'm inspired when I meet strong, creative, thoughtful women. I am also always inspired, on an ongoing basis, by the amazing women I count as my closest friends and family — by their tremendous grace + fierceness. I make my favorite work, usually, when I am traveling. I think there's something in the daily experience of seeing all new sights, when on a road trip especially, that spurs me to shoot much more energetically than if I were in my usual day-to-day environment. My eyes get excited and I find myself looking at my surroundings more actively, more romantically.
Do you ever go through periods of not feeling creative or not having ideas? How do you deal with it?
Of course! To be honest, I usually just let the block rest. It's sort of like taking a creative nap. It can be so stressful to try to force yourself out of that space — but in my experience, it always does pass. And often an especially positive, productive period will follow.
What kind of clothing are you drawn to?
I love anything with a 60's or 70's feeling new, and pieces from those eras in vintage. I have a lot of friends who are amazing designers and I love to wear their labels. It's good for me to feel like I have a connection with each thing on my body: it feels like good luck somehow. Rich fabrics, embroidery, vintage detailing, personal nostalgic significance. I love when an outfit makes me feel like I'm wearing armor.
Give us a tip for layering up in the freezing Canada winters.
Longjohns! Longjohns under everything, all the time. December onwards, I am never not wearing fleecy tights under all of my clothes. A wintertime never-nude, if you will. But it helps.
Above: photos by Arden Wray
What are you most proud of?
In my life? My friendships. In my work, my ability to capture something true + quiet in a portrait of someone.
Do you feel like your personal style reflects your work (or perhaps vice versa)? In what way?
I'm drawn to items with intricate detailing + care. I love vintage embroidery. I like patterns and rich fabrics. In my photographs, I like busy, full frames with lots of texture. I like windblown hair and lots of deep colors. I guess those tastes do align.
What’s for breakfast?
I've got a very tricky weakness for almond croissants. Trying to wean myself off them currently, but it's not going too well.
What’s something we’d be surprised to learn about you?
My family is restoring a vintage inn near Woodstock in the Catskills, NY. It's a magic spot called Foxfire Mountain House. I spend a good deal of time down there running around in the woods, drinking whiskey by the fireplace, sourcing cool vintage velvet sofas for the guest rooms.
What are 5 other things you’re really into a the moment?
Sharon van Etten, Texas, Anais Nin, hot dogs, and the movie Practical Magic.