Christopher Gaze has a perfect smile

I have always wanted to photograph Christopher Gaze. He is a well known cultural figure who founded The Bard on The Beach  Shakespeare Festival in Vancouver 20 years ago.  But I wanted to photograph him without a smile. In all the photographs of him I've ever seen, he has a perfect smile.  I wanted to see what he looked like without it.

I wrote a letter asking him to participate in my project of photographing people in the arts and culture community. I sent him my portfolio. That was early in the spring of 2009, but I heard nothing from him.  Six months later, I found out that Christopher Gaze was on the board of a charity organizations in town whose founder I knew.  So, I asked him to ask Christopher Gaze to respond to my request.  Again, nothing happened. I told myself that he was just too busy to be bothered.

Many months after my second attempt, I was at the Fifth Avenue cinema to see Julie and Julia.  It was a late night showing, so not many people were in the theatre.  When the movie was over, I saw a small group of people walking by me towards the exit.  I recognized Christopher Gaze.  I was reluctant to approach him because I felt that he was enjoying private time with his friends, and it was just not a polite thing to do. I agonized for a few minutes. But if I missed this opportunity, I might never have a chance to photograph him. So I pulled my courage together and with my business card in hand, I went up to him and introduced myself.  When he realized who I was, I knew that he felt a bit guilty for having failed to get back to me.

The portrait session took place soon after our encounter.  I told him that I did not want to take the same photograph I'd been seeing of him all over town. "Challenge me," he said.

He was open, warm and down to earth, as well as being very charming and attractive. He was  exceptionally photogenic.

I took many photographs of him without his smile. I liked them very much.  When he smiled, however, I realized how much smiling suited him. His smile was dazzling.  He had a most perfect smile.

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The photographs were taken in October 2009 in my studio.

Christopher Gaze is an actor and the founder of The Bard on The Beach Shakespeare Festival.

Yukiko Onley is a Vancouver-based photographer.

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