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Patrick Gilbert

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Interview by: Jessa Laframboise | 2022

“I often wonder, what do people know about me?” says local artist Patrick Gilbert. Patrick describes himself as a quiet, shy, multidisciplinary artist and father of three. He started his professional career in the late 1990s, mostly doing freelance projects, including illustration work, before pursuing education in Graphic Design at Canadore College. As a student, Patrick began working in web design and development for local businesses. This led to him eventually starting his own business in 2005. Patrick explained that, at the time, he noticed there was a need for the kind of work he was doing. And as Patrick says, one thing just led to another… Today, Patrick’s business is mainly focused on video production and photography. His award-winning projects have taken him to some amazing and far-out locations. Following a love for his craft, he has spent time deep underground, exploring mines across the country stretching from Newfoundland to Northwest Territories. He has traveled to the Yukon, where he documented coding and robotics programs that were being offered to underserved communities and filmed across northern Ontario for the Discovery Channel. He is also no stranger to pushing things to the edge, literally, having had lots of experience shooting from a helicopter (usually with the door removed and his leg out the side.) Patrick feels such gratitude for every project and experience he has had over the course of his career. He recognizes how significant it is for people to share their stories with him, trusting in his vision and abilities. Through all this, Patrick’s mission has been to learn as much as possible from each unique experience. He has sought to build genuine, long-lasting relationships with clients and fellow artists, all the while creating meaningful work that holds true value to people for years to come.

How did you get into photography and cinematography?

I was doing web design for people, and that eventually evolved into me working more with photography. And back when flash animation was still a pretty big deal with websites, I started doing a lot of that. Which then also evolved into video work and video editing. So, everything just kind of evolved from that to where I am now. Video is probably the biggest part of what I do today. Things have also evolved into music production, and I have been producing my own music for videos that I make… It’s a challenge, but I’m having a lot of fun with it.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I am generally such a closed-off person… very private, and probably a bit socially awkward. My nature would just be to stay closed in. But my work, mostly the photography and video portion of it, has brought me all over the place. If I had stayed as a programmer, I would have never seen anything other than my home office. So I guess my favourite part is just the opportunity to see so many different places and be involved in all sorts of different things. I've had the chance to experience so many different industries and settings over the years. I can't think of any other work that would give me that kind of diversity.

What have your experiences been working in the local creative sector?

It’s so huge to be able to work in a creative industry… it's such a gift. My whole family owes everything to it. The bulk of my career has been promoting North Bay and the people in it. That's been pretty important to me. And as much as I can get away with it, I have always tried to make what I'm doing artsy and more creative. But my work has a specific purpose for my clients, too. So there’s an added challenge of doing the corporate stuff where you have to perform a service and make art simultaneously. But I think that when things are commercial or corporate, it just immediately strips away the art from it. So, I’m probably a kind of outsider in the arts community to some extent because my work is also commercial. I don't know if it gets seen the same way as, say, a collection of work that would be in a gallery.

Can you expand on this feeling of being an outsider?

I'm an outsider because I make myself that way… I'm my own worst enemy in that way. But I've had some comments thrown at me over the years saying like, what I’m doing is for business. It's not art what I'm doing. It used to bother me. But if a certain community or part of the community doesn't respect what I do, fair enough. I still get to do what I like to do. And when I get to incorporate more creativity into projects, or I can expand my creativity, like with music, it all helps me survive.

What do you want people to know about you and your practice?

The important thing is that my work really never has anything to do with me at all. No project is about me or what I want to achieve. It's about the people and places I'm highlighting. Just showing the best of what they are. I'm not worried about having a huge audience. It's all about the impact the work has on the people that matter. However many or few that may be. When people reach out to me 10 years after a project to tell me they're still affected by what I did for them, it's about the best I could ask for.

So what’s next for you?

That’s the big question: what’s next? I can keep doing what I'm doing, and that's great. But I don't know what more I can add to it at this point, and that's something that I'm struggling with. I'm still working on what's next. I definitely would like to evolve the music side of things a lot more than I have. I mean, it's something that I've slowly and quietly been building up more and more, but I do hope to put a lot more into that in the next little while. And, I’d really like to have the opportunity to collaborate with other artists across many disciplines.

Photo Credits

Cover Image - All images provided by Patrick Gilbert

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