In light of P.K. Subban announcing his retirement from the NHL today (after 13 seasons, a Norris Trophy for defence, olympic gold medal and more), I wanted to take a moment to look back at my photo shoot with him!
It was 2010 when I got the call to shoot some portraits of P.K. for 4th Period Magazine. The shoot took place at 82 Bathurst St. near the southwest corner of King/Bathurst, a relatively small brick building panted all black which was home to the Salt & Pepper ad agency at the time. If you recognize the address or the building, it’s because you might be familiar with its later iterations: The Drake Hotel Store, Chill House and, most recently, Gatsby's Speakeasy. The back room at Salt & Pepper was a photographer's play area – transformed into a 2-storey photo studio with white infinity wall.
Leading up to the start of the shoot as I was setting up (and as was customary at these shoots) the magazine editor David and creative team were briefing me on the rising star that was P.K., freshly acquired by the Montreal Canadiens.
When P.K. arrived he greeted me with the largest smile you could imagine and his energy on set was contagious. Everyone on set completely enjoyed working with him, he was eager to pose and took direction really well. We had some good laughs during the shoot!
The 4th Period had a very specific vision for the shoot in mind with the white backdrop setting the tone for it (see outtakes below) for use in an article inside the magazine. To be honest with you, I wasn’t loving the plain backdrop vibe and even though P.K. was so great and easy to work and the shots were looking "nice" and would serve well inside the magazine, I felt like they were lacking a connection to the viewer and were not representative of my personal shooting style at the time. As an editorial portrait photographer back in the day, my preference was always to capture my subjects in natural or more candid environments than a studio.
As our time with P.K. at the Salt & Pepper photo studio was ending, he changed back into his street clothes and we all said our goodbyes. As I was packing up my gear and tossing it into my car parked in the side alley, P.K. came out the side door, duffle bag over his shoulder heading for his ride and I couldn’t help but ask politely if I could snap a couple more shots of him just chilling outside the all-black brick wall with the Bathurst streetscape behind him. Those casual side alley shots, which I intentionally kept for my own portfolio, ended up being my favourite shots of the day and I was so proud to share them on my personal website when the time was appropriate to do so.
A few years went by and out of the blue one day in 2013 I received an email from another magazine interested in shots of P.K. - except this time it was Montreal En Sante (a hospital health magazine published by the MUHC hospitals in Montreal) doing a story on the fundraising P.K. launched to benefit local kids who couldn’t afford hockey equipment. They weren’t interested in doing a new shoot, instead they were interested in licensing the images I published on my website – the ones I took of him in the side alley at Salt & Pepper! Long story short and a few negotiations over email later, they decided P.K. would be the cover story of this edition and my photo of him would be on the cover - the first cover in my career.
Thanks again to P.K. and to all those involved in the photo shoot and decision-making at both magazines; it was my honour to be involved. Congrats, P.K., on an outstanding hockey career and all the best in your future endeavours.
– Matt Vardy.
Montreal en Sante Magazine Cover Autumn 2013:
P.K. Subban outtakes from 4th Period Magazine shoot 2010: