SC: What drew you into photography?
RH: I won a camera when I was 9 years old at my dad’s company picnic. I had this camera and then my grandmother gave me a camera that she didn’t know how to use and that started my exploration into more complicated cameras, and I’ve had one ever since.
What’s really funny is that I look back at photos of my life and I’ve always had a camera around my neck or on my shoulder. People would often tell me, “you’re a great photographer” but there was no internet yet, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to except National Geographic. I was like “I am not a good photographer” as I was looking at National Geographic thinking “oh my goodness those guys are so good.”
SC: How did it evolve into a career?
RH: It wasn’t until 2010 that I kind of started into it as a career. I had been hired to do weddings, family photos and other stuff, but my big thing with photography happened when I was living at my house in the mountains. There was a lot of activism in the nineties, particularly for watershed protection against industrial logging. They wanted to have sustainable logging methods that kept water quality as part of their mandate before they took out trees that interrupted the natural process of water filtration. There were all these protests and I became fascinated. I began photographing it and social movement and social celebration and birth and children and death and old people and basically the container for a community, and all that happens in that.
I live in a small community and I was shooting on slides in those days. I had two slide projectors and I would do slideshows in my garden and hundreds of people would come to watch. This was before digital, so no internet and no projectors. I would create these stories and we would put pieces of paper in front of them and dissolve the pictures, before we could press the dissolve button on iMovie. I would dissolve them, and I would start with fire dancers and a friend of mine had her guitar and would always sing to what she saw. At the end of those slideshows people would come up to me crying “wow that was such a beautiful show” and I really saw how powerful visual media could be to connect people from their heads to their heart. An opportunity to feel something that maybe they didn’t participate in, or they didn’t know the full depth of the community they were living in. It always started with pictures from space and I would dissolve it down and it would go through the clouds and come down into where we are. Then were all of the pregnant bellies, then all the babies and I’d photograph as many people in the community as I could and I’d dissolve all of their faces together, so essentially I just saw it as a great tool to love your neighbor.
SC: Was all of that self-taught?
RH: Yeah that was just being creative. I was self-taught. As I said, I always had a camera on me. I didn’t even consider it teaching, as I was just obsessed with freezing a moment in time. I’m not really big into “hey everybody get together and put your arms around each other.” I do that often enough because those are such cherished moments, but my real magic is to try and capture a moment that tells a larger narrative. Maybe two friends hugging, or Dan [Lissing] and Erin [Krakow] having a little moment behind the scenes that captures the imagination of the Hearties. That sort of stuff is what really excites me; when the people who get captured say “wow that was such a good moment this is what we were talking about, I’m so glad you caught that” because I wouldn’t necessarily know what was going on but I would see that there was some beautiful moment.
SC: How did you get involved with the film industry?
RH: It’s a good story. Going way back, I got interested in television and had a little TV show. I was 16 or 17, I had braces. I had a little game show for the local cable net station, so I started to get involved in TV. I quickly found that I loved to be behind the camera. That was a high school project that planted some seeds and then I went off travelling around the world and did all these other things.
Then in 2010, I was at my place in the mountains near Nelson, B.C., and they were filming a movie there called “The Tall Man” (*available on Super Channel Vault) and for those of you who don’t know me, I’m 6’6, so that was a funny little twist in the life narrative and I got hired to be the Accommodations Coordinator. What that means is they’re going to bring this big crew of people into this small town and everybody needs a place to live (one of the many details of film production). So, I had to find a place to live for everybody from the production assistants to the lead actors, from the director to the producer, to the grip to everybody. And the lead actor was Jessica Biel.
I had to find her house and I researched her lifestyle online and found out she eats organic food and does yoga and knew that she’s going to love Nelson, as it’s all about this kind of lifestyle. I was like “I bet she’d like a place on the water” and I looked really hard and found her a nice place and they asked if I’d be her greeter to which I said yes. I was so nervous. I’d only seen pictures of her online and online she’s red carpet Jessica Biel, with makeup and hair expected. I don’t know what I expected, but door opens, out jumps this woman with no makeup, sweatpants and a sweatshirt and this big beaming smile. We just became friends really quickly. I love Jessica Biel. I could go on and on about the gift she is to my life. For those who know who she is, she is gorgeous on the outside and that doesn’t even come close to matching her heart. She is such a good person.
SC: Your job then as the Accommodations Coordinator opened the door to work as a photographer?
RH: Yes. Jessica Biel hired me to do a project with her; a making of the movie behind the scenes book that she would hand out as a crew gift. Through that process I worked very closely with her and suddenly I went from being this Accommodations Coordinator in the office to being beside a superstar on set. I just watched the whole production. I never really saw it happen, but I got a front role, golden ticket seat. And we made this book, hundreds of copies were made, and it was very well received. I got lots of compliments and she was like “you should really be a stills photographer; you really got the gift.”
SC: What considerations did you face with pursuing this new career path?
RH: My house in the Kootenays, in the area I live is gorgeous in the woods. I go to sleep with frogs singing. The idea of moving to a city was a little daunting to say the least. But I was also getting close to turning 50 and I was like “I can live in the woods quite comfortably, and one day be an old man that has a heart attack in a garden and that’s my story, or I can go have another exciting chapter and see if I can make a career out of this.”
Because Jessica Biel told me. How many people get that?! I came to Vancouver and got a job as a Production Assistant (which for those of you who don’t know, film set production assistants are the very bottom of the line). I had the book with me that Jess and I had done, and I showed it to a few people and not too long one of the producers said “why don’t you do behind the scenes on these shows and show us what you can do?” I did and within six months they hired me to do a non-union TV series called “Ties that Bind” with Kelli Williams. (*Ties that Bind also called “Detective McLean” will be coming to Super Channel Heart & Home in 2020).
I was lucky I landed on a show where the lead actor was also an incredible human being and one of the dearest friends in my life. That show really allowed me to strut my stuff, not only for the producers and Kelli, but for me to see “can I really do this?” Doing a side project with Jessica Biel was all fun and good artistic times, but can I be with all the movie cameras and capture elements of the show? I got that. And the producer from that show ended up being the producer on Chesapeake Shores, so that was a nice little career arc for me to get into there. Then I really wanted to do When Calls the Heart. I was fascinated by the Hearties phenomenon and I liked the period piece of it. I remember going and shooting my first day there and maybe I had a little set photographer crush on Erin [Krakow], but I was really kind of fascinated with her. I remember going up to her afterwards and just saying very kind things to her, and I don’t even remember what I said, but Dan [Lissing] was kind of on the sidelines listening and he was like “Ah mate, that’s so nice of you to say” in his Australian accent, which is interesting when you’re used to hearing his Canadian accent. I did two seasons with When Calls the Heart and still to this day, my favourite days on any film set were on that set. All the cast that the Hearties love have very good reasons to love. They are so fun and such characters.
SC: What would a day on set look like for you?
RH: A call sheet details everything that is going to happen in a day and on there would be my call time; my time that I would have to appear on set. This is not the time I park my car, but the time I am on set with my cameras ready to fire. There’s crew call and shooting call. Crew call is when most of the crew would arrive and the shooting call is when cameras get ready to roll. I’m usually shooting call which is usually half hour after crew call. They might have maybe a 6:30/7:00 am crew call and I would have been in at 7:00/7:30 am and I would have worked the full twelve hours on set. Including lunch, I would have been there the full 12 or 12.5 hours. Sometimes we shoot overtime, so I might be there 13 or 14 hours. I work when the cameras roll. So, when the cameras are rolling, I’m there taking pictures of the action and then between all of those moments, I’m hanging out with people taking photos. That doesn’t seem like a work thing to me, that’s a very privileged place. I could almost pay them to go on to a movie set to take those photos because I SO enjoy what I do and LOVE being there so much that it doesn’t really feel like work.
SC: What are your favourite elements about being able to capture moments behind the scenes?
RH: The cast interacting behind the scenes is such a fun thing for me to photograph. I love being the Dorothy kind of pulling the curtain back behind the wizard so we can see what goes on. A chance to see beyond their characters and see who they are as people and how they interact. It’s always a mystery. I’ll use When Calls the Heart as an example: we see the relationship that Dan and Erin were and are such a phenomenon, so I wanted to do anything to help bring the Hearties and the audience in behind the scenes to see what good friends they were. I became their good friends and worked to build trust with them, so they knew that I was going to make them look good and capture moments that would capture the imagination of the Hearties and the greater audience of WCTH. Those are my “ahhh thank you God, I got something good there.” That also translates really well on to set as I’m watching the relationship between Jack and Elizabeth, for example. They don’t just do a scene once, they do it over and over again. I would know at what certain point Jack would give Elizabeth a specific glance or a hug or a certain relationship moment, and I would know this was the moment to click. Like when someone is going to kiss, I love the moment just as their lips are about to touch. Who doesn’t love Christmas Eve? The anticipation of Christmas morning is so exciting and it’s the same with a kiss. I don’t like pictures of people’s lips touching. It’s nice when they pull away and they can look into each other’s eyes, but I love anticipation. I love a still moment that tells a greater narrative; there’s a story before and there’s a story after and there’s this beautiful moment that got frozen in time.
Ricardo has captured countless moments that have become fan favourites. While waiting for the second part of this interview, which will explore the types of cameras he uses and the challenges he faces on set, visit his website and ensure that you’re following him on Instagram. If you also check some of the picture credits on social, you might even find that your favourite moment was frozen in time thanks to Ricardo.