The High Wire of Uncertainty
Photo credit and copyrights to Shane Collins & Gonzo Okanagan
Ray LaMontagne used to work in a shoe factory. One morning he woke up and heard Stephen Stills singing, ‘The Treetop Flier,’ on the radio. For Ray, it seemed to be a true ‘wake up’ moment in his life. He quit his factory job and devoted himself to music. He walked the high wire of uncertainty. Through all the work and sacrifice, he found the balance to make it to the other side. Today, he’s a singer songwriter that would sell out any venue that could host his show in these stubborn COVID times. He’s gotten this far because he believed that there was more to life than boxing up shoes. He believed in himself and became a musician.
It’s never been easy, however, with rising costs across the board; real estate, food, fuel, rent, utilities… it’s becoming harder and harder to just let go of secure jobs in the face of today’s reality.
There are the few, however, who have let go of that safety net and commit to walking the high wire. Determined, focused and devout to gaining the balance that will take them from one side to the other.
This is where I gotta bring Kris Ulley into the story. Kris is the owner and operator of his company, Magic and Flow Media. Based here in the Kelowna area, he’s tearing up the scene with white hot boudoir and fantasy photo and video shoots. He wanted to be someone who could create stunning, sexy imagery and after a few years of hard work, in the face of this stubborn pandemic, Kris is living his dream.
But it hasn’t always been like that.
For 14 years, Kris was a welder. A damn fine welder at that.
The job: secure. The wage: decent. The work/life balance: Not so great.
Charles Bukowski once said that, “If something bad happens, you drink in an attempt to forget. If something good happens, you drink in order to celebrate. And if NOTHING happens, you drink to MAKE something happen.”
Sometimes the only way to cope is to numb it all out. Kris’ drinking and substance abuse got to a scary low point. There are so many reasons to lose yourself on this broken highway we call life. If you’ve known addiction or if you’ve been close to it, you know how broken that road can be. Working an uninspiring job and you lost that fire, it can leave you feeling stuck. We either get busy living or get busy dying. Sometimes the choice can be that blunt and that real.
Well, some of these folks choose to live, find their footing and Kris has found balance in his photography.
If you combine the artistic imagination with an addictive personality and then bring in a welder’s concentration and determination, not to mention the polite, easy going nature you receive in the big guys company. Being a photographer myself, I know what it’s like to have ideas and not fully understand how to make them happen the way I thought they would. Kris has the ambition to create but he also has the determination to fulfill the scope of the concept. He does this, not only through his camera but with the computer software available to not just dream the idea but to deliver the final product.
Kris doesn’t really do wedding photography. Don’t get me wrong, he’s had his hand at most genres of the art form: family portraits, wedding photos, travel photography, nighttime skyscapes, daytime landscapes, light painting, fantasy, boudoir… Kris has done it all but his primary focus is on two elements that I can see. Boudoir and fantasy photo and video packages. I’ve seen some sexy, empowering imagery in my time but Kris is producing some very interesting work.
Five words sums up Kris’ photography for me: Sexy. Tasteful. Provocative. Daring. Imaginative.
The people that come to Kris are just as enthusiastic about the shoot not only because of his ability to create stunning images, but he does so with the intent of his camera being a vehicle of empowerment for the women who seek him out. “The response to the majority of my work is a sense of realization. The world’s crazy. We’re always given reasons to doubt ourselves or feel ugly. However, people seem to realize their beauty through my work and that’s an incredible feeling.”
If you sign up with Kris, be prepared to be tested. It’s not uncommon to see his subjects placed in water or in snow for his concept designs. Through scrupulous planning, execution and knowing the outdoor terrain as well as he does, he will take his clients into any environment and in doing so his photography is constantly evolving.
Even though COVID has put the brakes on our events, live music, weddings, etc… Kris is staying busy Lately, Kris has published in tattoo magazines, been nominated for one of the Okanagan’s best photographers and is constantly flexing his muscle in the photo biz. He’s even venturing into the world of video production. He’s created numerous music videos, wrestling promotions, dance videos, boudoir videos and has now chalked up experience being recruited by some of Kelowna’s biggest media groups like Edge Digital Media to assist on productions.
Kris could go back to welding. Especially during the winter season. In the art world, the winter can be a killer. With COVID on top of it all, it’s a mess. It’s tempting to return to the day job knowing the risk of losing that fire. However, for some, now is the time to keep those skills sharpened like steel blades destined for battle and that in itself can be full time work.
When we sat down for coffee I asked him, “When did you know to walk away from welding?” Kris sipped his coffee, looked at me and said, “when I had to numb my weekends out so I could forget all about the work I was doing. It got to a point where I HAD to make a change. I woke up one morning and said, ‘Fuck this.’” He walked into work, gave his notice and that was it. “If I hadn’t taken the step, I could have fallen down to a point where I couldn’t have gotten back up again.”
“That must have been scary.”
“Oh, it was horrifying. It still is but I KNOW I’m doing something I really love to do.”
I asked him about finances. “You can’t let your worries hold you back. I can’t worry about falling back on my old trade. That chapter has closed. It’s only falling forward from now on. I’m not afraid of putting in the work even if it means putting in crazy hours. I’m constantly pushing myself to work outside my comfort zone.” Kris gives me a smile and a wink. “There is no plan B.”
I absolutely love that. Confidence is contagious and through these articles I want it to spread like COVID-19. I think a contagion of confidence is needed in the world today.
Approaching these photoshoots with a creative thirst, he’s worked with all sorts of people. Some are naturals when having their photo taken. Some do not do well in front of the camera at all. It takes that confidence to do it. Summoning courage is kinda like luring a fox out of its den. With the experience now behind him, the creative ammunition to bring to the set, Kris is moving forward, hell bent on making an impact in the game.
For Kris’ clients, they seem to see themselves in a different way, sometimes for the first time. That’s the magic and alchemy of this kind of art. We are perpetually moving forward like carts on a track through time. There are brief moments where everything slows down and we see ourselves and we see how beautiful we are. It takes the right kind of photographer to direct such a photo shoot; to calm the nerves and bring the essence out, only to capture it within the four corners of a camera’s viewfinder.
That’s what Kris does and he’s only getting started.
Learn more about Kris: