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By Jacob Dubé
Jared Brookes had a plan. Throughout high school, he was on the path to becoming an engineer. He filled his course load with physics and advanced mathematics.
Then, right before the beginning of Grade 12, he got mono. He missed a third of his first semester and his studies grinded to a halt. During his second semester he had his tonsils removed, which stretched his academic gap even further. But it allowed him to really take a look and figure out what he wanted to spend his life doing. He chose photography.
Brookes, 20, got his first camera in high school when his parents surprised him with it at Christmas (with a trip to Europe thrown in for good measure). It was just a little handheld device—it didn’t even have a viewfinder. Still, he took hundreds of photos. But when he looked back at them, they didn’t feel the way he wanted them to.
“They looked more like travel photos,” Brookes said.
Now, with the help of his Canon T6i, Brookes takes texture-focused nature shots, whether it’s a bright tractor or a small wave made to look huge.
“I find a spot that feels really good to me and then I’ll look for things around that area that are maybe not seen, or that are small,” he said. “It’s the little things that you take for granted in a space like that and I really want to focus in on those.”
After deciding on photography as a career, he shadowed a woman in the advertising industry for a day. She recommended he enroll in Ryerson’s graphic communications management (GCM) program, as she and several of her colleagues had.
“I put all my eggs in one basket. GCM was my first choice,” he said.
The other two programs Brookes applied to were also at Ryerson, but in the event that he didn’t get into GCM, his plan was to transfer down the road.
Now in his second year, Brookes describes himself as more of a self-taught photographer. He prefers to let his photos speak for themselves, and to allow them to convey a specific feeling when they’re looked at.
His website, lilbluesolutions.com, is filled with photos ranging from vibrant and colourful to dark and serene. What stands out, however, are his portraits of people. Brookes said that the hardest photos he has to shoot are of the people he cares about, because you need to balance the ideas of taking a good picture and taking a photo that they’ll like.
One night around 11 p.m., Brookes was sitting at a train station with his girlfriend on his way home from school. He took a photo of her for the explicit reason that she wasn’t smiling. She wasn’t a fan, but he was.“[Her] expression of tiredness and almost sadness really makes this photo,” Brookes said.
Taking photos of strangers is simpler—Brookes just tries to be sneaky about it.
He also has a section of the site dedicated to showcasing other photographers that he likes, because sticking together and promoting each other’s work is a necessity in the business, he said. He views a career in photography as less of a competition and more of a shared collective of shots.
When he started thinking about creating a website to promote his material—because physical portfolios are goddamn expensive—he needed a name.
Then, his girlfriend sent him a photo of a dried collection of roses. Almost all of them were all red, but there was a small blue one in the centre. And then he figured it out. He wanted his work to be like the rose: different, unique and capable of distinguishing itself within other pieces of work.
He titled his site Lil’ Blue Solutions, with the tag line “proudly being different.”
“I’m not going to be the biggest, but I definitely want to stand out in this sea of beauty,” Brookes said.
“Because that’s the other thing too, with the roses, [they’re] all beautiful, but how can we stand out in this really beautiful world?”