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Zooming in to Planet Snow

From Japan to Whistler, photographer Toshi Kawano captures his love of mountains and people

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By Nicole Fitzgerald

What: Planet Snow photography exhibit reception

When: Sunday, Nov. 5, 2-5 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Admission: Free

After a successful tour of Japan, with more than 2,400 people viewing the exhibit in six days a lone, Toshi Kawano brings his Planet Snow 2005-06 exhibition home to wrap up a five-month tour with a month-long showing at MY Millennium Place through November.

“I love taking pictures of people, capturing the moment, which usually passes by everybody; not getting attention,” Kawano says. “Photography can help people remember that moment. I enjoy sharing that moment with many people.”

The Japanese-born civic engineer first came to Whistler in 1995 in search of mountains and a new calling. It wasn’t long before Kawano discovered the joys of photography on his snowboarding and skiing adventures and a self-taught professional career as an action sports photographer followed.

Nine years later, Kawano has wracked up a long list of magazine covers including SBC Media, Storm Mountain, Transworld Media, Futabasya, Jitsugyo No nihon-sha, Ski Journal and Yama-Keit. Advertising clients include Adidas, Carrera, Dynastar, K2, Kombi and Quicksilver, just to name a few. He also shoots for Canon, Tourism British Columbia, Whistler-Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler.

Most Whistler residents will be familiar with Kawano’s images that were used as part of Tourism Whistler’s rebranding of Whistler last year; advertisements illustrating “real” people having a great time in the mountains year round.

While people have always fueled Kawano’s shutter button, the action sports photographer never thought of himself as a lifestyle photographer until then.

“His love of photography and understanding of how to capture emotion and energy is certainly portrayed through his work,” writes Oliver Flaser of Tourism Whistler on Kawano’s website.

“Even in action or in nature or scenery, there is always people involved,” Kawano said. “I enjoy that a lot.”

While action photography dominates the showing, more lifestyle-driven images are also showcased, including a three-year-old little girl laughing gleefully in the snow — Kawano’s now seven-year-old daughter Kaede.

“It was the first day she was on skis,” Kawano says of the image. “It was a great moment. She had so much fun.”

Kawano’s other daughter Sakura, 5, is also on skis. The names of the two daughters reflect their heritage. Kaede means Maple in Japanese and Sakura, cherry tree. Two trees, representing their dual nationalities, growing side by side. Much like Kawano’s work, published in both Japan and Canada.

Another unique image in the exhibit is of two people standing in a mountainscape looking at what appears to be the sun. However, if you look closer at the image, stars dot the light blue sky. In fact, the sun is a full moon, something Kawano has always wanted to capture, but couldn’t until he adopted digital photography into his camera bag.

“I always wanted to do this with film but wasn’t able to because it was so dark,” he said.

The stories behind other images stand less in the starlight, with one picture of a skier trekking through a torrent of wind-swept powder. Kawano suffered through -45 degree temperatures to capture the shot on top of Blackcomb peak.

Hear more of the stories behind the images by joining Kawano at the opening reception of the show Sunday, Nov. 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the upstairs gallery. Admission is free.

Get a preview of Kawano’s works at www.tkphoto.jp.

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