Father and daughter share a passion for photography, but while their journey was anything but smooth, they learned to embrace the beauty along the way
Lorne Rostotski uncovered his artistic talent the way most rock musicians discover theirs, explaining, with a grin, that it’s all about the ladies.
“I started at about age seven or eight doing artwork and then along the way as I got into my teenage years I found that artwork took too long. I had discovered girls. So with a camera, I could create and then go have my date,” he says.
Daughter Sara shakes her head good-naturedly. Her dad continues his yarn, and – adorably – the head shaking continues. “I didn’t grow up in Newfoundland, I grew up in Saskatchewan but my first photography subjects was when I started to work with a company of ‘kidnappers’, which were actually door-to-door photographers of children. That was in Ontario.”
Falling in love
Photographing children took him all over the country. How did he fall in love with the province he now calls home?
“I love Newfoundland because in Newfoundland I was able to experience a prairie type of people on an island. I felt at home here. The only thing I missed of the prairies was the flat. I used to go park on the shore and look at the ocean. It’s flat. Sometimes.”
While this place may have caught his attention, it was once again someone of the female persuasion who convinced him to stay.
“I was photographing in Goose Bay, Labrador and I met this gorgeous little freckled redhead. And she ran away from me just slow enough that I was able to catch her. And that’s what brought me here, my wife Jill. And along came Sara.”
Sara recalls the first time she knew her father was “somebody”. “I was probably two, or three. And there wasn’t actually anybody that was quite like him. And to have a name like ours, it’s completely different. People would comment. Plus, he had pictures displayed at the airport. That was something I noticed.”
The family settled in Gander until … “Gander wasn’t that big so it wasn’t long before I photographed every face in town. I ran out of faces,” Lorne says of what caused him to move to the capital city.
One thing Lorne was always known for was for his images of famous faces, like Geoff Stirling and Gordon Pinsent. How did that start? “Ignorance. I traveled for a number of years as a motivational speaker and one of the things that I used to tell my audiences is that rare things were more valuable than things that were completely abundant. So when we first moved to St. John’s we had our business doors locked with a sign on it that read, opened by appointment only. And so you just couldn’t walk in off the street. You had to make an appointment. They want to get in.”
Though such an approach can be hard on the nerves, he admits. “Many times I was sitting inside behind those locked doors going, ‘please, someone, come in.”
The perfect shot
Looking forward to where the business is today, with Sara and her husband Norm Vincent becoming the face of Rostotski Studio, any thoughts on the journey? It was bound to happen, they both agree to that.
“Well, she had her own camera from age three onward. I went to Grand Bank to take some photographs, and her camera, she probably had 36 shots available. We came up to the entrance of the little harbour there. There was a little lighthouse. And there were seagulls and there was a boat. And I just kept shooting because the seagulls weren’t in the right place. Finally I got them and I was changing film and I say, ‘Okay, I’m finished.’ And she says, ‘I’m finished too.’ She also took the whole roll. She was like me, looking for that perfect shot.”
Sara says she didn’t know photography was for her. It was something she felt pushed towards more than knowing she would be called into it. With dreams of her own, she went to school and became a hairdresser. Ironically, that’s what got her into photography in the end.
“In order to compete as a hairstylist, you have to do a photo shoot of your model, so I asked dad if I could use his camera. He said yes. Soon, people who had seen my model shots started calling mom requesting me to do their shoot.”
Best in the business
The family decided that ‘winging it” wasn’t the answer so Sara began mentoring with some of the best in the business around the globe, unknowingly preparing for what was to come.
In April 1999 things changed for the family in an instant. “That was the day I blew my mind,” Lorne says with a smile. He had a brain aneurysm.
“By then I was doing the shoots I wanted to do, babies, glamour, boudoir. I could do what I wanted and be creative with it. I wasn’t thinking I’d ever take dad’s place,” Sara says. “Huge shoes, right? Huge shoes.”
April is grad month in the photography world. As a small business owner, being hospitalized at one of the busiest times of the year was stressful enough, let alone the fact that her father was clinging to life. When the surgery was over as mom and daughter hoped her dad would make it, they had a conversation right then and there in the hospital.
“The Doctor came in and said, we did what we can do. We have to now let him rest, heal and then we have to see what we’ve got. So he left the room and my mom looked at me and she said, ‘well that’s that. We have a small business. After four weeks in any small business that there’s no income, then you’re going to close the doors. We have a full book. What do you want to do?’ So I just got up the next morning and went to work and that’s where I’ve been since.”
A new energy
Father and daughter linger over a look. Lorne adds to the sweetness of the moment with a joke; “I’m so glad. If I had known I could have retired I would have had the aneurysm sooner.”
They laugh. But he’s not joking – not totally. “I’m so glad we passed the business on to Sara because she has far surpassed me and what she’s doing is just new energy, new creativity. I just admire what she’s become and becoming.”
It’s not like dad has totally retired. They still work together.
“He still has a lot of creative input. He still calls me after certain sessions that he gets to review and says, they’re lovely, here is where you can improve.”
Any photos they are particularly proud of? They both agree that sharing the cover of The Herald’s Confederation Premier edition was pretty special.
“It’s funny. When she finally said she wanted to go into photography and said, ‘Daddy, will you teach me?’ I said ‘No. I love you too much.’ But I’ve known some of the best photographers anywhere so we sent her to them to learn. But she still had me, always, when she needed or needs to bounce something off me.”
The act of balance
One thing she’s learned from her dad is how to enjoy family. Her husband and her two daughters are very important to her. “You have a business, but you also have a family. Take pride in, and spend time, with both. Balance is the key, and be the best you can in both roles,” Sara shares wisely.
The two smile at one another. Being able to work together, 20 years after almost losing her dad, is very special.
“The fact that we get to be there for one another, that’s what’s important to me when I go to bed at night. It’s meaningful and bigger than anything I could have, or will ever, accomplish behind the lens.”