Photographing people is telling their story

Lou-Astri-Mercedes-CLS63-alleyway

Lou Astri and his Mercedes CLS63 in a Toronto alleyway

Lou-Astri-Mercedes-CLS63-alleyway

Lou Astri and his Mercedes CLS63 in a Toronto alleyway

Lou-Astri-Mercedes-CLS63-alleyway

Lou Astri standing alone, his Mercedes CLS63 is behind him

Lou-Astri-smiling-black-jacket-alleyway

Lou Astri looking relaxed

Lou-Astri-serious-purple-shirt-alleyway

Lou Astri looking a little more serious

WHEN IS A PHOTOSHOOT MORE THAN A PHOTOSHOOT

I have said many times that one of the reasons I like to take photographs is that I meet people and I hear their stories. This is what happened when I photographed Lou Astri.  He and I had been going back and forth since May trying to get a photoshoot put together. For one reason or another things got delayed and then delayed again. We finally met up on a rainy morning in Toronto on October 30. I assumed this was a fitness photo session as Lou had recently competed in mens bodybuilding on Sept 10 at the 2016 GNC Allmax Fouad Abiad Natural Championships in Windsor. I knew that Lou was making his comeback into the fitness world but I did not realize how big a comeback it was. Lou had achieved a milestone and he was asking me to photograph it. 

Before I could photograph the milestone I needed to understand the story behind it. 

 

BACKGROUND

As a child Lou had been extremely overweight. When he was 13 years old he weighed 70 lbs more than he weighs today. He was teased in school. He had a 46 inch waist and couldn’t fit into his Catholic High School uniform.

However important changes were starting. He got into cycling. He was inspired by Greg LeMond who won the Tour de France in 1986. In 1987 Greg was hit by a shotgun blast while turkey hunting. He almost died. He was written off as a cyclist. However he made a comeback and won the Tour de France again in 1989 and in 1990. At the time Lou had no way of knowing that Greg’s comeback story would eerily presage his own.

Because of the popularity of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone he became interested in body building as well and by 2009 he had reached the national level in IFBB mens bodybuilding.

That is when disaster struck. While out bike riding he was hit by a truck. He spent 3 days in a coma and 5 months in the hospital with catastrophic head injuries. Everyone had essentially written him off. With this level of brain injury full recovery was unlikely.

As well as needing time for brain damage to heal his left ear was almost torn off and had to be surgically reattached and he had to get eye surgery to correct his damaged vision. Lou would have to battle physical, emotional and psychological pain. He was forced to adapt to a new way of living. He let go of many basic things he once took for granted. After his accident he lost his drivers license because of his head injuries. 

That was almost 7 years ago. Now it is 2016 and Lou was back again competing in body building. As well just recently he had his drivers license reinstated. There are two very important events. 

So on that day in October Lou and I met up in downtown Toronto at Jarvis and Queen. He brought down in his Mercedes CLS63 on purpose. This vehicle plays a very important role in this story. He had purchased it recently using his accident settlement. He is well aware that this is a luxury automobile and he treats it as such. For Lou this car is a symbol of everything he had to overcome. 

 

PHOTOS 1,2 - THE MERCEDES IS A SYMBOL OF ACHIEVEMENT

I wanted the first two photos to flatter both Lou and the car. The glistening of the rain on the road and the car was a bonus and more than made up for the dull day. 

 

PHOTO 3 - LOU IS DEFIANT

Lou is much more than his Mercedes. The third photograph is of Lou in the alleyway with the car behind him. I wanted to show  Lou’s defiance in this photo. He is standing alone. The car is still in the photo but now it is in the far background. Life has thrown the worst it has at Lou and he has come out on top.

 

PHOTOS 4,5 - LOU AS A PERSON

Finally the last two photos are of Lou as he is. A friendly and easygoing guy. He feels he has an important message to pass along. His interest in fitness is a calling not a hobby. His goal is to help others overcome their challenges.

Right now he is working towards his International Sports Sciences Association Certification and hopes to be taking on fitness clients in 2017.

 

PHOTOGRAPHING PEOPLE IS TELLING THEIR STORY

As he put it to me, during tough times life shows you everything! The good and the bad. What you are made of! After what he has overcome to date it is hard to imagine what will hold him back.

Photographing people is a lot more than just taking their picture, it is telling their story!

 

 


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2017-01-18

 

Jess Zawadowicz - Burlingston fitness trainer

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