With a creative command of visuals that are nothing short of impressive, Heather Pollock has assembled a treasure trove of images that are transcending traditional barriers for women in sport. The perspectives in which her subjects and settings are interpreted goes beyond fascinating, creating something new and exciting, yet gripping.
To choose an example from any of Pollock’s sporting portfolios, whether it be the Markham Thunder, Therese Brisson, Jaclyn Pitushka or Marie-Philip Poulin as her creative muse, is to see what these athletes may become.
From a creative standpoint, Pollock’s vision behind the lens also focuses on the portrayal of athletes in different situations, altering yet strengthening the archetypes of sporting heroism. Incorporating an admirable sense of levity, she captured Harvard Crimson alum Jaclyn Pitushka in a most non-traditional setting. Rather than photographing the Mississauga-raised competitor at the rink, the emphasis took on a different tone as the summer solstice represented another facet.
With the emphasis on the enjoyment of cottage life, the cold winter months a distant memory, complemented by the restoring relaxation that comes with escape from city life and its combination of indulgences and stresses, Pitushka literally took the plunge.
In full gear, she took on the appearance of an armored crusader, reveling in the obligatory cottage activity of water-skiing, confidently soaring across the body of water, fearlessly donning her Harvard jersey with great bravura. The result was a vivid creation that was engagingly entertaining, going beyond a sporting image.
Having appeared in more than 40 games with the Crimson, Pitushka was a highly versatile member of her roster, capable of excelling at both the forward and defensive positions. Among her teammates included Hockey Hall of Famer Angela Ruggiero, Nicole Corriero, who has also competed internationally in ISBHF play, Clarkson Cup champions Caitlin Cahow and Julie Chu, along with Ali Boe and Lauren McAuliffe.
“We shot this summer at her cottage. She used to play for Harvard. I think it takes a special kind of woman to ask ‘How high?’ when you ask them to jump into the lake in full equipment (smiles).”
A subsequent project served to emphasize current and former legacies, helping to bridge generations of women’s ice hockey talent. With superstar Marie-Philip Poulin, whose heroics include a pair of gold medal clinching goals at the Winter Games, placing her in the same lauded stratosphere as Paul Henderson, she is destined to hold the same cultural and sporting impact in her native province of Quebec akin to Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur.
While Poulin’s legacy continues to expand, having also enjoyed the prestige of Canada’s captaincy, along with a return to the Winter Games as a member of Canada’s contingent in 2018, there was also an opportunity for her visage and unmistakable smile to take a treasured place in Pollock’s portfolio.
Poulin was part of a triptych of once-in-a-lifetime hockey talents, all having donned Canada’s jersey. Joined by six-time Stanley Cup winner and Canada Cup champion, Mark Messier, along with current Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, whose legend includes three shootout goals in one game, appearances with Canada at the World Juniors, IIHF Worlds and the Winter Games, it was a gathering of subjects that supplied Pollock with a career milestone.
The roots of this shoot involved a unique sense of happenstance. Taking into account that Pollock’s neighbor is also in the same profession, their shared love of the lens leads to a seemingly endless series of fascinating conversations,
“My friend and neighbour Darren Goldstein is a wonderful photographer. Every now and then we talk shop and I will tell him that it is so great he gets to shoot NHL stuff, and he will mention that it is not entirely horrible that I get to shoot musicians.”
Among the musical subjects that Pollock has photographed, many have been captured in performance at Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall. Such acts have included The Strumbellas (in which member Simon Ward was also portrayed in one of her portfolios), the Skydiggers, the Jim Cuddy Band and the Rheostatics. Coincidentally, Dave Bidini, a founder of the Rheostatics, has written two books about hockey, including the highly popular Tropic of Hockey, a compelling narrative about his experiences gracing the ice in other parts of the world.
Undoubtedly, one conversation with Goldstein is a concrete memory for Pollock. Certain that she was a subject for one of Goldstein’s jokes, his appearance at her front door, garbed in evening attire did not provide any impression of urgency or seriousness. Remaining in front of her door, adamant that she speak to him, Pollock acquiescing to his request would become a career-defining prospect,
“One early morning he (Darren) showed up at my door in his pajamas holding his phone up and said, "Mark Messier’s sister wants to talk to you". Darren’s a darn funny fellow. I laughed and continued to run around the house getting ready for a shoot later that morning.
About five minutes later – maybe longer – he is still standing there holding up his phone. Turns out Mark Messier’s sister really did want to talk to me. Darren was offered a gig doing some shooting with Mark Messier, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Jonathan Toews for Bauer’s First Shift program, but could not make it, so he recommended me.”
Equipped with tripod and camera, Pollock treaded carefully due to a crowded rink. Filled with a film crew on-hand, along with a group of wide-eyed youngsters dreaming of one day emulating their hockey heroes, the results of Pollock’s labors on this day demonstrated more than placidity in the midst of such an eventful gathering.
The visual narrative which unfolded was rich and resonant, a body of work worthy of respect. Portrayed in a heartwarming and human way, three of Canada’s hockey icons were part of a visual enlightenment that did not fail to compel.
“Mary-Kay Messier was very sweet about being kept waiting, and the shoot itself was a blast. They were shooting TV commercial spots, so I took photos as things were unfolding.
They were delightfully easy to work with. Relaxed, kind, and really fun with all the kids involved. The whole day was great, but my favourite part was when they were all skating around with the kids just goofing around. So much laughter.”
Perhaps just as importantly, Pollock joins a growing list of talented female photographers that have enjoyed the privilege of immortalizing Poulin in her prime with a series of captivating images. Having both captured Poulin in action for her club team, Les Canadiennes de Montreal, Jess Desjardins and Celine Gelinas have assembled an invaluable visual reference.
Jess Bazal, who has admirably given her time to the long-standing Thunder organization in both Brampton and Markham, photographed Poulin at the 2017 CWHL All-Star Game, where she joined Jess Jones as the first women to score a hat trick in the mid-season classic. In addition, Poulin was part of the hockey heroines snapped by Candice Ward, who worked with the Canadian national women’s team prior to the 2017 IIHF Women’s Worlds.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
All photos by Heather Pollock