Photographer and Musician Mark Hewer
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by Mark Hewer
Every artist’s muse strikes at different times. Local Photographer Mark Hewer’s starts whispering into his ear at sunsets.
“Our sunsets around Windsor are so beautiful,” Mark explains. “I’ve always loved this city. I’ve always loved the beauty around here. It’s almost begging to be captured. The colours are like prisms out here. They’re almost asking to be photographed.”
And Mark describes the features his hometown with one word: “Sexy,” Mark states. “The scenery around Windsor is very romantic. It’s sexy! If you take a drive down Riverside Drive at sunset, it’s just so beautiful. The skyline. The ships going by. You just feel compelled to capture these beautiful moments.”
Mark spent the majority of his career working for Bell Canada. After 38 years of service—including a brief encore to help out with the Fiber to the Home Project—he retired in 2016. He currently delivers for Shoppers Drug Mart and Jubzi, a local food ordering application that donates a portion of their proceeds to the Downtown Mission. He has spent his entire life in Windsor.
And because of that familiarity, Mark’s photographs exude a combination of lifelong intimacy and child-like wonder. Through his lens, Windsor becomes a city of sublime, almost supernatural, proportions. The lights on the Ambassador Bridge twinkle against the Detroit River, turning the waves into a canvas of glistening colours. Massive, lonely freighters chart a course through a white netherworld of fog. Dark clouds loom over the Detroit skyline, scraping against a horizon of defiant gold.
The sun rises in the distance, a crown of blazing red flames.
Through Mark’s lens, it’s as though you’re witnessing a sunrise for the first time.
Although it is difficult for Mark to select a personal favourite among his works, he retains an affinity for Storm Over Lake Erie.
“My wife and I were up at our cottage in Pleasure Beach,” Mark recalls. “And this storm blew in off of Lake Erie. I just watched this incredible cloud formation come in. I wasn’t sure whether to run for my life or snap some photos.”
Mark compromised by meeting himself halfway.
“I took the picture then ran screaming back to the cottage,” Mark laughs.
However, despite how well the photograph turned out, Mark’s real enjoyment of the piece has less to do with the visuals and more to do with the story that followed.
“There’s an interesting story with that one,” Mark recalls. “Someone claimed the photo as their own. Another local photographer Steve Biro and I actually appeared on CBC Radio and TV to prove that it was, in fact, my own shot. They were able to look at the metadata on the image to link it back to me!”
Once Mark was declared the rightful owner, CBC meted out swift justice on the offender.
“CBC got ahold of the people and said, ‘We have the photographer in who brought us the original. We’ve proven for a fact that this is his photo.’” Mark explains. “And they just said, ‘Oh. Okay.’”
Attempted theft notwithstanding, the community continues to have profound reactions to Mark’s work.
“One time I took a photo of the sunset on Riverside Drive,” Mark recalls. “There is a nursing home there. Somebody saw the photo and reached out to me on Facebook. Her grandmother had recently passed away, in that same nursing home. She said that, for me to capture the sunset at that place in that moment, it was just so symbolic. That really got to me. I had no idea that my photo could touch somebody like that.”
Mark remains dedicated to painting a spectacular portrait of Windsor and Essex County.
“I take most of my best photos on the Riverfront,” Mark states. “I think our Riverfront is world-class beautiful. It’s romantic. It’s sexy. It’s everything. You could travel all over the world and be hard-pressed to find a sunset as nice as ours. We’ve got so much history in our city. Basically anything that you come across in your daily life—even something simple—can be breathtaking. There’s so many things to see!”
In addition to his gifts with the visual arts, Mark also dabbles in audio ones. And it is something he comes by honestly.
“My entire family is musical,” Mark explains. “My uncle used to play at Madison Square Garden. My grandfather played violins. My father used to play keyboards. My mother used to sing at the Forest House. My brother, who is eight years older than me, won a Battle of the Bands contest back in the ‘60s with his Rolling Stones tribute act, the Lonely Knights. He later went on to play in Meadows, which ended up winning CBC’s the Fame Game!”
Inspired by his older brother’s success, Mark started playing the drums when he was seven years old.
“My brother got his first drum kit when he was 15,” Mark states. “So one day, I just sat down and picked up the sticks. It was like riding a bike. Once you’ve got it, it never goes away. You can go for months without playing. But then you get behind a drum set, and it’s like it was yesterday.”
Mark began performing at bars across Windsor when he was still in high school.
“Nobody ever asks the band for ID,” Mark notes, winking.
Mark lent to his talents to several local bands over the years, including Brand X, the Jets and many more.
And in another show of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Mark later won the Battle of the Bands at Jackson Park while performing with the Jets. Mark then continued to follow in his older brother’s footsteps in 1984, when he played on CBC’s the Fame Game.
“It was a national television competition,” Mark recalls. “They had bands from different cities all across Canada come on and compete. We actually competed with Meadows, my brother’s band. We didn’t win! But my brother won and they went to Vancouver and made it to the semi-finals and won all of Canada.”
Another watershed moment for Mark’s career is when he collaborated with a German musician on “Swayed,” one of the first Transatlantic music videos.
“We made an online music video together,” Mark recalls. “I wrote the song, and sent the .MP3 to Mike. He produced it and added the guitar. Daniel Iorio from Montreal added lyrics and vocals. It was a song produced from two different countries. We had never even spoken on the phone. We just communicated over email. We ended up playing the song live at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany! Jim Crichton and CTV did a profile on us, because it was one of the first Transatlantic music videos.”
Although Mark’s love of music has not waned, he is currently focusing his energies on photography. He concludes his interview by offering a single piece of advice to aspiring artists.
“Appreciate all of it,” Mark stresses. “When I see something beautiful, I want to capture it. I want to hold onto it. Forever. And there’s so many moments like that in the day. So many people have such busy lives that they never see them. But sometimes you just have to pause and look around. There’s so much beauty surrounding you.”