"He left it better than he found it" - On values, ethics, and making our city better

Post Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Earlier this month, Calgary-based photographer Jeremy Fokkens did a brief interview and photo shoot with Mayor Nenshi as part of his "Stranger Series". Below is his blog post about the meeting. To see all of the photos from the shoot, please visit the original post here.
In my most recent portrait of the “Stranger Series”, I slightly broke my rules a bit where I had this idea of meeting Calgary’s mayor and hopefully having the opportunity to photograph him. My usual approach in my “Stranger Series” is always on the fly where I end up walking up to a random stranger who I think looks and might be interesting, however you cannot just walk up to a mayor of a city, there is protocol and he is a very busy man. So I went through the proper channels and really at the end of the day he is still a stranger as we have never met before, I just had to adjust my approach differently. 
This photo session needed to include the use of studio lighting rather than my usual natural lighting as it was raining outside. When you look at photographs of political figures, they are usually against plain backdrops where the same pose is used over and over again. I wanted to change it up adding an edgy quality to the image where my studio light created more shape and contrast to the photo. 
When the mayor walked into the room, I was pleasantly surprised on how approachable he was, not to mention his refreshing dry sense of humor. I only had 10-15 minutes with Naheed, so I asked him a few questions to get a sense of who he was personally aside from his political title of being “THE MAYOR”. 
I found out that Naheed in his spare time enjoys the theater scene, foreign films (his favorite being a french Canadian film “The Barbarian Invasions”), and spending time with his family. His i-pod includes opera, show tunes, jazz standards, bubble gum pop, and a little rock. 
I later asked Naheed… 
Jeremy - "What values do you wish to instill towards the people you surround yourself with and the people who admire you?" 
Naheed - "I always used to say my epigraph is very simple which is He left it better than he found it. To me I think I come from a very value ethic centered place and sometimes it drives the people I work with crazy because I worry about the ethical importance of everything single decision we make. But to me that’s really really important, and I think I want people to live their lives as good people, to do things for the community. One of the things I really believe in is empowering people to do good things for the community themselves that you don’t always have to wait for big businesses, government, non-profits to do. If you see a piece of litter pick it up, if you want to do something better in your community, you have the power in your own hands to make it better. You have more power as a community member than I have as Mayor. So I think that is what I want people to focus on is how do I think about how I can use whatever resources I have, my own skills, my own assets, to make the place I live in better, and sometimes that surprises people because they expect that the government or mayor will have all the answers and a lot of time I turn back to people and ask them… think about how you can do that."
- reposted (with permission) by Daorcey from Mayor Nenshi's team
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