Skye Spence Talks Photography, Collaboration, and Walking the Line Between Work and Play

Aug 24, 2022
Originally posted on

Like many photographers trying to pay their bills, Skye Spence has shot a wedding or two. 

We sit in the dimmed light of Argyle Studios, and Skye and Tom swap stories from past wedding gigs. How the hours turn into days, the pressure of capturing the first kiss, and the question all artists ask and re-ask: how much can, or should, you charge?      

“It's expensive to do it well,” Skye says, “To make a video that explains love.” 

For Skye Spence, videography is more than just capturing whatever motion is unfolding before him. There’s always a story to tell. 

E.gg and Crabskull at Argyle Studios. Photo by Skye Spence
Photo by Skye Spence

Skye Spence is an Indigenous filmmaker and co-founder of NSTY Entertainment. He started the company with Taylor Ritchie and Dillan Lavallee back in 2018. Their first assignment: shoot a music video for Charlie Fettah. A conceptual, Groundhog Day-inspired piece that would be the first of many hip-hop focused films in their portfolio.    

Skye and Dillan (and their creative collaboration) go way back. The two met as kids at the YMCA skatepark. One day, Dillan showed up with a camera in hand. 

“I knew he had a spark for art just by the way he talked about it. He would just shoot all the time. Like, ‘hey, wanna go take a video of us throwing a cinder block through a window?’”  

Skye says this history is what makes them such a strong creative team.

“If I was to work with a new guy now, I wouldn't have that same relationship. We can have fun, but also know where our biggest stresses are. And we can break all of those barriers.”

Skye has been inseparable from a camera since high school. He went to Tech Voc, where he pushed all his academics into grade 9, 10, and 11, so his entire senior year could be focused on photography. 

He credits his teacher, Ron Gilfillan, for showing him how to shoot with intention. 

Photo by Skye Spence
Photo by Skye Spence

“He was never like, ‘that’s a nice photo,’ ‘that’s great,’ ‘I love what you did with it.’ He would just look at it and be like, ‘so…what’s interesting about this?'” 

Before fully diving into the world of video, Skye learned the ins and outs of street photography. He got comfy shooting people from uncomfortably close and learned to make even distanced shots feel intimate.

Photo by Skye Spence

Soon, Skye was recruited to document the local club scene—and all the chaos that comes with it. Pro tip: if you don’t want the club photographer to capture you cheating on your girl, maybe don’t cheat on your girl. 

No matter the scene, Skye aims to capture shots that ignite all five senses, always prioritizing quality over quantity.  

“Everyone has an urgency for content, content, content. Everyone's like, ‘how many reels can you do a week? How many TikToks can you do with me in a month?’...I want to work on six projects a year, bro.”

The NSTY crew is used to shooting with a small team, minimal gear, and a shoestring budget— never letting these factors make or break their creativity. 

Skye moves quickly, fuelling every spark of inspiration before it dies. Skye also moves carefully, harvesting the lesson every project has to offer, never letting ego or envy shadow the shot. He remembers that the most important part of photography is the people. The people you work with and those you have learned from. Those you are shooting and shooting for. 

An ethos like this grounds him, especially when it comes to putting a price tag on his passion. It’s hard work with long hours and a blurred line between labour and leisure. Still, Skye wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“I always tell my girlfriend I get to go shoot today. I get to do it. I've been doing this for almost a decade and I haven't worked at McDonald's for the last little bit, so that's pretty sick.”

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