The evolution of alive’s Creative Director
“Follow your passion” is advice we’re all familiar with. But, there’s an assumption in this advice—that you know what your passion is. Constantly searching, we move through life convinced it’s something we must find. Yet, often it’s elusive, just beyond our reach, and we’re left wondering if we’ll ever find our purpose. We may spend years, even decades, trying to define what that passion is. Perhaps it’s an interest, a skill, or an artform to be developed. One that stems from curiosity and grows over time, through hard work and commitment, into a true passion we can call our own, perhaps even call our career. Instead of interests being fixed, maybe it’s time to view our interests as fluid, evolving and changing over time, cultivated through exploration and experimentation.
Scott Yavis, Creative Director and photographer for alive magazine, believes our passion should always be viewed as an evolution. He also believes passion is a practice we should never stop developing and an artform we can improve upon over time that’s “as unique as our individual personalities and that helps shape who we are and how we grow in our human experience.”
When you first meet Scott, he comes across as the strong, silent type. But his is the silence born of wisdom, an understanding that silence is required for the deep observation essential to his craft. Once that understanding is reached and the image captured, the joy of it can then be shared, discussed, and appreciated by all. He’s been at this a long time now, and the shared experience of creating a photograph is as important to him as the image itself.
Scott grew up on the shores of Moose Lake, Alberta, where he spent his days outdoors, learning the land and exploring the nuances of nature. After completing a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, Scott accepted a position with alive. You might think that after 22 years, he’s got it all figured out, but nothing could be further from the truth. He’s never stopped exploring, and the longevity he’s enjoyed with alive is a result of that.
alive magazine recently celebrated its 45th anniversary which, coincidentally, is Scott’s current age. The two, it seems, have grown together, side by side, hand in hand. Scott is the longest running employee in the company—the artist behind the images and design you’ve seen each month since 1999.
When you flip through alive, it’s Scott’s personality and vision you’ll find there, from the coordination of the raw, muted colours, to the artfully deliberate details found in each recipe photo. Raw, yet refined. Full of pure emotion and a vulnerability many take years finding the courage to share.
Developing his passion—photography—wasn’t without its difficulties for Scott. The pressure to capture just the right photo to do justice to the articles and recipes they would accompany meant figuring it out in the moment, often with no second chance. “I had no guidebook when it came to my career or for capturing photos. I had to take risks, go with my gut, and never take anything for granted.”
That’s why, Scott says, he fell in love with alive. “They’re rebellious. They were going against mainstream opinions and searching for the truth. I was hooked, because a huge part of me loves being a rebel for the right thing, the natural way of doing things. And, because I knew my photos were going to be published, I had to go all in. I couldn’t let myself, alive, or the readers down.”
When the stakes are high, the drive to push past fears and self-doubt can be intense. Scott used this intensity to fuel him, and alive trusted him with the freedom and the platform to continually advance, transcending the boundaries we often limit ourselves with.
As his passion for photography grew, so too did his respect for natural health. He became deeply immersed in it as he read the articles and designed the pages. This led to a more in-depth understanding of and devotion to the role he played in bringing the magazine to its readers each month.
“The most amazing part of alive,” Scott says, “is that our readers feel part of a community, and they’re making an effort to educate themselves about natural health. I love taking this ride with them. I’m not just being healthy for me; I’m doing it for the world.
“alive is a lifestyle and a mindset, and I take pride in bringing these concepts to the readers. Becoming whole and healthy is not about a trip to the natural health food store or about one specific pill or supplement. It’s about learning, holistically, how to become a healthier version of yourself.”
Over time, our passions may evolve naturally, and Scott believes constantly challenging ourselves is vital to continued growth. In addition to his work on alive, Scott also spends time pursuing the meditative and emotional aspects of photography that are sometimes difficult to feel when working under the pressures of deadlines.
An avid outdoorsman, Scott and his partner Jeanette travel the world, surfing, snowboarding, and immersing themselves in other cultures. Scott integrates all of these experiences into his photographs, creating art and memories along the way.
Scott believes our passion is fluid: ebbing and flowing with the tides of our lives, sometimes weighing us down with the pressure, other times filling our bucket with countless personal payoffs. Either way, it’s always teaching us, and this learning should never stop. “I’m always looking for sudden glimpses of magic,” says Scott. “There’s always pressure, there’s often failure, but the goal is to keep at it, keep trying.”
Scott has also poured his passion into his one-of-a-kind home, created with Jeanette. “We bought it, renovated every inch of it, and now it’s ours. It’s part her, part me; it’s our passion project, built by us together, an expression of our combined experiences.”
Scott spends “his favourite days of each month” with recipe developer and food stylist Irene McGuinness, shooting images for the alive food features. It’s easy to see the mutual respect they share and the harmonious way they “feed” off one another as they work.
Says Scott, “Irene is a true pro; she prepares each dish exactly as written to ensure we offer readers exactly what they expect. She’s like family to me, and we push each other to get better every time.”
Getting comfortable about whatever is needed to follow the path our passion has paved is key. Scott’s process is unique, developed through years of trial and error. But he credits alive for his authentic photography style.
“I’m committed to discovering the nuances, the details, and I go from there,” Scott says, like the wood grain in the table, the minute details in the flower. “The skills don’t come naturally,” he says. “I have to put in the time and the hours. I can’t fake it—I can’t push the tide. If I let go of control, the universe jumps in to set the missing pieces in place. It’s a constant process of integration and transcendence.”
“I shoot raw. I shoot the moments. I study the people. I sit through the storms until I get what I need. The confidence is here now, but I’m always nervous. That’s the fun part. I’ve learned to enjoy the uncertainty.”
Once photos are taken and editing begins, it’s time for him to tell the story. With studio doors locked, lights low, and carefully chosen music creating ambience for inspiration, his process can take minutes, hours, or even days.
Scott’s advice? “It’s important to develop an interest that makes you excited to get up and do it every day. You can pour your passion into any aspect of your life. If you’re lucky enough to make it your career, that’s great. If not, you only need to find a direction to concentrate it, and go there, whenever you can, with all the energy, time, and heart you have to devote.
“Wherever you go, ask what your purpose is: what you’ll learn from the experience. Find your why, and it will all fall into place. You may not always be able to control the outcomes,” Scott says, “so don’t fight it; life’s a lot more enjoyable that way.”
The May 2020 issue of alive was the final issue designed by Scott, although he’s promised to continue contributing photos. As Alive Publishing Group’s Creative Director and photographer, Scott is gearing up to explore new creative outlets that will take alive in new and exciting directions.
“It’s been a good run, and I need to keep growing. I want to be a better photographer, a better storyteller, and I want to help change the world in ways that matter.” As the world of publishing changes and evolves with ever-expanding digital platforms and new and improved technology, Scott’s ready to take on new challenges within the visual arts.
He’s found his rhythm, and he’s anxious to keep moving.
“I don’t worry anymore about whether others like my work. If I like it, that’s good enough for me. It’s mine, and I own that.” His story is set to continue through books, podcasts, films, and other projects still on the horizon.
Now—it’s time to change the world.