When Toronto-based photographer Pat O'Rourke started seriously pursuing photography back in 2011, the photography community was still busy figuring out how to navigate the dawn of Instagram. It introduced a new brand of instantaneous visual expression—and, with it, an overwhelming feeling of saturation. "There are thousands of photos being posted," says O'Rourke, noting the difficulty in separating the truly inspired from the rest of the lot. In an effort to aid in this pursuit, O'Rourke started his Rental Magazine account with the aim of highlighting his favorite photographers, and giving their work a place to stand apart from the deluge of dinners, sunsets, and airplane wings.
O'Rourke's interest in photography stems, in part, from his time spent shooting skate photos of his friends growing up, but he isn't a "skate photographer," per se; He's a photographer that happens to skate. "When I would shoot a skate photo, I'd never be as stoked as when I shot a photo of 'nothing,'" says O'Rourke of his approach. "That's more of a challenge."
So the 27-year-old shuns obvious setups in favor of seeking out quirky, wayward moments around Toronto. His photography is anchored in spontaneity, with an eye toward subjects that might otherwise go unnoticed. In many ways, his style is reflective of his own, self-described "shy" personality: quietly observant, astute, and subtly witty. That aesthetic permeates both his personal and commercial work, as evidenced by his lookbook for Vans, which features sneakers peeking out from behind colorful, contrasting sheets, or hanging from telephone cords.
O'Rourke's images are born out of unpredictable moments, and Rental Magazine was conceived in much the same way. While scrolling through photos in his feed one day, O'Rourke found himself particularly impressed by an image—but instead of re-posting it on his own account ("that's weird," he says), he started a separate account to post "photos that look good together." The account would go on to become Rental Magazine, in reference to his original plan to have photographers take over, or "rent out," the account on a weekly basis. Now, almost 6,000 followers later, O'Rourke thinks of the account in terms of bringing people together: "It's fun to expose followers to people that they might not follow otherwise," he says. So far, artists featured have ranged from known photographers like Cole Barash, to amateur skaters like Bobby DeKeyzer. The common thread: a vibrant, fulfilling, and yet still fleeting quality—not dissimilar to O'Rourke's own work.
For now, O'Rourke wants to keep Rental Magazine separate from his professional photography career, so followers shouldn't hold their breath waiting on a website or print issue. "I'm going to make some T-shirts, and see what people think of that," he says of his current plans for the outlet. Beyond that, he's simply going to continue shooting around his hometown, and wherever his wandering eye takes him next.