About J R Bernstein

Jump to Biography | Artist Statement | CV


Self-portraitJ R Bernstein is a Canadian photographer known for his narrative images, often invoking elements of high-fashion editorial stories, portraits, and landscapes. Having honed his photographic style and technique starting from a very early age, his work demonstrates a perfectionist approach to lighting and storytelling. Contextually motivated, his art leaves the viewer with a sense of time and place, as if every photograph is a single frame of a much larger story. Each image, and each of the elements within it, is deliberate and plays a role in the story-telling process. Bernstein believes that each of these elements must fit within the context of the photo, imply something about the environment, or convey a particular mood. Photographs are not to be left to chance or whim.

Bernstein has extensive experience using traditional large, medium, and small format film and darkroom techniques in addition to modern digital 35mm, medium-format, and technical camera equipment. He is both self-taught and has worked under master photographers David Bernstein, Aldo Vettese, and Vladimir Bekker.

Bernstein is an avid traveller, teacher, and proud ambassador of Canadian art and design. His work has been seen in numerous publications, including the ACF Magazine, Boston Globe, Flare Magazine, Kenton Magazine NY, the Los Angeles Times, the National Post, and the Toronto Star. He has also been commissioned by such organisations as Cancer Care Ontario and the University of Toronto.

In addition to owning and operating J R Bernstein Media Inc., Bernstein has held the position of Director at the Toronto chapter of Fashion Group International, a global not-for-profit organisation established in 1930 to support artists and innovators in the fashion industry. He has sat on the executive board and was Head of Photography at the 2014 Toronto Men’s Fashion Week. He has also been awarded the title of “Fujifilm X-Photographer”, lending his experience and expertise to the development of future professional camera products.

While now devoting his time exclusively to photography, J R also has an extensive performance and compositional music background. Having countless live performances to his credit, he has played in numerous bands and orchestras since the age of 7, and has writing credits on a number of recordings. Bernstein has brought this experience into his current ongoing photography exhibition, Carbon Manifest, which includes a companion musical composition.

In October 2014, Bernstein took his place as Photographer-in-Residence while sailing the high-north Arctic as part of the exclusive international artist-residency program, The Arctic Circle.

“Photography has always fascinated me. From watching black and white images appear in front of my eyes in the darkroom, to the ability of a photograph to capture a moment and transport the viewer to an alternate instant in time and space – photography has always been magical.”

Jump to Biography | Artist Statement | CV

Artist Statement

In today’s on-demand digital age, where we are all bombarded with and equally participate in disposable imagery, I strive as an artist to create enduring images, rich with meaning and splendour. I pride myself on my ability to draw with light and create images that are both timeless yet grounded. Photography affords me the gift of detail, a quality frequently lost with other mediums. It is one that provides a canvas, so thirsty for rich and complex narrative layers that it is like few others. I am a storyteller, and without the art of photography, my stories would be yet untold.

Much like a literary author, I create narratives through my images. The most important aspect of my work is the ability of my photographs to relay this story. Each piece of art must not simply be visually appealing; it must also have a reason. My goal is to share my unique view of the world with others through these visual narratives. While my story may be different from piece to piece, the goal remains constant. I seek to highlight the carefully crafted details and interactions within my images, in order to transport the viewer to a different time and place, allowing them to experience that moment, whether real or imagined.

While my skill as a photographer is in my ability to draw the viewer in, to see the image through my unique perspective, photography also has the ability to preserve and record the moment with precision and accuracy. To me, the essence of photography is the ability to capture a moment and direct the attention of the observer to my way of viewing the world. This can be to document or to distort. Recognizing that I am creating a narrative that both reflects and projects my perspective, I take care to justify each piece of work by envisioning the end result before lifting the camera, constantly asking myself “why this photograph?” and “why not that photograph?”  It is this continuous state of reflexivity that drives me towards personally meaningful work. Each photograph I create is an opportunity to tell a story, and my goal as a photographer is to tell the best stories that can be told.

Jump to Biography | Artist Statement | CV

Curriculum Vitae


Photographic Studies, Toronto Ontario
Both self-studied and has worked under master photographers David Bernstein, Aldo Vettese, and Vladimir Becker.

Bachelor of Independent Studies; Management Studies Option, University of Waterloo
The Independent Studies program at the University of Waterloo was an innovative, self-directed, graduate-style learning program unique to the University of Waterloo.

While at the University of Waterloo, my studies focused on Behavioural Economics and the social-psychology of Problem-Solving and Decision Making.

My degree culminated in a dissertation on Neural Networks and Multi-Variable- and Fuzzy-Logic.

Public Exhibition

2017: Annex Photo, Toronto Ontario, Canada. Group exhibition. Toronto in an Instant.
2017: Milton Center for the Arts, Milton Ontario, Canada. Solo exhibition. Carbon Manifest.
2017: Knox Presbyterian Artist Education Benefit Gala, Acton Ontario, Canada. Group exhibition.
2016: Bezpala Brown Gallery, Toronto Ontario, Canada. Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Solo exhibition. Carbon Manifest.
2015: Black Cat Artspace, Toronto Ontario, Canada. Group exhibition. Select colour work.
2015: Rotman LENS, Toronto Ontario, Canada. Group exhibition. Select colour Arctic work.
2014: The Antigua, Svalbard, Norway. New black and white work artist presentation.
2013: Fujifilm X-Photographer’s exhibition. Ongoing, Canadian travelling group exhibition featuring Fujifilm “X-Photographer’s” work.


Professional Experience

J R Bernstein Media Inc, President & Photographer
September 2008 – Present
Fine Art, Commercial, & Editorial photography studio and print production owner and operator.

Worldwide Entertainment Productions (Worldwide Ent), Owner
September 2000 – September 2008
Start-to-finish production capabilities for clients, including graphics designer, pre-press, colour-management, and prototyping. Oversee all aspects of production, from concept, implementation, and proofing, to over-seas printing and manufacturing of printed materials and packaging.

Product Photo Inc., Graphics Designer
1999 – 2004
Senior in-house graphics designer, pre-press, colour-management, and prototyping specialist. Oversee all aspects of production, from concept, implementation, and proofing, to over-seas printing and manufacturing of printed materials and packaging.

Professional Activities

Fujifilm “X-Series Cameras” Anniversary Event – Live Photoshoot Photographer Selected to execute a live figure-study photoshoot in front of 500+ attendees in celebration of Fujifilm’s latest professional camera and the company’s “X-Series” 5-year anniversary: 2016

Rotman LENS Photography Competition  Judge – Official judge at the Rotman LENS photography competition and sale. All proceeds going to The Remix Project of Toronto; an organization helping youth from disadvantaged, marginalized, and under-served communities seeking to enter the creative arts industries or further their formal arts education: 2015

The Arctic Circle Artist Talk – Presented new works to an audience of professional artists and enthusiasts while stationed in the high Arctic region of Svalbard as part of the élite artist residency program, The Arctic Circle: 2014

Fashion Group International (Toronto) Elected Positions:
Director of Photography: 2014
Creative Director (Interim): 2014
Creative Director: 2012-2013

Fashion Group International (Toronto) Annual Corporate Sponsor: 2012 – 2014

ACF Magazine Mentor – Mentoring student interns, young models, wardrobe stylists, hair & makeup artists, and artistic assistants on magazine photo shoots: 2013 – 2014

Photography Assistant Mentorship & Training Educate and foster young photographers in the art and business of photography as they assist on set: 2008 – Present

Fujifilm XPhotographer Program Member of a select and exclusive group of photographers, providing direct feedback to Fujifilm on their “X” series professional camera products and the needs of photographers, and supporting the greater photography community by educating via social media: 2012 – Present

Fujifilm Canada “Fall Road Trip” Community out-reach program where Fujifilm chartered a bus, and provided cameras and lunches, to a large group of photography enthusiasts for an autumn photography trip north of the city of Toronto, at no cost to the participants Group Leader: 2013

“Art of Fashion” Designer Awards Event honouring Canada’s most promising up-and-coming fashion designers.
Grand-Prize Donation (photography for winner’s collection): 2013
Photographer: 2010

University of Toronto – Ontario Institute for Studies in Education: Practicum Sponsor for Certificate in Adult Training and Development: 2009-2010


Professional Photographers Of Canada Member: 2014 – Present
Fashion Group International, Toronto Chapter Executive Director: 3 years, 2012 – 2014
Fashion Group International, Toronto Chapter Member: 2010 – 2015
Art Gallery of Ontario Contributing Member: 2009 – Present
Independent Studies Student Society Alumnus Member

Professional Awards/Accolades

2017: Great Northern Arts Festival Invited artist (Inuvik, NWT, Canada)
2017: Fujifilm Cameras
2016: Fujifilm Cameras X-Photographers Book Vol 2 Featured Photographer
2016: Fujifilm Cameras X-Photographer
2015: 500px.com Global Photowalk Special-Guest Mention (Toronto)
2015: Fujifilm Cameras X-Photographer
2014: World Press Photo Portfolio Review – Selected for 1 of 10 portfolio reviews by renowned photographer Donald Weber
2014: The Arctic Circle International Artists’ Residency Program Participant
2014: Fujifilm Cameras X-Photographers Book Vol 1 Featured Photographer
2014: Fujifilm Cameras X-Photographer
2013: FujiTuesday Camera Club Guest of Honour
2013: Fujifilm Cameras X-Photographer
2012: Piccsy.com 30 Photographers from Toronto You Should Know About
2012: Fujifilm Cameras X-Photographer


Photography Journeys

2017: Northern Canada, Whitehorse to Tuktoyaktuk, Yukon and Northwest Territories
2017: Northern Canada, 
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, ocean and overland
2016: Northern Canada, Ontario, Quebec, and Nunavut
2015: Mexico, Baja California
2014: Arctic Ocean, Svalbard archipelago high-Arctic sailing expedition
2010: South Africa, Johannesburg; Eastern Cape; Karoo; Highveld
2007: Mexico, Mexico City and Tequisquiapan
2000: India, Maharashtra; Andhra Pradesh; Tamilnadu; Kerala; Karnataka; Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Noteworthy Publications & Clients

Canadian Tire Corporation LexisNexis Canada Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
Cancer Care Ontario Los Angeles Times Société Perrier
Christopher Bates Menswear Marketing Magazine The Boston Globe
Courrier Laval Minto Real Estate The Lawyers Weekly
Flare Magazine Montreal Jewish General Hospital Toronto Star Newspapers
Fujifilm Canada National Post University of Toronto
Kenton Magazine New Scientist Virgin Radio