The Cortes Portraits: Charles Hughes


An ancient old-growth forest, the Whaletown Commons is a 71-acre greenspace located on Cortes Island, BC in the heart of the Whaletown community. It's where cutthroat trout and salmon come to spawn; where coastal wolves weave through the Douglas Fir; where a community banded together, to buy-out Island Timberlands and ensure sustainability for generations to come. 

It was the perfect place to photograph Charles Hughes, whose love for nature is matched only by his love for music.

These portraits are part of a series I am calling The Cortes Portraits. Charles and I dreamed up this project together over beer and doughnuts. After a deep dive in Donald Miller’s book Scary Close, we set out together. Charlie, as I now fondly call him has become the person I rely upon, who inspires me, and who pushes me to be wholly myself. As such, it is only natural that this shoot opens a project so close to my home and my heart.

Charlie is a producer, singer, songwriter, musician, naturalist, and outdoor enthusiast. Since coming to the island, Cortes has become his muse. Particularly in the quiet rainy days of winter, when he first arrived. I met Charlie in January 2018, just as the mists of the Salish Sea were rolling along the shoreline. He had just started a fire by bow-drill, and I was in bright blue rain boots, walking my dog along the shore. I'm still not sure if it was the fire or that first conversation that offered so much warmth against the rain.

In Scary Close, Donald Miller wrote that love is a "complicated choose-your-own-adventure narrative." Love can devour us, hurts us, and sometimes it heals us. So often, it does all of those things at once. Charlie's genre-less music holds this melancholy space, offering depth of understanding, intimacy and reflection that timing is truly everything.

Leaving 'the Commons,' Charlie smiling and astride me started to discuss the timing that we met. We had both come to Cortes for healing. Even still along this trail, we were both processing so much within ourselves.

It's incredible to think back to when you first met the person who shifts the way to see the world, the way you see yourself.  Our lives had brought us to Cortes, our love of nature to the beach, and our friendship to deep, authentic connection. I could only describe it with one word...