I was born in Philadelpia in 1968 to an artist couple, both of Ukrainian descent. My first name means "peace" in Ukrainian or Russian, and "world" in Russian, hence the space station "Mir." Lada is an ancient Ukrainian name, although very rarely used today. Lada and Lado were the gods of love and beauty. Many people don't think that is my real name, so I thought I'd explain the origins of it.
Art, design, and photography came very naturally to me at an early age. Many members of my family, including my father, the acclaimed painter and stained glass master Marco Zubar, and my grandfather, Theodore, have been avid photographers. My grandmother was a clothing designer in Ukraine. My mother Sophia Lada, a visual artist based in Toronto, had formally studied fashion and then fine art. My enjoyment of styles and trends probably comes from them. I was brought up with art books and museum trips, so my fascination with the unique and creative is boundless. My technical abilities are probably attributed to many hours of helping my grandfather, a "Mr. Fixit" type and inventor. My father also invented many specialized processes and equipment to execute his wonderful art projects.
I started becoming interested in "creating" photographs (as opposed to "taking" them) somewhere around nine. At ten, one of my photographer uncles gave me an Olympus rangefinder camera, and I started shooting b&w. That year I signed up for a photo course in which we learned darkroom techniques. I never really thought how odd it might have been for all the adults to be in a class with a ten-year old. Throughout the next couple of years, I bought, tried, and sold better and better camera systems until I had the top professional Nikon with a couple of lenses at age seventeen. I remember at fourteen having a two-year subscription to Photo District News and reading books like the 80's classic "Shooting Your Way To A Million." At that point I had been shooting chromes (slide film) for about five years, won about twenty camera club awards, and had a couple of small paid gigs under my belt. I also had assisted on a National Geographic shoot. My first taste of magazine work was a "right place, right time' kind of thing at eighteen. I was living in Winnipeg at the time, and a teen magazine based out of Toronto, needed someone local to shoot a portrait of Miss Teen Canada.
Upon finishing high school, I moved to Toronto to attend the Ontario College of Art and Design, the premier art school in Canada. After a year there, I went to Ryerson Polytechnical University, because I felt I needed a more intensive technical program. Throughout both schools, I supported myself by becoming the main photographer at the teen magazine, sometimes even coming up with the assignments, and doing all my own art direction. In my last two years, I started shooting advertising for clients such as TD Bank, Harley Davidson, and Toyota. Halfway through my last year of school, Dec 1990, I rented a studio, which now has amalgamated with other studios in the building to become the Mir Lada production space.
In 1993, I decided the time was right for me to finally get into digital imaging, which I had been anxious to do for five years. I bought my first Macintosh system, and I started creating all my conceptual imagery digitally. After spending thousands of hours in darkrooms struggling to create complex, manipulated imagery in a photographic method, I realized this was the match made in heaven. Since then I have never had to compromise the execution of my vision because of the chemical and physical limitations of the photographic medium.
The natural evolution of the photo-illustrations was to see how far I could go to the illustration side, since I had already worked in most photography styles and subject matters. At heart, I always considered myself an illustrator, but conventional painting or drawing just never felt right for me (no electronic "undo" feature!). Around 1996, I started working with 3D animation programs to create certain objects or backgrounds which would have been restrictive to create photographically. I became incredibly fascinated with the fact that in this new world, the physical laws of light and perspective could be controlled or distorted in ways even beyond my imagination. Just like the passage from the darkroom to computer, I felt this was a milestone for my creativity. In one project after another, I found myself starting to sometimes not even use photography. Suddenly it wasn't photography any more. That's when I had to stop calling it photo-illustration, and calling it illustration instead. Now we have this incredible wealth of techniques and knowledge to draw from, and it makes our capabalities virtually unlimited. That is very exhilarating for me.
If you have had a chance to experience some of my work, you probably noticed that I don't believe in doing the same style over and over again, as many other artists prefer. I get my inspiration from great inventors and artists, who even in modern times were often very "renaissance" in their approach. Because of this breadth of interests, they had the ability to further their "world". When I'm not asked to do something very particular, I like to be a little daring in my approach, and want to make sure that every experience is one of learning.
If a project allows the luxury to be as creative as possible, then I'll try not to do what everybody else typically does. Why reinvent the wheel? Images that are unique get noticed; this is a major factor in media. What better way of getting the public's attention than to give them something new? Of course, we often do projects with creative direction from clients, which I equally enjoy, since it presents totally different challenges and is more of a partnership. It is the balance of the two ways of working that gives me the level of excitement and satisfaction that I experience every day.