Views / Toronto / Backstage Pass

Jill of all trades Ali Eisner shows off some of her Favourite Things at The Gladstone

Nine months ago, Ali Eisner followed through on a dream many of us have had: She quit her job to pursue her passion.

A puppeteer who helped develop CBC Kids’ program Mamma Yamma, Eisner finally sees her gamble bear fruit this week as she launches her debut photo exhibition at the Gladstone Hotel.

“My goal for 2014 is to start stretching out on all the other creative things that I’ve always wanted to do,” she says.  “Having a photography show was something that I’d always wanted.”

Eisner is best known for her performance work at the CBC and as Jay the Blue Jay on TV Ontario’s Gisele’s Big Backyard, but her creative endeavors started behind the camera.

Her father, “a closet photographer,” helped Eisner develop her own style.

“I’ve been shooting for years out of just joy,” she says, adding it can be a welcome change from performing. “Your goal is to be invisible. It’s neat to do something so quiet.”

Called Favourite Things, Eisner’s exhibition collects pictures from the last few years of her life, from vacations with her superhero-loving musician wife, Christine Bougie, to the set of Mamma Yamma.

She says she enjoys the emotional spectrum afforded to children’s programming.

Fittingly, Favourite Things runs the emotional gamut, from goofy shots of musician Joel Plaskett dressed up as a hot dog to more serious images.

“There is darkness,” she admits, “but it takes up a small piece of the show.”

Photography will continue to occupy a big part of her time, but music looms largest in Eisner’s immediate future.

She and Bougie recently finished some score work and plan to make a record together.

“I like to do a lot of different things,” she says.

“That way, my brain won’t burn out on one, and doing something else gives me perspective on the other.”

Favourite Things runs to Jan. 19, 12-5 p.m. at the Gladstone Hotel Art Bar, 1214 Queen St. West. Opening reception tonight, 7 p.m. See gladstonehotel.com for details.

Digital vs. film

Eisner shoots with a Nikon digital camera, but she learned to take photos the old-fashioned way, using film that needed to be developed in a dark room.

“It’s really weird the relationship between when you know you only have a certain number of shots versus now,” she says.

Her father helped her build a dark room so she could fully realize her budding passion. That’s all gone now.

“But I try not to abuse the digital option,” she says. “It’s really boring going through a million shots.”

More on Metronews.ca