Final Fire by Michael Mitchell, ECW Press

Final Fire: A Memoir

Mitchell, Michael

  • See the world through a photographer’s eyes

    Final Fire is a companion piece to Mitchell’s much-praised 2004 memoir, The Molly Fire, a finalist for both the Writers’ Trust Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Non-fiction, and a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year.

    Nearly a half century ago, Mitchell abandoned a safe and secure academic career to become a “cowboy” with a camera and a keyboard. While he has always kept one foot planted firmly in the arts, as a working photographer his search for adventure took him through the Americas, into the High Arctic, across Europe, on to the Middle East, India, and the Far East. He photographed famous athletes, musicians, actors, politicians, revolutionaries, and more than a few criminals. The sum of these scary, strange, heartrending, and funny episodes is one man’s prescription for how to live in a bizarre and, best of all, never boring world.

    It is also a book about loss. Mitchell reflects on the invention of photography and its transformative effect on world culture and pays tribute to fellow photographers who led remarkable and frequently obsessive lives.


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  • A graduate of the University of Toronto and Ryerson, Michael Mitchell returned to Toronto after working in Mexico as an archeologist. Mitchell’s work has appeared in many national magazines, including Weekend, Saturday Night, Descant, and Canadian Art. As well as working as a teacher, he was on the curatorial and acquisitions committee for prints, drawings, and photography at the Art Gallery of Ontario and a founder of several enduring arts organizations. Mitchell’s photographs are in the collections of Sweden’s Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Canada, the Portrait Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Ontario as well as many private and corporate collections.

  • Published: May 2019

    ISBN: 9781770414815

    Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.

    Pages: 440

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“Following the success of The Molly Fire, Michael Mitchell proves once again that he’s as accomplished a wordsmith as he is photographer. Laced with liberal doses of wit, humour and intelligence, Final Fire chronicles the artist’s many friendships and adventures with exquisite observations woven into every page, and offers glistening reflections of a passionate and creative life fully lived. Here is a must read for anyone wondering what artists do with their lives — and in this case — a very Canadian life.” — Edward Burtynsky, photographer

“This book breathes. Eloquent descriptions of contact with nature alternate with the narration of extremely varied episodes (they range from the hilarious to the profoundly sad) from the author’s life as a professional photographer. The deeply felt writing transfers the author’s private memories into a moving, unique, shareable literature that lives and will continue to live.” — Michael Snow, artist and filmmaker

“Michael Mitchell is that rare cameraman whose writing is as brilliantly descriptive as his images. Reminiscing back and forth across his improbably rich life as a working photographer, Mitchell regards various encounters and episodes with a spirit of astonishment, true irony, and profound humanism. This moving rumination on a life lived through the lens is one of the most rewarding artist’s memoirs I’ve ever read.” — Paul Roth, photography curator and Director, Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto