It was August of 2021 when a mail carrier dropped a letter at Skye Portman's address. That letter, says Portman, was the best thing that happened to her that day.
She had received her permanent residency card and was over the moon all day.
Born in Derby, the U.K., Portman immigrated to Vancouver in March 2018. While her passion is photography, Portman worked in hospitality to survive in North America's most expensive city. Soon after she moved to Vancouver, Portman realized there weren't many photographers covering comedians, so she began documenting comics before, during, and after the show. She even gave this project a name and Instagram presence: "A Day in the Laugh."
At a time when Portman was on and off photography, Yuk Yuk's monthly "Brett Martin Show" gave her the momentum she needed. She jumped into other opportunities and finally registered her business, Skye Portman Photography.
Portman describes her photography journey as a long one. During her late teens, she would photograph music events, live gigs, and bands in her local area.
"I would spend summers travelling with bands. It was one of the best summers I had," reflects Portman, now 34.
At 19, Portman studied editorial and advertising photography at the University of Gloucestershire. After graduating, Portman moved to London "with a hope to become the biggest music photographer," she recalls.
Though Skye Portman Photography is her first venture in Vancouver, the former Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (an exam board in the U.K.) accredited top 10 creatives is not a first-time entrepreneur. She ran a brand in London called Band Wagon that focused purely on documenting music bands. During her professional journey as a photographer in London, Portman had the opportunity to work with some talented stars, including Dave Grohl and Jack Black.
She was 26 when she left London, eventually making her way to Vancouver.
Life in Vancouver has been a roller coaster for Portman. She is thankful for the opportunities offered but hasn't forgotten when she had to sleep on a sofa for three weeks at an acquaintance's house as she didn't know many people back then. Once she found a job and a place to live, it was all gravy, or it all looked like that at least.
"What people don't tell you about immigration is the level of loneliness that comes with it. People don't prepare you for that. Sometimes you will feel like top of the world but there will come a point where you won't be able to figure out what you are doing."
What Portman was feeling wasn't unique. Many immigrants say they very often go through a long phase of homesickness.
In July 2021, Statistics Canada released a report comparing the level of loneliness between immigrants and the Canadian-born population, revealing higher levels of loneliness among immigrant groups.
"When you want to talk to someone, it sometimes becomes difficult. Like my family in the U.K. is eight hours ahead," adds Portman.
When asked about advice for budding photographers, Portman says she wants people to know that there is a lot of money and financial growth in photography. If you market yourself well and are diligent and professional you will soon have a group of people to spread the word around, she explains.
Portman has always pushed her limits to experiment with her creative skills behind the camera. These days she is working on a documentary to understand the intergenerational trauma that Indigenous peoples and black communities go through in Canada.
Portman is hopeful for the future but does not want to put herself under pressure by planning too much in advance: "I am just rolling and going with the flow. It will be incredible for me to hold a creative position as a long-term job."
As a professional photographer, Portman has come a long way to become the go-to person for Vancouver comedians and comedy club owners.