Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Chris, Voltron and I
This week I saw the Robert Polidori retrospective exhibit at the MAC (Musee D'Art Contemporain de Montreal). This show contains images from many different projects including The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Lebanon, Cuba, Versailles, New Orleans, and a few other places. The images are beautifully shot, all with gorgeous light and vibrant colours. They are also wonderfully printed and are shown without glass so that you can really appreciate the prints. And yet I wasn't that taken in by the exhibit as a whole. I think one of the problems was that I usually expect something a little more thought provoking from the MAC. Sure you get to see how war, nature, abandonment and communism affect interiors of buildings, but it doesn't seem like anything new. There are lots of other people photographing the same subjects and in my mind they often get more meaningful and successful results. For example David McMillan's images from Chernobyl. McMillan photographed the exclusion zone over many years, often shooting the same places over and over again. These images of the same places over time really speaks to how abandonment affects architecture. Unfortunately there are not many examples of this time-lapsed approach on his site but if you scroll through the images you will find some. Then when looking at Polidori's Cuban images of the interiors of people's homes I thought of Bert Teunissen's images from his Domestic Landscapes series. This work, which includes the residents in the images of old and forgotten interiors have so much more personality and draws me in to how the spaces are actually used. But of course neither of these artists was born in Montreal (although Polidori left Montreal by the age of 10) and speaks French.
Another brief review for you: Tony Fouhse's User at IPS (In Plain Sight). I saw this exhibit last week, and tomorrow is the last day for this show. I was already aware of many of the images through Tony's site and blog but it was still great to see a gallery full of them. Well great might not be the right word. The images of drug users are frank and hide nothing. Many of the portraits are disturbing and I did not envy Zoe who was surrounded by them every day. So perhaps not something you want to hang on your wall, but I think that they are very powerful portraits. Tony is obviously an open individual and the honest gaze that his subjects give him allows us some insight into the humanity and personality of the individual drug users. Definitely worth seeing for any portrait photographers.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Images from Montreal alleyways that I took last year.
Over the weekend I gave my mundane subjects some more thought. These are things that I love to photograph, in fact photographing such everyday things and trying to make interesting images of them feels very rewarding and even therapeutic to me. And so to leave this topic saying that there may not be much point in photographing the everyday inevitably depressed me. I needed to reclaim this way that I love to work. And so I thought about some of my favourite imagery out there. Some of the imagery that really changed the way I saw photography and its possibilities. And more often than not it was the everyday subjects that were shot in such a way that we could see them with fresh eyes that I enjoyed the most. For example Weston's pepper, or Kertesz' "Mondrian's Pipe and Glasses, Paris". This ability to take the everyday and make it beautiful and interesting again is a wonderful thing, and perhaps also a very tricky thing to accomplish. It is no accident that for even such a gifted artist as Weston it took many attempts at shooting peppers before coming away with the one that we all know. Taking a portrait of a someone dressed strangely, or with lots of tattoos, or any other oddity sometimes seems easier to me than photographing regular things that everyone knows. With the oddity it is the subject that first attracts the viewer and the lighting, composition, expression, etc. that makes them stay with the image. I have often been told that my images do not grab the viewer right away, but that the images stay with people in the long run. I am happy to hear this although often initial impact is what is needed in this business. Art directors, gallerists, etc. look at images all day. If you don't catch them in the first few seconds then they will move on. And yet this type of viewer experience makes for a lasting relationship with the photograph, something that you can live with for a long time. In thinking about these everyday subjects I also thought about why I love This American Life so much, and it is pretty much for the same reasons. This wonderful radio show takes the world that we are all familiar with and shows it to us with a twist. We get to look again at the world we live in but from a different perspective, and this new and alternative view can give us insight into our own lives and our own way of being. To me this is the best example of what can be accomplished by looking at the everyday. If only I can get to Ira's level of mastery!
Friday, June 19, 2009
An example of the type of mundane subject that I gravitate towards.
If you follow this blog you will know that most of the subjects that I choose are ordinary places and moments that most of you have seen before or can identify with. I have always been interested in portraying the everyday. I don't go searching for wars or Goth kids or any of that kind of stuff. And so the question that sometimes comes up for me is: so why would anyone want to look at this stuff? True I have a penchant for beautiful light and I can hopefully make the ordinary look interesting through choosing the right light and composition, and yet it is still ordinary.
This was brought to my attention by two things today. One was that while working on images I was listening to an old episode of This American Life. Episode 219 to be exact, the testosterone episode. The first act of this episode is an interview with someone whose body stopped producing testosterone for a period of time. In the interview this guy is recalling his sans-testosterone time and one thing he remembers is that during this time everything he saw seemed beautiful to him. And I mean everything he saw. And I can say that I sometimes have days like this. If the light is right and I'm in a good mood I can see almost anything as a potential subject to be photographed. So is this a particularly female way of being since we have less testosterone? This would explain the disproportionately large number of women who photograph the everyday.
Then in catching up on some blog reading I saw a quote that Joerg of Conscientious mentioned: "The other day, I talked with a friend of mine about photography, and he said what he expected of photography was: "Tell me something I don't know.""
So I don't know where I'm going with this. Just thinking out loud. Does photography have to show you something that you don't know? Sometimes I like to think that my work, in turning the camera on the everyday, helps us to see the familiar in a new light (no pun intended). Is my view of the world unique and interesting enough to catch the attention of others? Does it inform us on the world we live in? I don't know. It is one of those questions that I grapple with and that sometimes sends me in new photographic directions.
Pouring water back into the lake.
I am working on updating my website right now. It always takes more work and is more frustrating that you expect it will be. But in a week or two there will be a whole bunch of new images on the website for you. It will be nice to have a more current overview of my work available.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The red kitchen counter in our apartment, from above
Well the Venice Biennale is going on right now and since I can't be there I was looking at the some of the work that I could find on-line. Mark Lewis is representing Canada and is showing in the Canada Pavilion. I was not aware of his work so I've been watching some of the videos on his website. Unfortunately the ones being shown in Venice aren't available on-line but I particularly enjoyed "Gladwell's Picture Window" from 2005, and "Off Leash, High Park" from 2004. They have a very photographic quality to them so perhaps you will enjoy them too.
Monday, June 15, 2009
The paddle boat at our cottage.
My friend Rob Armatta recently opened a small photo gallery here in Montreal. His second show, featuring photographer Brenda Hoffert, just opened on the weekend and will be open till July 11th. The address of Armatta Gallery is 5283A Parc Avenue and the opening hours are Tuesday to Thursday from noon to 5pm, Friday from noon to 8pm, and Saturday from noon to 5pm. I haven't seen this show yet but will be sure to visit this week. Stop by and say hi to Rob if you are in the area. It's nice to have another space dedicated solely to photography, something lacking in this city.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
2 contemplative images from the cottage.
I apologize for my lack of blogging recently. Summer has come to Montreal and I just want to be outside all the time. Not to worry, I will get back on the horse and resume regular posting this week.
I've been watching some Art 21 (PBS's Art in the 21st century) recently and although sometimes you can get overloaded by the number of artists that they show it is really interesting to see how different artists approach their work. James Turrell's dedication to his work has really stayed with me and has made me appreciate his images from his crater all the more.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
A few weeks ago I visited friends Sam and Sara's studio. They are crafty people and collectively they form The Pin Pals.
Good friend Aislinn Leggett of Slightly Lucid hosted a slideshow night Thursday evening. It was great to share work with friends and see what they've been up to.