OCAD U Photography Program

News about events, our community & opportunites

Month: January 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Come Hang: Snack and Chat


Art Works! Call

Still of artist Kayla Polan from series pilot.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Social Impact Artists for TV Series

Online submissions now open to be featured in a new digital TV series created by Toronto-based art collective, Madeleine Co. An artist fee will be provided.

Deadline for Submissions is this TUESDAY, JANUARY 31st


Deadline January 31, 2017

We are interested in showcasing a diverse range of emerging Canadian artists working today to raise awareness around issues including but not limited to: Indigenous histories and identities, LGBTQ, feminism, sustainability/climate change, diversity, labour rights, politics, and more. While we are primarily focused on visual artists, we are also interested in showcasing other art forms including performance, dance, music, design etc.

Information and Requirements (PDF):http://bit.ly/artworkscallpdf

Applications are due January 31 at 11:59 PM as a packaged .pdf through email at info@madeleineco.com with the subject line: “ART WORKS Application | FirstName LastName”.

For questions, please email Alexandra Hong: alex@madeleineco.com.

Follow Madeleine Co. on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Madeleine Co. is a Toronto-based art collective specializing in the creation of socially innovative content. Using co-creative platforms, Madeleine Co. integrates communication strategies with the ingenuity of artists to engage with audiences in empowered and emotionally-resonant ways. Our core principles of accessibility, participation, and collaboration guide us in the development of meaningful experiences with a strong social mandate.

For more information about Madeleine Co., please visit: www.madeleineco.com

Friday #ArtCrush: Lesia Miga

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Lesia Miga, a fifth year student at OCAD University, majoring in photography.


In this issue, Morgan and Lesia talk about claiming public and private spaces with our bodies, performativity in photography and the value in being a multi disciplinary artist.



Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?
A lot of my inspiration for the type of work I make comes from reading, I particularly enjoy essays, zines, and even opinion pieces. I read a lot of work on contemporary feminist thought, art theory and I absolutely love listening to people’s stories. It helps me to frame my own personal experiences in new ways, opening me up to new ways of approaching a problem or idea. If I’m really stuck on an idea, I try and take a long walk, visit an art gallery, or (ideally) take a nap.
What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on?
I’ve spent a lot of my time at OCAD producing work that centres around the body, and how we experience the world around us through it. My work has focused on gender identity, creating and valuing safe spaces in public and private, feminist issues, and story telling.
What drives you to work with that subject matter?
Private space has always been something I’ve had to negotiate and fight for in my life. Even in spaces that were delegated as mine, I often felt uncomfortable in. Home was not always a comforting place for me, and I think that has influenced my work in many ways. I’ve found physically creating a safe space for my body is really empowering, and have been playing with how to push those emotional and physical boundaries.
Lesia Miga, Self Portrait in Public, Video Still, 2014
Do you work in any other mediums and how does that inform your work?

I have experimented with many different mediums over the past 5 years, taking courses in other programs has hugely influenced the way I create and think about art. I have worked with videography, printmaking, bookbinding, drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, and have put a lot of focus on performance, as well as my photography. If I get really frustrated with a project, I find it really helpful to try and explore the same idea with a different medium. Even if it doesn’t work, sometimes I will see a solution to the first problem. If nothing ends up working, I take a nap.


You do a lot of performance work, how do you see that intersecting with your photography or video work?

After my second year of OCAD, I was feeling really bored and frustrated with my camera. I stopped taking photographs because I couldn’t find anything exciting to document, and felt that I was constantly taking the same photos over and over again, which I was. Performance and video work got me excited about the possibilities of the camera, helped me to play more, and not focus on the outcome, but on the experience of creating work.



Lesia Miga, South Hampton Labyrinth, Video Still, 2016


What do you think the value is in being a multi disciplinary artist and interweaving multiple mediums into your art practice?
I think it’s incredibly valuable to explore art disciplines that are out of your comfort zone, it has allowed me to grow in ways I could have never expected. In my first year of OCAD, I remember being very frustrated because I was expected to create art in mediums I was not very experienced in. Looking back I am now really grateful for this experience, it’s taught me that making mistakes is good and that art doesn’t need to be aesthetically pleasing to succeed. (Though certain art school institutions still place a LOT of value on aesthetics)
In your series ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?,’ you experiment with gender roles and identities. What started that series and why do you think it spurs a valuable conversation?
What do I want to be when I grow up, or WDIWTBWIGU?, began as a mix of anger, frustration, and a kind of way to laugh about gender expectations that were being placed on me. There’s always been a lot of expectation placed on me by my family to dress more feminine, and at the time that expectation was really in my face. I was getting a lot of comments from my family about how I wasn’t dressing or behaving like “a nice young woman”, and how I “wouldn’t get taken seriously if I didn’t dress more appropriately.” Then, I had some (bro) customer at work ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, in the most patronizing way. I was so sick of it, so I decided to “dress like a grown up” by taking my parent’s “adult” clothing and dressing in it. This turned in to a series of self portraits in a studio, of me putting their clothes on my body in the most ridiculous and childish ways I could think of, mixing up the gender divisions in to whole new strange and silly outfits.
Lesia Miga, WDIWTBWIGU? Series 2, 2016
What body of work are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on a few projects right now, one of which is recreating the WDIWTBWIGU? series, but instead of self-portraits in a studio, I am working on photographing in my parent’s home. This work will be in an exhibition called Bed of Roses, for the 2017 Contact Festival. I’m also currently creating a body of thesis work, which focuses on public and private space, grieving, healing, and the body through performance, video, and installation. I intend to show this at Grad Ex, if I can make it through the rest of thesis in one piece!


Do you prefer working with analog or digital and what value do you see in either of those?

I really enjoy working in both analog and digital, but for very different reasons. Digital is a lot more accessible, and quick, I use it a lot for the documentation of my performance pieces, because I tend to focus more on the conceptual aspects of the piece, rather than the aesthetic. When doing straight photography, which tends to be for personal enjoyment, I love to use analog photography, particularly focusing on medium and large format photography. Photographing with film really allows me to slow down and focus on the pictures I’m taking, and I love the anticipation of developing the images. The darkroom was one of my favourite places in high school, I would often hide out during lunch and enjoy the silence and darkness, it felt very intimate and peaceful.


Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?
There have been many faculty that have made a huge impact on my work. To name a few, Betty Julian, Johanna Householder, Ashley Scarlett’s Intro to Visual Theory was amazing and first introduced me to Zines and small press, Richard Fung, and Lee Henderson. I took a course last year in printmaking with Anthea Black called Nano Publishing, and highly recommend it, we got to participate in Canzine at the AGO in 2015, and create our own student run workshop. Another professor who I particularly appreciate is the late Wendy Coburn, who gave me a very honest and helpful critique. Basically, I tried to bull sh*t the reason I included a sculpture in a mixed media piece, and she rightfully asked if I included it just because it was a sculpture class, which I had. Lesson learned.
Lesia Miga, Scars 3, Mixed Media, 2016
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in photography?

EXPERIMENT! Don’t just stick to photography. I have learned so much more about myself and the way I create art by taking courses in other programs. There is such a vast amount of knowledge and equipment in the grey institutional walls of OCADU, it is so important to find ways to use it, and grow from it. This institution is for you. Don’t forget that. Don’t be afraid to demand change when it’s needed, and to use your voice as a student.


See Lesia’s work at the

102nd Graduate Exhibition at OCAD University, May 3rd-7th.

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

About the writer: Morgan is a fourth year photography student and runs the Friday #ArtCrush series on the OCAD U Photography Blog. She loves speaking to other artists about social justice, how to break barriers within artist communities and nurturing the arts in alternative spaces. She is the Art Director for The RUDE Collective, a student representative on the Photography Curriculum Committee and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

Career Launcher Exhibition: Farihah Aliyah Shah

posterfinalPoster design by Antonio Giacchetti   

Congratulations to 2016 Photo Alumni and Career Launcher winner Farihah Aliyah Shah  on her upcoming exhibition at Artscape Youngplace.  Career Launcher Awards are run through OCAD U’s Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers, with calls for applications open to 4th year students in a variety of program areas.

Farihah Shah is a 27 year old emerging photographer and visual artist originally from Edmonton, Alberta now based out of Bradford, Ontario.  She has a Bachelor’s in Human Resources Management from York University and a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in Photography with a minor in Integrated Media from OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario.

Farihah’s practice includes an array of conceptual, street, and studio photography, time-based film work,multi-media installations and performance based works that explore issues of racial identity, constructed and natural landscapes, personal and collective memory, and the ebb and flow of people in private and public spaces.  Her work has been displayed in galleries in Finland, Germany and Canada.

Nominate a Faculty Member


It’s time to celebrate excellence!  If a faculty inspired you, consider nominating them for a 2017 Teaching Excellence Award! Nominations are now open with a deadline of Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 11:59 p.m.


 The Price and Non-Tenured Teaching Awards are given to recognize outstanding teaching at OCAD University. Both awards are intended to underscore the ways that OCAD U values innovation and excellence in the classroom and studio. They are also one way that we recognize and celebrate excellence in teaching and research. The Price Award is given in memory of Mamie and JH Price, and the Non-Tenured Award is sponsored by the Office of the Vice-President, Academic.

1.    Price Award for Excellence in Teaching – $2000 prize for Tenure or Tenure-Track Faculty

2.    Non-Tenured Award for Excellence in Teaching $2000 prize for CLTA, Continuing, TIS and Sessional Faculty

For more information and to nominate a faculty who has made a difference to student learning, click the link below. Your nominee will be considered for the award for which they are eligible:



The Faculty and Specialized Teaching Awards are given to recognize the best teaching in specific categories at OCAD University. The awards highlight the contributions of individuals that work in areas of teaching and learning that are integral to student success and may otherwise go unheralded.

3.    Inspired Teaching Awards

4.    Faculty Teaching Awards

5.    BLG Faculty Equity Award

For more information and to nominate, click the link below: 


Friday #ArtCrush: Natasha Hirt

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Natasha Hirt, a fourth year student at OCAD University, majoring in photography and completing a double minor in English and Social Science.
In this issue Morgan and Natasha discuss nature, conservational photography and using art as a tool for social change.

What is your favourite camera and/or lens duo?

I recently upgraded to a Canon 5D mark ii and the quality is astonishing compared to my previous DSLR. My favourite lens currently would have to be the Canon EF 100mm F 2.8 USM Macro.

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

The two main photographers that I am inspired by at the moment would have to be David Doubilet who is an underwater conservation photographer who has worked for National Geographic for nearly 40 years. The second is also a National Geographic photographer, Annie Griffiths, who was one of the first female photographers to work for the magazine. Her primary focus is on the cultural aspects of conservation photography, mainly in developing countries.

I am also influenced annually by the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award winners and runner-ups, which is still on display now at the ROM!


Natasha Hirt, Perception, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica, 2013.


What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on?

Definitely landscape and wildlife photography, I also find myself taking a lot of macro images of mushrooms and other fungi.

What drives you to work with that subject matter?

I have always been drawn to and fascinated by the environment and especially by wildlife. I had actually gone through most of my high school years planning to pursue a career in marine biology or zoology, but it was my love of film photography which inspired me to go into photography.

You work a lot with people and landscapes, and you mention wanting to change the way in which people interact with nature and the land. What exactly is it that you want to change for peoples’ experiences in nature, or the way in which they think of nature, land, and/or landscape?

When it comes to landscape photography and especially this idea of conservation or environmental photography, I think it is incredibly important to include people and the cultural significance of the land or the animals that are being protected. It is not only about making connections to the space but also making a human connection which is often very effective. In terms of evoking change in the viewer, I think this is something I will be working more on in future projects as I want to work more closely with specific environmental issues.

How would you describe being a conservation photographer? What does this mean to you as an artist?

There is a quote that I read about two years ago when I was doing research into the type of photography I was interested in and what I wanted to focus on for my career and it is exactly what made me decide to use the term “conservation photographer” when talking about my work and what I am looking to do in the future.  It was said by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, “The nature photograph shows a butterfly on a pretty flower. The conservation photograph shows the same thing, but with a bulldozer coming at it in the background.” While this is a pretty extreme example, it gets the point across. Conservation photography is about more than just taking pretty pictures, it is about pushing the viewer to think and to act when they see something that makes them uncomfortable. This is what I continue to push myself toward in my work.

There is a fantastic video that was done by the International League of Conservation Photographers which I find quite inspiring.


Natasha Hirt, Unearthing, Markham, Ontario, 2015, #1. Analogue in-camera double exposed, Kodak T-Max Film, 100 ISO.



What kind of impact do you want your photography to have on people?

At the moment I am focusing more on the educational value of photography through visual storytelling, I want to show new places and perspectives that the viewer hasn’t seen before and make them think about the landscapes and about the importance and the history of the land being shown in the images.

Many photographers love taking photos of the vastness of nature, how do you bring a different perspective to landscape and nature photography?

I think this goes along with the idea of conservation photography in that I no longer want to just take visually pleasing images with no meaning behind them. Of course I want my images to look good, however I also want to encourage the viewer to dive deeper into the images I am presenting. I also have a hard time defining “nature” since it is a very abstract term, which is something I am currently working on.


Natasha Hirt, Wild in the City, Don Valley Trail, Toronto, Ontario, 2016.


This semester you are taking part of the LandMarks2017 program instead of continuing with Directed Studio. Can you explain what this class is?

The LandMarks2017 class is part of a bigger national art project that is bringing together curators, practicing artists, and students from across Canada to create interdisciplinary work that responds to national issues such as nature/sustainability, post-colonial concepts of nationhood, identity, and many more. The works will then be installed and/or presented in Parks Canada sites across the country from June 10th -25th , 2017 and may also be worked into an online platform. The artists that are partnered with OCADU for this project are Cheryl L’Hirondelle and Camille Turner and the site that will be used for our installations is the Rouge National Urban Park.


Why did you make the choice to take part in Landmarks and what does the Landmarks class have to offer you and your practice?

I am taking LandMarks2017 this semester in lieu of Directed Studio because I feel that it will give me an opportunity to focus more specifically on the themes that interest me. Since it is a cross disciplinary course, it is made up of artists from many different programs at OCADU which brings a unique aspect to the class. It will also be an exciting opportunity to work closely with the practicing artists and to have the work installed in a public space.

What body of work are you working on right now?

 I am currently working on a project that I started in Directed Studio and will be continuing to work on this semester in LandMarks2017, where I am documenting parks and conservation areas within and surrounding the City of Toronto, and most specifically in Parks Canada’s Rouge National Urban Park. Through this work I hope to showcase the way in which these sites are used and their significance both to environmental and conservation efforts within the city but also their importance to the people who use them. Through this work I will also be going into the concept of nature as an abstract term and what happens when what we consider “nature” comes together with the city or the “urban” within a particular space.

Where do you foresee your career path going? Who would you like to work with in the future?

After I finish my BFA from OCADU this spring, I will be moving on to complete a College Graduate Certificate in Environmental Visual Communication at the ROM through Fleming College. I will be furthering my education in the visual arts while also moving into more science based work. In the future my ideal career would be working for an institution or a publication as a conservation photographer where I work alongside scientists in the field. I am particularly drawn to underwater photography and environmental issues surrounding the oceans so I definitely see myself heading in this direction in the future.


Natasha Hirt, Lake Ontario, Rouge Marsh Trail, Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto, Ontario, 2016.


Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?

Absolutely, John Jones has been very influential on my work specifically in his classes, Colour & Location, which is a third year photography class which studies the significance of colour and lighting in the landscape and pushed me to create work outside my comfort zone. The other course of John’s that has been influential to my learning at OCADU is the fourth year Landscape course. Jennifer Long has also been especially influential to my work both in class in Directed Studio but also through the wealth of knowledge and resources that she has and shares freely with all of her students.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in photography?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be open to criticism of your work. As said many times in class by John Jones, “How many photographers does it take to change a lightbulb? One, but 99 to tell them how they would have done it better.”

Natasha’s website is natashahirt.format.com and you can find her on Instagram at natasha_hirt_photography.



See Natasha’s work at the

102nd Graduate Exhibition at OCAD University, May 3rd-7th.

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

About the writer: Morgan is a fourth year photography student and runs the Friday #ArtCrush series on the OCAD U Photography Blog. She loves speaking to other artists about social justice, how to break barriers within artist communities and nurturing the arts in alternative spaces. She is the Art Director for The RUDE Collective, a student representative on the Photography Curriculum Committee and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

Free Nikon Demo and Cleaning!


Illusion of Process

Congratulations to Photo alumni Miles Collyer and Marvin Luvualu Antonio on their upcoming exhibition at AGYU:

Illusion of Process
Marvin Luvualu Antonio, Miles Collyer, Maggie Groat
Jan 19 – Mar 12, 2017
Opening: Thurs, Jan 19, 6–9 pm

Surrounded, as we are, by a never-ending construction site, we’re never really sure what the end result is going to be. Just outside the doors of the AGYU, a new subway station is taking shape. We’re told that the subway is going to come. We’ve been told this one for years, and before us already it was being told. We’ve been teased with “artist’s renderings,” with photo-ops, with scale models. Nevertheless, construction seems to be going nowhere, the promise always put off another month, another year.

That’s exactly the way the built form evolves, though. Only in stepping away for a bit, defamiliarizing one’s surroundings, can we actually see change as it happened. That subway? It’s coming, it’ll come, and then … instead of stopping, the changes will continue. We won’t necessarily see them, being too close, but they will continue to happen.

The work of Miles Collyer, Marvin Luvualu Antonio, and Maggie Groat all fit together. They are not, of course, the same. Far from it. But somehow, they do fit together. Their work shares a strategy, but it’s not only that.

To start with, Miles, whose work appears to be about violence and the destruction of the built form. Of more importance, however, is the route that he takes: he is not representing violence, either to or for us. His source material is not crumbling concrete and twisted rebar: instead, it is the incidental representation of such. Fragments caught in the background of the evening news; snippets of real destruction mediated for our consumption as spectacle. Aspects of warzones, in a constant state of de-construction, are re-constructed in the gallery as new objects of contemplation. Miles is offering us the representation of the representation of violence. He concretizes for us, in the most real way possible, the mediated image. On display is the extensive materials-based research he undertakes, from a concrete wall juxtaposed alongside the gallery’s own walls, to the revealing of a lattice of support columns via a wheat-pasted, monolithic photocopy.

Marvin, on the other hand, is not so bound to mediation (although consideration of the spectacle? that he shares with Miles). Instead, he is, using the most economic of means, setting a stage on which he will, during the opening, literally project his familial history in a performance titled “Death is a Tunnel.” Chains delineate the boundary of the stage, sand defines the floor, brick and concrete the stage sets. His intention is not to represent to us a connection of him and his father across time and space; his performance is the making of that connection real, immersive, present. He occupies, and redefines, the confines of the gallery space, challenging the purposes to which he as subject is often put. After the opening, when the sound and fury of the opening performance are gone, the stage will become a site onto which the viewer can meditate on their own phantasies of wholeness.

And then Maggie, whose chosen material practice cleaves most closely to the edges of the construction site. We see discarded materials, cast-off and dejected. Or at least that is the starting point. She does, indeed, collect, scavenge, and reclaim her materials from various sites (including the storerooms of galleries) but this material is not merely recycled and repurposed. She is saving it, reclaiming it from the profane cycle of the commodity, inventing it anew on its own terms. Hers is a practice of new materialism in material form, borrowing from the past to construct a future that will then be built again in another form. Through acts of assembling, modifying, and transforming these found and salvaged materials, sculptures and collages are created as tools for determinate uses; as visions of possible futures and/or utilitarian objects to be activated for uses not yet imagined.

To return to all three together, though, their work shares not with the construction site (even if the materials put into play, the rebar and concrete of Miles, the chain and brick of Marvin, the detritus of cultural-products past of Maggie,) but rather with the site of the construction site. More specifically, the hoarding around the site. And even more specifically, the artist’s renderings that adorn that hoarding, whose promise is the future, the ideal, and an end to the endless rearranging and shifting, the uncertainty and noise.

Certainly, they borrow from the construction site (one can think of their studios as reserves of material to be deployed), but once the work is installed, it takes on the timeless quality of a rendering—the finished product in preternatural stasis. The illusion is two-fold, then. An illusion of finished state, of existing just-so for an undetermined period of time, fixed as it is. Then, the illusion of the process, the various components in an unending dance, a dance to which we pretend to have access. Put in another way, we see the stasis in the work on display, but the stasis promises that solidity and permanence is always … impermanent.

As is our ongoing relationship with the city in which we live. At any one point, the urban environment is fixed and eternal, but at the same time, it is always changing, at a pace just slow enough to escape detection.

Departing from the formal qualities of the material these three artists use to deconstruct and reconstruct monuments and sites, the urgency of meaning is inherent in the building materials they use. The abstract collection of matter and objects transform through use and proximity, articulating the complexities of built space and the never-ending construction of meaning. Political discourse is inherent in all of these artists’ work without the articulation of overt narratives, allowing the power of the conditional material to do the heavy lifting.

As for that subway, it is coming. We can feel it.


Miles Collyer’s work has been published and exhibited widely. Selected group exhibitions include the Art Gallery of Western Australia (Perth), Australian Centre for Photography (Sydney), Open Space (Victoria), The Power Plant (Toronto), and the University of Toronto Art Museum. Collyer is the Career Development Coordinator at OCAD University’s Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers and holds a MBA/MFA from York University.

Marvin Luvualu Antonio has recently been published in Every Object Has a Story: Extraordinary Canadians Celebrate the Royal Ontario Museum and was selected for the 2014 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize Scholarship Program. Selected group exhibitions include Stevenson Gallery (Cape Town), CK2Gallery (Montreal), Jackman Hall Institute, and XPACE Cultural Centre (Toronto). He has a BFA from OCAD University and is represented in Canada by Clint Roenisch Gallery (Toronto).

Maggie Groat’s work has been included in exhibitions at Western Front (Vancouver), The Power Plant, Mercer Union, Erin Stump Projects (Toronto), and Rodman Hall (St. Catharines). She is the editor of the anthology The Lake, published by Art Metropole in 2014. Groat was an Audain Artist Scholar in Residence at Emily Carr University in 2014 and nominated for the Sobey Art Award in 2015. Groat studied visual art and philosophy at York University before attending the University of Guelph, where she received an MFA in 2010. She is represented by Erin Stump Projects (Toronto).

Illusion of Process is curated by AGYU Assistant Curators Suzanne Carte and Michael Maranda. The work of Miles Collyer is supported by the Toronto Arts Council and the work of Maggie Groat by the Ontario Arts Council.

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