OCAD University Photography Program

News about events, our community & opportunites

Month: February 2018

Friday #ArtCrush: Kadijah Guillaume

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Kadijah Guillaume, a fourth year photography student in thesis. 

In this series, Kadijah and Morgan talk about using the self as muse in photography, tackling identity politics and the subverting the gaze.

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Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

I just recently enlisted Stacey Tyrell as one of my photographic inspirations because she works with the themes of identity, race and heritage within post-colonial societies. My favourite works from her is Backra Bluid where she addressed the issue of “Whiteness” and “Blackness” within Western societies. The images and her artist statement blew me away. I find it extremely important to know that there are current Black artists who are not afraid to address issues of race and identity instead of keeping it hushed. It inspires me more to be a part of this movement and really shows that we are not afraid to speak up – especially in the Art world. Plus, Stacey is a graduate from OCAD!

 

 

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

Majority of my conceptual work comes from my own personal life or from societal topics pertaining to the black race, the human body and womanhood. I feel as a young black artist, it is important to let others know that these topics are still very crucial and essential that hit close to home for me and for many others who choose not to openly address these through art.

 

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Kadijah Guillaume, I Matter Too, Digital Inkjet Print, 2017

 

You have often used yourself in your work, what do you think are the differences of photographing yourself and photographing other people? What do you think is the value of inserting yourself into your work?

It all depends on what my work is about. Often times I use myself because it is easier to communicate what I want and how I want to visualize my concept in the photograph(s). Photographing others can be a bit of a challenge as it can be difficult finding time to photograph said person. However, on a bright note, photographing other people can be an interesting experience. Often times, I see great amount of potential in the person that they themselves don’t see. Sometimes the message comes out stronger when I photograph someone else, as it shows that the issue exists on another person other than myself. In addition, sometimes the work I am producing opens up a personal and intimate dialogue between the photographer and the model.

 

What body of work are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my thesis body of work, momentarily titled, “Where Does That Leave Black Women?” I am bouncing around different titles for this work but I am determined to come up with one successfully as soon as possible! This work was inspired by a question my friend, Tahjay, asked me in relations to black women lacking advantage and success because of their gender AND skin colour. I plan to research more on black artists who have done work relating to the topic of black womanhood. I am currently readings novels and articles that I believe to be of great help with building more ideas.

 

In your thesis you combine photography and text, which is a common theme in your work. What is your process of deciding how to incorporate text into/ on to your images?

That’s a good question. Whenever I use text, I want to make sure there is an equal visual balance between the photograph and the text. In my “I Matter (Too)” project, I used each model’s back as the canvas for the text to be placed on. I could’ve made the text take up the entire back but then the backs would be overshadowed, thus removing the presence of the black body. Overall, the use of text in my work is only essential if, once the text is removed, the concept of my work makes no sense without it. An example of this is my “Too Pretty to Be Darkskin” project where, without the racial slurs and derogatory insults written on pieces of tape that is then placed all over the model’s face and neck, the photographs just look like beautiful ethnic headshots – which contradicts my main concept.

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Kadijah Guillaume, For Your Eyes Only, Digital Inkjet Print, 2017

You mentioned in your thesis work how you are aiming to confront Eurocentric beauty standards as well as how folks homogenize certain groups of people, in this case black people. While at the same time, as you mention, not trying to antagonize your audience. At what point does antagonizing do what you want it to; confront and boldly ‘call out’ your audience for their own preconceived notions of you as a black woman and artist?

The way I see it, people are both going to understand where you’re coming from and try to help out or hear it but continue on with their life. My work is predominantly attempting to tell the audience that we (the Black community) are tired of seeing one specific form of beauty and are tired of being shoved under one umbrella of what society thinks Black people are. We are fully aware that beauty is not one-sided and that we are fully aware that our beauty and our individualism matters. We just want the rest of the world to see it as well. If a person feels offended by this message, then my theory has proven a point.

 

In For Your Eyes Only, the work draws on photographic cues of traditional pin up images however playfully subverts the male heterosexual gaze by including raw meat and blood. The effect is jarring, amusing and confronts the viewers imagination of pin up.  Can you speak to this subversion of the male gaze and using yourself as subject/object in these images? What has been the response from peers and instructors when you’ve shown this work?

This work was one of the most interesting experiences I ever had with photography. I remember looking at the “Starification Object Series” project by Hannah Wilke, where she posed topless with vulva-shaped gum stuck all over her body. It was quite fascinating how she was able to visually subvert the male gaze by adding something unappealing on top of it. That inspired me to come up with “For Your Eyes Only”. The female body, for decades, has always been sexualized and/or over-glamourized in society. For example, breasts are solely meant to feed our offspring – but in the media, they’re gawked at like sexual objects. And that’s what they were… sexual objects. I wanted to play around with this idea of making the male gaze an uncomfortable and conflicting satisfaction. And what better way to do it than to dress up and imitate a pin up or Playboy doll while holding raw meat in my mouth or hands while covered in blood! I chose to use myself because, going back in history (aka Slavery Era), Black Women were only seen as inferior sexual objects. Unfortunately, traces of that still remains in the media today. I remember when I first showed some of my work to my instructors, peers and friends, the feedback was astounding. There was a plethora of responses and reactions: shock, disgust, impressed, confused/conflicted, but overall very supportive of my bravery! Some people couldn’t look at the images for too long! Nonetheless, I was really grateful that everyone was very open-minded and supportive of the idea and work because it takes a lot of guts (no pun intended) to stuff unusual animal organs in your mouth for the sake of Photography, hahaha!

 

 

“I used to play it safe and just take pictures of buildings and landscape shots, less conceptual. I was always nervous about making work that would spark too much of a conversation – a negative one to be exact. Over time, I began talking to other peers and teachers who weren’t afraid to push the boundaries and make controversial work and it was from that moment on that I become influenced to spark conversation with my work.”

In your work, I Matter Too, confronts systemic racism as well as challenging (mostly non-black people) to think critically about the ways in which they can homogenize certain groups where the effect can be violent. The work also speaks to stereotypes on blackness and the idea of being ‘not enough’ both for folks who are black and non-black. I’m wondering if you can elaborate on this idea of not being ‘enough,’ responses you have had to this series and where the project drove from. 

Not being “Black enough” is a phrase that’s used to determine “Blackness” solely based off stereotypes and certain standards for what a black person should be, look like, sound like, act like or dress like. It’s extremely damaging because it not only pins certain black people against society, but it pins black people against each other. This relates to me personally because I have been in situations where I was told I don’t speak “black” (aka ghetto or overusing slang in my sentences) by non-black people or “Why do you speak white?” by fellow black people. Every person that is involved in this project can tell you that they have been in situations where they would surprise someone when they defy common black stereotypes. For example, one of my friends, a dark skin man, said to me that people would look at him differently because he listens to rock music. Prior to executing this series, I sat down and had discussions about the topic of “not being black enough” with many different black men and women. It was fascinating listening to their stories about ways their Blackness was challenged or “questioned”. But it was also sad to hear that their Blackness was questioned BECAUSE of these preconceived assumptions and standards of what a black person is. My project is a personal project, not just to myself, but also to those involved and to any other black person who can relate to it.

 

What is your process from when you get an idea, to shooting, and presenting the work to peers? Is research part of your process?

When I develop an idea, I like to do a bit more research through articles, books, artists’ websites and my own personal experience(s). I often think about how this idea relates to me or relates to current events happening within modern day society. I find works that relate to either one are easier and more successful for me to execute. That’s the easy part. The challenging part is the execution: finding a place to shoot, finding someone to shoot (if I am not using myself) and gathering the items/tools needed to bring this work to life (i.e: props). Speaking to those who I believe can relate to my work on a personal level is really important because the reality of the topic becomes very apparent and authentic.

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Kadijah Guillaume, I Matter Too, Digital Inkjet Print, 2017

 

Is there anyone who you would like to work with in the future?

I would definitely like to work with more people from the Black community because I think it’s really significant to hear different people’s stories and applying it into my work. I believe their stories will influence more of my work and bring forth more awareness of the Black body in the art world. Although I have not thought about working with a specific artist per se, I do want to work with more PoC artists who use their work and practices to address the topics of race, identity and Womanhood within their culture. Minorities have a voice and it can become a very powerful one when we put our voices together, especially in a world that often mutes our mouths.

 

How do you think your process and art practice has changed over time?

I definitely can say my work as changed a lot since I started getting into Photography. I used to play it safe and just take pictures of buildings and landscape shots, less conceptual. I was always nervous about making work that would spark too much of a conversation – a negative one to be exact. Over time, I began talking to other peers and teachers who weren’t afraid to push the boundaries and make controversial work and it was from that moment on that I become influenced to spark conversation with my work. I have grown a new attachment and love towards conceptual work. I love a photographic project that allows me to look at it and think or have a serious discussion with another person because photography is not just about taking pictures of landscapes anymore to be on the “safe” side. A lot of my work is conceptually based off my personal life and current social issues that I was once too afraid to openly talk about.

 

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

I would say any of the courses I have taken where I had to use the body as the subject or make conceptual work definitely has influenced my work. A few examples are: Body and the Lens, Conceptual Photography, Light and Studio, Colour as Meaning, Face Forward, just to name a few. These courses allowed me to push boundaries and try things I have never done before in regards to ideas and concepts.

 

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Kadijah Guillaume, For Your Eyes Only, Digital Inkjet Print, 2016

 

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

Be prepared to spend a fortune on equipment! Hahaha. But in all seriousness, do not hold back on what you want to photograph or how you want to photograph your idea. I am speaking from a conceptual point of view. Not everyone will understand your work or your practice and that is 100% okay. At the end of the day, it’s about YOU. It’s about your satisfaction and how YOU want to achieve your work. Your work isn’t meant for everyone and that is something I learned throughout my years studying photography. I have had people try to persuade me into a different direction of their liking, but I didn’t let them because my work wasn’t trying to impress them.

From a general point of view, learn the history of photography before you go into it. I find a lot of people go straight into digital photography but have never even touched a film camera (no, not an instant polaroid camera) or knew what Photography began with. It’s similar to that episode of Big Bang Theory where Penny wanted Sheldon to teach her about Leonard’s work but Sheldon couldn’t do so without first explaining the history of Physics. I find learning about the history of photography and the development of it over the decades will allow a person to appreciate Photography and its practice a lot more.

Other than that, just keep shooting. Never stop shooting. Even walking around with a camera on you is always good because you never know when you might need it or when you’ll discover the type of Photography you want to practice in.      

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Check out Kadijah’s Instagram, and view her work at OCAD’s Graduate Exhibition in May!

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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 photo alumni 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 non-institutional spaces. She is the Art Co-ordinator for The RUDE Collective, and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

Friday #ArtCrush: Ishkhan Ghazarian

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Ishkhan Ghazarian, a fifth year photography student in Directed Studio. 

In this series, Ishkhan and Morgan talk about on location vs in studio shooting, lighting styles and using fine art as inspiration for his portrait sessions.

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What is your favourite lighting set up and camera/lens combination?

My favourite lighting setup is Rembrandt style lighting. I tend to do most of my shooting on location, outside the studio, so I prefer using natural light diffused through a window or reflected off a building. My favourite camera set up is my Nikon D850 with my 50mm f1.8 lens.

 

Can you walk us through how you set up the studio during one of your shoots? 

When I shoot in the studio, for most cases, I have a pretty simple setup. I am a big fan of having a one light setup in combination with a reflector. I setup the light to the right of the subject very similar to a Rembrandt style. Having one light source allows me to control the depth that I desire in the photos, and using the reflectors I can fill in the shadows with my desired amount of light based upon specific mood I want to achieve.

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Ishkhan Ghazarian, Untitled Portrait, 2017

How does your shooting style change on location vs. in studio? How do you see these two options as changing the mood or lighting of your shoots?

When I am on location verses in studio my style does change, but only slightly. When shooting on location the biggest change comes when looking for lighting. Since you are not in a studio you are constantly looking for external sources of light, whether it be from a neon sign, the sun peeking through branches or a beautiful soft light diffusing through a window. All these different sources of light change the mood of the photograph, so planning ahead, scouting the area is a good idea, but when on location things can change in an instance. This challenge is one of my favourite reasons of shooting on location, you always learn something new.  When I am shooting on location the surroundings also play a big role in the mood of the photographs. The surrounding become part of the photograph and are as important as the subjects themselves.

Do you collaborate with other artists on your shoots (stylists, makeup artists, other photographers etc)? If so, what do you see as valuable about collaborations between artists?

Yes, I often collaborate with models, stylists and other photographers. Collaborations are a great opportunity to not only learn something new from others, but also to challenge yourself to doing something you might have not done otherwise. Often you might feel like you are stuck, creatively, so collaborating with other artists give you a chance to experience something new and I highly recommend everyone to do this.

 

“Rembrandt’s paintings such as his portraits influence my lighting and composition, and Pablo Picasso’s paintings inspire my colour palate. Everyone should go to an art museum and look at fine art, these works in here are from people that were a master of their craft, and who better to learn from and get inspired by than them.”

 

When scouting or looking for models, who or what do you look for?

When scouting for models it all depends on the situation. Sometimes I will have a certain vision of what kind of photograph I am looking to create and I will match my project to the subject, or visa versa. Sometimes the project will be a collaborative effort where a model has a vision and we work as a team to make that photograph happen.

What makes you finalize the last couple images that you publish, after you have done a full shoot?

After a shoot is finished I import all the photographs into lightroom, go through all the photographs and begin a very thorough elimination process. I will be looking over the composition, lighting, focus, and expression and find the ones that speak to me the most. Sometimes your best photograph might not be the one that is most in focus but what matters is that it resonates with you.

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Ishkhan Ghazarian, Untitled Portrait, 2017

What do you look at for inspirations for each of your shoots?

My inspirations come from a couple different places. One of my sources of inspiration comes from fine art. Rembrandt’s paintings such as his portraits influence my lighting and composition, and Pablo Picasso’s paintings inspire my colour palate. Everyone should go to an art museum and look at fine art, these works in here are from people that were a master of their craft, and who better to learn from and get inspired by than them.

It seems like you do a lot of on location shooting. Do you have any best practices or tips to give other photographers who want to improve their location shooting?

Practice, Practice, Practice. Always look at your surrounding, learn about your environment and take all that it can offer you.

Since you do a lot of portraiture, how do you manage getting your model or subject comfortable enough for you to photograph them?

(hahaha) I can’t give away all my secrets. Every photographer does it differently but it is about making the model comfortable. For me that just means being myself, and letting the shoot progress naturally.

Where do you see your career path going and who would you most like to work with/for?

I plan on continuing my work as a freelance photographer, running my own business.

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Ishkhan Ghazarian, Untitled Portrait, 2017

What is your advice for artists who are looking to make their art practice into a business?

If there is one piece of advice I can give you is, Network, Network, Network. Start with people close to you, friends and family, it’s a good way to practice and figure out what you like and what direction you want to go into. This part can be extremely difficult and it’s very rare that it will happen in a day, but it can. Never giving up is the key, don’t lose focus and keep your head up, always.

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

I don’t think there is one specific person, but every faculty member has in their own way touched on something and has definitely helped me improve not only my work, but also my work ethic, the way I approach different situations/problems and have guided me in the right direction that I needed to go in.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to collaborate with other artists?

Ask! Be confident in your work and in yourself, you never know who might be wanting to work with you.

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You can see more of Ishkhan’s work here, and follow him on instagram.

Follow the OCAD U Photo Facebook page and Instagram for more opportunities, calls for submissions and news about students.

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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 photo alumni 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 non-institutional spaces. She is the Art Co-ordinator for The RUDE Collective, and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

Parks Canada Career Launcher!

The Centre for Emerging Artists and Designers is excited to announce the return of the Parks Canada Career Launcher for Photography students. Students are invited to apply for this opportunity and a successful applicant will be employed at Canada’s first national urban park.

 

parks-photographer

 

Check the submission requirements and qualifications here.

DEADLINE: February 26, 2018

Contact Miles Collyer for any questions: mcollyer@ocadu.ca

 

Adobe Creative Residency Opportunity

Here in OCADU  IT Services, we’re into all things Adobe, and this is a great opportunity for an upper year OCAD U student. The Adobe Creative Residency offers creatives in the early stage of their career the chance to work on their passion projects for an entire year, while Adobe provides support with full salary, health benefits, creative tools, and mentorship.     

Applications for the 2018-2019 Adobe Creative Residency are now open! Now through February 25th, Adobe is accepting applications and IT would like to  OCAD U students. You can learn about the program and how to apply here: https://adobe.ly/2Dlfye6

To learn about the Adobe Creative Residents from 2017, check out this YouTube video

Friday #ArtCrush: Jerome Clark

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Jerome Clark, a fourth year photography student in thesis. 

In this series, Jerome and Morgan talk about engaging with questions of failure and perfection within artists, how to create effective portraiture and using historical photographic processes.

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Who or what are your main inspirations?

I mainly find inspiration in conversations, interactions with others, and thoughts (often questioning why I am interested in something). Also just taking in the environment and culture around. There is something within those experiences that act as a catalyst in wanting to push an idea further, transforming the idea into a body of work.

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

The subject matter I have been spending the most time working on is interactions with people through past experiences. I have also been working on trying to find elements or materials that can serve as a way to represent a message. This has led me to explore techniques in the darkroom and using many processes as a platform for tying my work to subject matter. For example, in my thesis, I have been using solarization as a way to represent a loss of control, as you lose some control through the solarization process itself and you are never quite sure what the outcome of the prints will be.

You work a lot with portraiture, what do you think are essential elements of creating an engaging portrait?

Some essential elements of creating engaging portraits are having an understanding of what is being created beforehand and being on the same page in what is being created with the subject. I am interested in taking photographs that are thoughtful and hints or says something beyond aesthetic (though aesthetic still plays a role in my work). Listening to what the subject likes or dislikes is important in creating an engaging photo. Paying attention to these details not only shows that you care, that you are listening and you have the subject’s interest in mind but this also helps you to think of other ways to successfully photograph the subject in a way where everyone is happy.

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Jerome Clark, Caleigh, resin-coated prints developed and solarized in the darkroom, digital inkjet print, 2018

“The process of solarizing images involves developing the photos in the dark room and re-exposing the images another time to low light as they are developing which ends up damaging the prints but also can changes elements like texture, and colour if the process is effective.”

What body of work are you working on right now?

The body of work I am working on right now is my thesis. I have been talking to artists about how their ideas surrounding perfection can negatively influence or affect their work and state of mind. Through conversation, I was really interested in hearing and understanding their thoughts from many different perspectives, and the psychology behind their way of thinking about their work. I was also interested in finding commonalities between myself and the subject, which range from feeling the work is inadequate, to feeling the work is never done or like you have failed after starting over two or three times.

The title of your work, Before our Conversation, insinuates to the process of the art practice. Of conversations that happen with those who are photographed and how that is the process of the project. What is your insight into how these conversations contribute to and mould your concept? 

The title definitely insinuates to the process of the art practice. It can be broken down into two parts. The first part involves taking the subject’s photograph with a medium format camera to capture a high amount of detail. Taking their photo always happened before the conversation involving the subject’s artwork. The second part involved having the conversation, where I got to listen to what was being said and learned about the subject’s way of thinking. I felt naming this body of work Before our Conversation made a connection to something outside of the images, even before the viewer has a chance to read about the work. The title implies that something has happened and that the images are the outcome, which helps when looking at the photographs and not necessarily knowing exactly what is happening. These conversations contribute and mould to this concept through all of these conversations and showing how aware people can be of their own negative thoughts, especially towards their own artwork. 

Solarizing the images also speaks to the idea of loss of control and giving that control up to other elements. What made you want to take this project in that direction, and what is the process of solarizing the images?

The topic of control plays a big part in my work. I often feel a loss of control and that my work is incomplete because I cannot be in complete control of the outcome in what I am trying to create. This realization is what led me to think about experimental processes where some control was being lost, which is why using solarization worked for this body off work. The process of solarizing images involves developing the photos in the dark room and re-exposing the images another time to low light as they are developing which ends up damaging the prints but also can changes elements like texture, and colour if the process is effective.

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Jerome Clark, Aref, resin-coated prints developed and solarized in the darkroom, digital inkjet print, 2018

Is there anyone who you would like to work with in the future?

Yes, there are so many people I would like to work within the future, especially in portraiture. I would like to collaborate with other artists where they also bring their discipline to the work we would create together, whether that involves painting, drawing, sculpture, creative writing or text, etc. This will help in bringing out one’s interests and passions in a photograph. At the same time, we can learn a lot about each other through our interests.

You seem to work as a conceptual artist as well as a commercial photographer. What do you see as links between both of these streams and how do they inform your art practice?

For me working in both conceptual and commercial photography, it is important that both types of photography are communicating something. Also that both styles of photography share a message beyond aesthetic or what is on the surface despite how different both styles may be from one another. The principles of design can also be found in both styles and I am actively considering different elements like line, space, mass, colour, and texture in how they inform the end result of an image. I would like to work on ways to have both conceptual and commercial styles coming together more in my art practice. There are image makers like Nick Knight, Inez and Vinoodh, and Sølve Sundsbø who I feel blend conceptual art, commercial photography and fine arts well together.

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Jerome Clark, Loredana, 2018

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

Yes, there are a few! 

Peter Sramek who has influenced refining the technical aspects of my thesis work in the darkroom, especially when showing me another way to solarize my prints to isolate certain things about the solarization process that I like. Kate Schneider, April Hichox, and Simon Glass have influenced me to think more critically about what I am seeing when looking at artworks and thinking more critically about what I am trying to say. Catherine Black, and Lillian Allen, for influencing me in articulating my thoughts, especially when describing my work. (Take one of their Creative Writing classes if you can!) And John Jones, for influencing how I see light in studio, and guiding me to look for elements in photographs that hint at something else like symbolism for example.

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

Photograph everything and anything you find interesting. There have been so many instances where I did not take a photo of something I found interesting because I was conscious that there were people around me or I was worried about being judged for taking a photo of something that someone else would have thought was bizarre in that moment. The subject that caught your interest should be the only thing on your mind in that moment.

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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 photo alumni 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 non-institutional spaces. She is the Art Co-ordinator for The RUDE Collective, and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

Friday #ArtCrush: Cameron Lamothe

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Cameron Lamothe, a fourth year photography student in thesis. 

In this series, Cameron and Morgan talk about collaging photography and text, who maintains control within image making and disseminating information, and the politics of working with loaded photographs.

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

The main artists who have impacted me are Walid Raad, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Barry, Taryn Simon, and the seemingly endless stream of collage based artists worldwide. It is tremendously inspiring to see what can be made, simply with paper, scissors and glue.

 

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

I tend to focus on historical subject matter; with a special interest in Canadian history and politics, – looking for histories that are often deeply entrenched in moments of tragedy, of great damage, and loss. There is a dichotomy of emotional and psychological heaviness that quite often pervades history, and these moments are what intrigue me and drive me forward. This extends to things far reaching, such as historic fires that claim entire regions, to the stark, evasive political history of Cold War Era Canada.

As a counterpoint, I make equal attempts to incorporate humour where I can into my works. I find it makes for an interesting role reversal to take very heavy subjects and subvert them with humour. It is most prevalent in the text I use in my works, where I can critique language through the artifice of language itself.

Cameron Lamothe, Hallowed Halls House Handshakes, Digital Collage, Inkjet Print, 2017

 

How do you think using archival images and text in your art practice challenges or broadens notions of photography?

I think the archival image is a necessary counterpoint to contemporary photographic conventions. For my own work, it was a lightning-in-a-bottle realization to completely eschew the traditional camera and make work through existing images. I also make an effort to avoid any existing images that I have made myself, and instead to focus solely on found images.

There is something to be said for the act of finding archival images and interacting with this history, be it a physical manipulation, a re-contextualization or the use of the image as an entry point into the history surrounding it. Often times, a very plain archival image leads to an extraordinary history.

Text is a fantastic method of challenging and broadening photography, for the simple fact that it is not (albeit typically) a photographic image. Within my art practice, I often make use of text in order to convey a larger semblance than what the photograph does.

 

 

“If the adage is true that history repeats itself, then the re-examining of images is integral to that process. Perhaps an image has said one thing in the past; it is still possible for that image to say something else in a contemporary framework. “

 

 

What body of work are you working on right now?

I am currently working on my thesis which closely examines the history of the Cold War from a Canadian vantage point, specifically focusing on moments within this history that are unique to Canada’s involvement in the Cold War. My work is entirely based on appropriation of historical archival photographs and documents. My work has most recently been looking at the altering of histories, an action that is characteristic of this time period. I have been approaching thesis with an idea of separating historical events into smaller individual series’ in order to cover more ground and examine a diverse amount of issues. In one instance, I have been examining the political gesture of shaking hands, by removing the participants and bystanders of the handshake from the photograph. What remains in the photographs is the space above their heads; a space that is often architectural and suggestive of political spaces. I wanted to give consideration to these spaces and whether they are informed by the presence, or the absence of political figures. In another series, I wanted to examine the nature of altered and restructured information typical of political documents from this era. I created a series of documents that resemble edited press releases and historical records of the construction of radar sites in the Canadian arctic. These were notorious for the fears of possible annexing of Canada by the United States. At the time, the Canadian government felt it worthwhile to edit any documents regarding these radar sites, to restate the situation as being “under control” by Canada and “cooperatively” launched with the United States. The documents I’ve created feature sections of text that have been edited and restructured to spotlight this moment of altered history that is otherwise redacted from public knowledge.

 

Your thesis seems to be deeply rooted in research, where do you see the intersections between research and art? How does research have an influence in your art practice and production?

I think research co-exists with art in order to turn intuition into understanding. There are seemingly infinite artists who can intuitively make work, but in understanding my own practice, I am certainly a researcher. I can intuitively find an image that piques my interest, but soon after I have to research the image in order to understand it. I think it is often some sort of fulfillment, in that I need to know the ins-and-outs of an image or a history; it is difficult for me to subvert the image / history without the diligence of understanding it first.

Cameron Lamothe, Image of control 3, Inkjet Print, Coloured Paper, Typewriter, Red Pencil, 2017

 

Your work seems to be referencing a specific political time period and using archival images to examine how those political spaces inform how we read and interpret these images. Do you think that the amount of access to images that we have today changes the way we interpret political spaces within photography?
I think that the increased access we have to images and information allows us to make critical work about political spaces from a closer vantage point. It goes beyond the simple political cartoons prominent in newspapers years ago; now artists have the tools and the access to make work with the images themselves, whether this be an image of a handshake from a politician in a tabloid photograph or an official document from the House of Commons. I think there is something worthwhile in making use of these types of images and information, in order to return the agency of government to public knowledge.

 

Do you see yourself as a political artist? What do you believe or see as the line between being a political artist and using or referencing politics in your work?
I see myself as a politically inflected post-documentarian. I like to reflect on the notions of factuality, the meanderings of politics, and some sort of intersection between the two. I think a strictly political artist would be more direct in their intent: actively working with contemporary politics, directly interrogating the current powers that be, etc. Instead, I reference and use politics from a historical perspective, because I feel that I can’t address the current moment, without an understanding of the past.

 

Re-appropriating images (archival or contemporary) seem to be a common theme in your work. What draws you to re purposing these images and how do you think people interpret your work differently by using archival images versus contemporary images?

If the adage is true that history repeats itself, then the re-examining of images is integral to that process. Perhaps an image has said one thing in the past; it is still possible for that image to say something else in a contemporary framework. Maybe there are still overlooked images out there that have answers to how we can proceed in the face of warfare, poverty, disaster, polarizing political times, etc. These are all very prevalent topics and ones that have certainly appeared before and will do so again.

I think that people interpret my work differently based on their own knowledge more than anything else. In reference to my thesis work on Cold War era history, I think that a majority of people from my generation could care less despite the fact that the same issues are affecting us all today. People from earlier generations, especially those who lived through the original Cold War are likely to see things differently. I am interested in this potential for a connection or disconnection between my work and the viewer.

Cameron Lamothe, Image of control 1, Inkjet Print, Coloured Paper, Typewriter, Embossing, Label Maker, Red Pencil, 2017

 

In your thesis statement you reference how the Canadian government redacted and/or edited parts of texts or images so they were unclear to the general public, therefore reinstating their control and ability to censor. I’m interested to hear your ideas of how you are challenging that idea of who maintains control while you are also using the available images, text, and information to manipulate (or change perspective) on how viewers understand history. How do you use the information available to you of Canadian political documents during the Cold War to challenge and examine notions of censorship, control, and manipulation?
I think that control over the information on the Cold War has in some ways been returned to the commons. It could be argued that only utilizing what is available from a controlled source exemplifies a form of censorship, but I think that loopholes in controlled sources present themselves regardless. Where an image lacks information, research can be done to fill that void with text, and vice versa. One of my ways of proceeding is to use the same artifice that the history describes, such as revising a document to return altered histories to their original, non-edited state. It’s sort-of like undoing a knot made from a single piece of string.

The information and images I have used are directly from government web pages that are publicly accessible and considered official by the Canadian Government. This works in twofold, giving agency of information to the public, and allowing the Government to author and officiate the record as “factual.” Continuing from there, research from unofficial sources supplements the official records. Where the artist interplays is in remaining skeptical of both accounts; those that are deemed official and those deemed unofficial. The artist can lay both accounts over one another, searching for overlaps, variances in “facts”, terminus points and loopholes that lead to an answer that neither party has put forth. That is where you can begin to challenge the idea of the maintaining control over a polarizing subject.

 

Where do you foresee your career path going? Is there anyone who you would like to work with in the future?

Ah, the dreaded extended family dinner question. I think my work is often well suited to publications, and I am interested in this route for its ability to disseminate information beyond the walls of institutions. I still really enjoy seeing work on the wall however, so I wouldn’t hesitate to move in either direction. If people are interested in my work, I’m happy to work with them.

Cameron Lamothe, Image Of Control 2, Inkjet Print, Coloured Paper, Typewriter,  Embossing, Label Maker Red Pencil, 2017

 

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

I am grateful for those who have made an impact on my understanding of art and the work I make. Simon Glass and Kate Schneider have been terrific in my time in this institution for their willingness to hear me drone on and allowing me to completely eschew the photographic tradition of the camera. A special mention must be made to former faculty member Marc Losier, for his important lesson on working beyond the camera as a source of liberty within my own photographic practice.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in photography?

I would advise anyone reading this to subvert the preconceived confines of the photographic image and make work without the camera. Take courses in other disciplines early and find ways of incorporating those into your own work.

 

 

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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 photo alumni 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 non-institutional spaces. She is the Art Co-ordinator for The RUDE Collective, and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

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