OCAD U Photography Program

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Queering Family Photography Roundtable – April 26

Roundtable Discussion at Hart House, University of Toronto, 5-7 pm April 26.

This event accompanies the exhibition Queering Family Photography at the Stephen Bulger Gallery which opens April 28 along with Sunil Gupta’s show Friends and Lovers – Coming out in Montreal in the 70s.

 

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Friday #ArtCrush: Cassandra Keenan

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

In this series, Cassie and Morgan talk about working with family relationships, documenting physical objects and exploring the truths/untruths of family histories.

Who or what are your main inspirations?

My main inspirations are honestly the people around me, I love talking to my fellow classmates and professors about everything, it helps me stay connected to not only the people I surround myself with, but also my art. The inspiration for my art also comes very naturally to me, and I find during moments of connection with others is when I come up with some of my best work, and most of the time it is during the most random moments, that’s what I love about art and inspiration, there is no time line.

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

I mostly work with very personal subject matters, pretty much anything that is effecting me at the moment, or what I feel strongly about. Nothing is truly off topic for me as an artist, so far I have worked on many projects with a subject matter which relates to myself personally, this includes my mental issues, such as my severe panic attacks and anxiety, continuing all the way to helping me mourn the death of my grandparents.

I try not to limit myself or my art, especially that of my photography. This is because my art has always been an emotional outlet, and I have always felt like it is the only way I could truly communicate what I’m feeling or going through at that moment, my art is my form of stress relief.  Of course it is bound to change in the future, but that’s the fun of being an artist, you are never truly tied down

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Cassandra Keenan, B.B.Y.A, Digital Inkjet Print, 2018

What body of work are you working on right now?

At the moment, I am mainly focused on finishing my Thesis and Grad Ex work called “Film”, it revolves around nine 8mm film reels which were all recorded by my grandfather, starting in the early 60s. The film captured moments of my grandparents young adult life, to their wedding and honeymoon, all the way until my mother and uncle were young children.

During my initial research at the beginning of the year I was mainly focusing on the documentation of my family history, especially that of my mothers side, but as I interview my family and looked at the many documents, I quickly came to realize that alot of the stories that I was told growing up was not told accurately, mostly because I was too young to know the truth.

My thesis then took a major turn, and instead of searching for the truth pertaining to the documentation of my family’s history, I wanted to look at the untold truths and document those moments. This is when I found the films again and got them digitalized, this was the first time in about twenty years that I saw them again, and they quickly became the main focus of my thesis.  I began to solely look at the nine films as the manifestation of all the untold truths that were told over my life time through the use of the editing that was done to each of them, I wanted to explore and identify each edit and untold truth within each of the individual films, which now stood in place for my family’s documented history and from there the series “Film” was formed, the series contains four parts, “Life”, “The Truth & The Edit”, “Glitch” and “Proof”, all of these names resembling different aspects related to film and archiving.

What draws you to the act of documenting these film rolls involved in your body of work, and how do you believe this adds to the significance of your work?

The Truth & The Edit” is the part of the series “Film” where I document the film reels. The work consists of fourteen photographs, each documenting the physical elements of the untold truths and manipulations that had been woven into my family’s history, these became very significant to my work, because they resemble the physical manifestation of my concept.

The first eight photographs are documenting the four film containers and their respective reels, the photographs depicting the four containers, “B.B.Y.A”, “Shower”, “Honeymoon”, and “Unknown #1”, each resemble the truth which are contained within them, and the labels on the front reflect on the moments captured within, they are the ‘real’ and the ‘truth’.  The next four photographs document the four reels that were once contained in the pervious containers, “B.B.Y.A Reel”, “Shower Reel”, “Honeymoon Reel”, and “Unknown Reel #1”. These four photographs represent the manipulation and the untold truths that were being told within my family’s history, and the editing that had been done to each reel can be clearly seen within some of the photographs, these edit points show that someone had physically edited and removed a piece of information from the recorded history.

The last six photographs document the small six film reels, “Made in Canada”, “Shar”, “1 Florida”, “2 Florida”, “Unknown Reel #2” and “QUE”. These six photographs also depict the untold truths and lies within my family history, some of the reels can be seen missing large sections of the film, which obviously mean they have been heavily edited, while others have lost their labels, leaving the contents of the physical reel unknown to the holder.

I was drawn to documenting the film reels and their containers, because as my thesis moved forward I could no longer see them as the absolute truth of my family’s recorded history, I began to only see them as their edits and nothing else, and it came to a point where I felt I had to document them as their own absolute truth, that being documenting the real and the edit. 

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Cassandra Keenan, B.B.Y.A Reel, Digital Inkjet Print, 2018

As your thesis explores familial relationships, how do you navigate working with a topic that is so personal? How has your relationship with your work evolved over the course of the year?

I actually found it really easy to navigate such a personal topic this time around, I was lucky enough to have a support system behind me to not only support the path I decided to go on, but also aid me when it had gotten difficult. But the idea of my thesis actually originated from a series that I worked on the pervious year, this series also focused on family history, but that time it focused on my fathers parents, who had passed a couple years ago. That series, “Waves of Memory”, was very hard on me emotionally, it fully drained me because even after a couple years I was still mourning the lost of my grandparents, and the series had opened old wounds, and as time went on it helped me navigate these emotions, and lead me to where I am now, where I can be more focused and understanding of the information laid out in front of me.

You often talk about family history in the context of the ‘truths’ and histories that are passed on generationally, but including the lies and untold truths that these stories hold. How have you decided to play with these ideas in your work to extend or mould the truth/untruths with you approach and contextualize your work?

I came to use the edits and untold truths to tell my family’s history because of the fact throughout my life these truths where only told to please a child’s ears and wonder, but now as an adult I seek to understand the truth of my own history.

With finding the film reels again, I began to question the documentation of my history, especially when my grandfather watched them, and mentioned how heavily edited they were, when I questioned him, he said that every film had to be reviewed by his parents (my great grandparents), and anything they didn’t agree with, must be removed and destroyed without question, so with alot of the reels you can see that they are missing large portions of their film. This made me very curious about the edits and made me want to explore them even more.

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

I don’t know if there is anyone I would like to work with in the future specifically. I am always open to working with anyone, especially those who I connect really well with, and can have a great back and forth creative conversation with, I do always work my ideas out with people who are around me, but I haven’t actually collaborated with anyone yet. I’m hoping in the future to open that door and work on some amazing work, just haven’t found that person yet.

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Cassandra Keenan, #15, Digital Inkjet Print, 2017

How do you feel the thesis critique process has helped you with your critical thinking skills within your art practice?

The thesis critique process has definitely helped grow my critical thinking skills when it comes to my own work, even when we are critiquing another persons work I am still able to grow as an individual artist.

I am surrounded by so many wonderful artists, with their own amazing histories and point of views, It’s never just one point of view looking at my work. Having those many differences giving their opinions is very valuable to me as an artists, it helps me grow and look outside of my comfort bubble, and I owe it to them for helping me grow.

Even the bad or harsh critiques I take to heart, I know its not against me personally, my fellow classmates want me to grow and do better, I take every critique as an opportunity to grow. 

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

Simon Glass and Nicholas Pye are two OCADU Faculty which come to mind right away, I had the privilege of having both of them as professors for my main photography courses. I honestly believe I wouldn’t be as strong as an artists as I am right now if it wasn’t for both of them. They both pushed me, well beyond what I thought was possible of my own art, I say this in the best way possible, they both saw that I could grow and create more meaningful art, and the art that I created for them, were the first time I was truly making art for myself.

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

The one piece of advice I would give to someone starting out in photography is don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid to be yourself, to experiment, to try something new or scary, and don’t be afraid to grow. It is when you are afraid that you truly stop growing.

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.

August Photo Workshop Opportunity

August Photo Workshop in Newfoundland

A collaboration between the Photo programs of OCADU, Memorial University and NSCAD

Looking for a few interested students to participate in this pilot programme which involves spending 10 days at the Bonne Bay Marine Station in Gros Morne National Park from August 20-29th along with students from the other universities. This residency, coordinated by Marc Losier at Memorial University, will be followed by a fall exhibition at OCADU.

Let me know if this might be of interest.  Peterbonne_bay_april13_06_024-1   psramek@ocadu.cagros-morne-national-park-map high-view-gros-morne-newfoundland

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Friday #ArtCrush: Abigail Holt

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

In this series, Abigail and Morgan talk about using symbolism and allegories in photography, examining your cultural identities and using text and images simultaneously.

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

A lot of my photographic inspirations aren’t even photographic, but artists I’m inspired by right now are María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Adriana Varejão, and Anna Bella Geiger. But I mostly get inspiration from reading—translating ideas, theory, literature, poetry, into a visual language and expressing it in my own way. The process of image making is almost like writing for me (and writing like image-making). I like reading Caribbean authors / theorists and Spanish poetry. Also a sense of sensuality, like that found in the natural world or in music.

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

Immigration, family, language, sensuality, girlhood, fruits, spirituality, soccer, history (memory), the Caribbean, land, maps, creolization, colonialism.

It’s common that you use text and images together. What is your process of deciding how to incorporate text into/ on to your images?


Usually the text and images follow a common theme, or maybe a common feeling towards subtly communicating an idea. So one example is that I made a book that was like pieces of a movie, with images, captions, and “poems” written in script format. I guess the way I mix text and image together has to do with affect, I kind of work more intuitively.

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What body of work are you working on right now?

I’m working on my thesis right now and a few side projects have been born from that. I’ve been playing with abstracting video stills of Carnival focusing on notions of double performance, masking, rhythm and Caribbean codes inspired by Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s theories in The Repeating Island and music (calypso, cumbia, samba, mapale, lavways), it’s fun sometimes I dance when I make them.

You use a lot of symbolism and metaphors in your work, for instance the works with fruits cut open, or flower petals creased or held together. What is this process of using symbols that have a meaning to you culturally or personally and how does that translate to audiences?


I use symbols, allegories, and metaphors because I like implying rather than telling, creating a feeling to express meaning. I guess it’s in the way of seeing or looking that you’re able to create these indicators or signifiers. Cultural symbolism can sometimes go unseen, it can be frustrating but especially in my thesis I’ve learned to embrace and play with that to express certain ideas, like about what is seen and unseen, what is considered center and what is considered periphery—and why.

In your thesis work, your images have a dream like quality to them. As if we are looking in on your internal thoughts and trying to decode the symbols of aesthetics or collages. Can you speak to this process of manipulation in your images?

‘Dreamlike’ is interesting because there’s a tradition of magic-realism and fabulism in the Caribbean. I’ve tried to create allegory-landscapes that act as embodiments of Internality masquerading as Externality but instead of being about me, it’s about Caribbeanness. The processes of visual manipulation are inspired by the cultural manipulation found in creolization, such as: plurality, fluidity, openness, secrecy, ambiguity, multiplicity, multivocality, multi-layering, transition, transformation, mimicry, doubling, carnivalization, diffraction, recomposition—it’s a long list. Basically it started with wandering through Trinidad, experimenting with a piece of glass / prism in front of my lens.

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While you use a lot of text in your work, there are also multiple projects that use old images and reconsider them in another light by collaging, composition or adding/subtracting from the image itself. How does this reconsider the original quality and purpose of the images?
The old images I use are of my family, so the compositions I make from them I call altars (or I add gold and call them saints). I always mention the images of my family as feeling filled with light or “breathing light like votive candles”. So when I make these new compositions I guess it’s about revealing something I see within the images, and of course the objects I use in the collages also add meaning (so like in one series alongside images of my family I used fruits / herbs from West Indian grocery stores that have healing properties).

How do you think your practice has grown over the course of your time at OCADU?
It’s kind of just grown naturally with me but also has become more informed as I’ve learned more in studio and lecture classes. I’ve gotten better and expressing and articulating my ideas visually. I’ve developed my own style because of those things.

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

Yeah! I would like to work with other emerging artists or people who have ideas of doing things differently. Of course it would also be nice to work with other Caribbean artists.

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

Dot Tuer is so intelligent, she teaches art and history very critically and insightfully, things she’s said in lecture have stayed with me, she has so much knowledge and wild stories. Simon Glass and Nick Pye have always been encouraging and challenging, they always have lots of insightful ideas and feedback. The photo techs at the cage are great too, they’re so smart and friendly!!

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in photography?
For me when I was starting to pursue my interest in photography (pre-university) people made it seem really stale and clinical (like the inside of a Henry’s), as if there are certain guidelines and rules that you need to follow—or equipment you need to buy if you want to take a “good” photograph. That doesn’t really encourage creativity, or like, basic enjoyment—it represses it. So I think you should find your influences and interests, follow anything you’re curious about, question conventions, experiment, be open, play around, do your own research, take note of the things that leave impressions on you and think about why. Develop your own “language”, musicality, poetics, and way of seeing.

You can see Abigail’s work on their instagram, and at OCADU’s GradEx from May 3-6, 2018!

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.

Summer Residency Opportunity in New York

Future of  Images: The Lens and Screen Arts
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Possible Work Opportunity

From: Brandon Hall <brandon.hall@sutherlandmodels.com>
Date: Monday, March 19, 2018 at 1:35 PM
To: “Collyer, Miles” <mcollyer@ocadu.ca>
Subject: ATTENTION ALL FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER’S

Good Afternoon  – I was speaking to one of your colleagues and he had mentioned to email you directly with the my request.  Could  you kindly post the following info to your Photography Students Blog / Board:

Sutherland Models,  one of Canada’s leading model agencies is looking to expand  their roster of   Fashion Photographer’s  for upcoming creative tests for their models.

If you are looking to work with some of the industry’s top models please,  contact me for a meeting:

Brandon Hall
Creative Director / Agent

Brandon.hall@sutherlandmodels.com

Sutherland Models Inc.
90 Sumach Street, # 403
Toronto, ON,  M5A 4R4
T: 416.703.7070

Friday #ArtCrush: Rebecca Rose Vaughan

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Rebecca Rose Vaughan, a fifth year photography student in thesis. 

In this series, Rebecca and Morgan talk about photography and the gaze and working within a feminist lens.

 

Who or what are your main inspirations?

My main inspiration is just nature, our connection to nature or lack thereof and how that affects the way that we view everything around us.

 

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

I tend to spend the most time working on subject matter surrounding the body and how it is represented in the media and our everyday lives. I feel the body is always a very political subject. It offers an ever-changing subject matter which can easily reflect the social and political themes prominent at the time. More specifically I usually create work about bodies that have been consistently marginalized throughout history and popular culture, these can include queer bodies, POC, women or female identifying, and trans persons as well as anyone who also feels that we need to redefine how we judge, view, protect and love our bodies.

 

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Rebecca Rose Vaughan, Bodies are Space: Tara, digital inkjet print, 2018

 

You work a lot with portraiture, what do you think makes an effective portrait?

Ultimately, I think the best part of a good portrait is simplicity. There’s nothing wrong with a really carefully crafted and intricate portrait but I often find what I’m looking for through lots of natural light and a good lens. For me effectiveness in a portrait means the viewer can see something special about that person through their portrait.

 

How do you establish a trusting relationship with the people you photograph so they feel open enough to be vulnerable with you?

This is so important to me especially with my thesis work where all my subjects are nude, it is incredibly vital to my work that I am on the same page with my model before any photographs are taken, and they have had the opportunity to ask me any questions about the work, myself or the process. I have done a lot of self-portraiture which I often lead with when talking to someone I’m going to photograph. This starts us off in a place where they can be assured I understand how unnerving it can be to have the camera pointed at you and that I’m sensitive to the experience. I make sure my subject understands exactly what my goal is with the shoot and is consenting to it before we start. I also find that my confidence in giving direction during a shoot shows the person in front of the camera that I’ve got their back, its not on them to be perfect (what does that mean anyways) but just to be themselves. Once I get some good shots I always pause and show them some of the images especially and really good one, everyone is significantly more comfortable after they see a beautiful photograph of themselves.

 

 

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Rebecca Rose Vaughan, Bodies are Space, Plexi detail one (Installation shot), 2018

 

What body of work are you working on right now?

Currently I am working on my thesis work which will be an image and sculpture-based installation. I have been experimenting with sculptures made from acrylic materials like plexi-glass and portraits of nude bodies. This current work sits on this line between documentary and sculpture/installation and aims to influence viewers to rethink how bodies are valued in 2-dimensional vs 3-dimensional forms and concurrently how they are allowed to take up space or not.

 

Your work challenges the male gaze. With substantial discourse around the female/women’s gaze in photography, what do you believe is the women’s gaze in photography? How does it subvert or challenge traditional ideas of the (male) gaze?

Traditional ideas within the male gaze encourage assumptions, judgements and opinions which from my point of view feed into very specific power dynamics that are based in an intrinsically patriarchal society. To challenge or subvert this gaze there firstly needs to be an awareness and acknowledgement of it. I think the female gaze is essentially the acknowledgement of these deeply imbedded habits and beliefs and it does not need to be anything else. Other perspectives on the female gaze will place it in opposition to the male gaze but I do not feel this is necessary, the female gaze should simply be a step in the right direction to accepting all kinds of people, bodies, and practices.
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Rebecca Rose Vaughan, Bodies are Space, Installation shot with plexi, 2018

 

Do you see yourself as a political and feminist artist? What do you believe or see as the line between being a political artist and using or referencing politics in your work?

I do see myself as a political and feminist artist because I believe that the body is and will always be inherently political in its existence within the arts and media. I see it as a choice of the artist whether they want to place their work on one side of the line between a political artist and referencing politics or engage with it at all. Art is always going to be very subjective, viewers will read what they want to out of the work no matter the intention of the artist to be overtly political or not.

 

In parts of your work, you are using different physical materials and placing them on your photographic works. What is the effect of this and how does it contribute to the overall works both conceptually and aesthetically?

There is so much visual language in the world today, through multiple social media platforms fuelled by visual imagery and the internet we spend so much time staring at screen which serves everything through a two-dimensional platform.  By integrating physical objects and materials into my work alongside the imagery I am reintegrating these bodies into the 3-dimensional space. Conceptually I am referencing minimalism and sculpture and the politics around giving objects and/or bodies space to exist within a space. Aesthetically I think the plasticity of these materials points towards a common, clean and colourful ‘aesthetic’ that is so common all over social media.

 

In your time at OCAD you’ve been working in multi-disciplinary mediums. How do you think that has added to your experience in arts education and how does that contribute to the way you think about approach making art?

Working with a multidisciplinary approach to my studies and my work has been integral in helping me place my interests and work in the canon of contemporary art today. I have focused a lot on printmaking as well as photography alongside some sculpture as well. Through these mediums I have explored much of the same subject matter and themes and been able to see how they change with the introduction of a new materials and mediums.

 

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

In the future I mostly hope that I can find community within the friends and fellow artists I know. I think the most valuable thing you can do in the arts community is work with and support each other. Especially when we engage in creating artwork with potential to make an impact.

 

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

In 3rd year I had a class with Kate Schneider which was honestly a huge turning point for how I view myself as an artist and my work in general. The form of support and encouragement she gives her students was something I reacted really well too. Kotama Buobane has also been my professor a number of times and has always challenged me in a really frustrating but beneficial way. In general the fact that most professors in the photo department at OCADU are practicing artists is inspiring.

 

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

To someone starting out I would say the physical practice in photography is your friend. Though there is so much digital advancement in photography and other mediums it’s so important to remember where photography came from and feed a practice that is not only digital.

 

 

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.

Faculty Spotlight: Meera Margaret Singh

When I first had Meera as an instructor at OCAD U, she was teaching a “Reconsidering Documentary Photography” course in my third year. I was looking for direction within my own artistic practice, which is rooted in documentary practices, and I needed a course that would – for lack of a better phrase – kick my butt. This course quite literally changed my view of documentary practices, ethics, aesthetics and foundations. As anyone who has had Meera as an instructor would know, she will push you into spaces you couldn’t conceive of. She won’t let you off the hook, and in the end you will end up with work that you didn’t know you could create.

~

In this series of Faculty Spotlights, we chat with Meera Margaret Singh about her practice and her approach to being an artist, an educator and how those two collide.

 

How would you describe your art practice?

My lens-based art practice (photography and video) has always revolved around a negotiation and exploration of intimacy and displacement. This has predominantly been examined through individuals and their landcape, be that physical or psychological. I often construct and examine various relationships between body and environment, while further exploring the suspended space that exists between the real and the fabricated, the historical and the contemporary.

As a mixed-race Canadian of South-Asian descent, I am negotiating identity as shifting and malleable through both my daily life and my artistic practice. I have created numerous works that attempt to reconcile ideas of ‘home’ in both space and body by exploring ideas of displacement; often as physical or gestural manifestations that serve as metaphors for cultural displacement.

Of key importance to me while presenting my work is creating an intimate, minimalist and accessible space; one that is not as didactic as it is an invitation for diverse viewers to question what is happening in each work and to allow the space for them to insert their own experience.

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What is your favourite course or theme/topic to teach?

I really love teaching studio/seminar courses that allow for discussion about photography and representation, power dynamics at play in the relationships between subject/photographer, the complexities of the gaze, and feminism/intersectionality and its relationship to the lens. Courses like “Reconsidering Documentary Photography”, “Contemporary Issues”, “Current Practice” are wonderful for allowing for these discussions. I’ve been teaching INTAC (International Art Collaboration) with Peter Sramek for 4 years now and I adore teaching this class, as it takes a specific student to be interested in collaborative work and cross-cultural experience. It’s a very special space for learning. I am also teaching Colour Photography this semester which is so rewarding, as I get to share and witness the magic of the colour darkroom with students who are using it for the first time. 

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How does teaching arts affect how you approach your own art practice?

Being in a teaching environment where people are dedicated to sharing their diverse perspectives and experiences as expressed through their art definitely inspires both my teaching and my art practice.  The classroom is a unique space where everyone makes themselves vulnerable in some capacity: professors and students alike. I always feel it’s a very privileged space to occupy: one where a group of individuals can discuss intention and output, particularly when most other disciplines focus solely on output. This dialogue and expression of intention is really profound for me. While actively listening to students describe their intentions, I am constantly checking in with myself about my own.

My work is also deeply connected to my interest in human experience and various levels of intimacy. I work closely with people/communities in my practice. This isn’t dissimilar to the classroom: creating safe and generative spaces for art to connect diverse individuals or communities.

 

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What do you think is valuable about having a fine arts focused education?

I came to Fine Art in a very unplanned way after completing a degree in Anthropology. I actually aspired to be an archaeologist. When I was introduced to photography, I never imagined the need for more schooling. While I did learn a lot of technique independently, I quickly realized that I needed a community around me to grow: for critique, community, support and critical dialogue. Once I made the decision to return to school, my professors really encouraged the need for using art (and, specifically, photography) as a means of transforming and communicating one’s experience and ideas. I can’t speak for everyone (because a formal fine arts education is not for everyone), but I can say that a fine arts education improved my problem solving skills, assisted me in editing my words and ideas to clarify meaning, granted me permission to dig deeper and further inside of myself. It introduced me to mentors I am forever grateful for. It provided me with a stronger sense of community and a space to figure out where I fit in in terms of theoretical/critical/historical/contemporary photographic frameworks. It also granted me the structure I truly rely upon to create my work.

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Meera Margaret Singh is a visual artist based in Toronto, Canada. She holds a BA in Anthropology, a BFA in Photography from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg in Canada and an MFA from Concordia University, Montreal in Canada. Singh has been the recipient of numerous residencies and awards, most notably several Canada Council for the Arts production/creation grants, an Ontario Arts Council mid-career grant, and a Toronto Arts Council visual arts grant. She has been a selected artist at the Banff Centre for the Arts; artist-in-residence at The Art Gallery of Ontario; artist-in-residence at 1Shanti Rd in Bangalore, India; artist-in-residence at JACA Residency, Brazil; selected artist in an international residency with German photographer Thomas Struth at the Atlantic Centre for the Arts, Florida; scholarship winner and participant in the Magnum Workshop with photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti; visiting artist/instructor at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India; McCain Artist-in-Residence at the OCAD University, Toronto. She has exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions throughout Canada and internationally. She is currently an Assistant Professor at OCAD University.

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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 photography basics, intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

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