OCAD University Photography Program

News about events, our community & opportunites

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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.

Friday #ArtCrush: Syd Patterson

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

In this series Syd and Morgan discuss work ethic, portraits and vulnerability, and photographing your community.

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

Whatever I’m curious about, anything genuine that interests me I suppose… Photography seems to have given me a means to explore different aspects of life around me; everything that I’m into practicing creatively all seems to be related in one way or another.

 

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

People mostly. Generally I do portraits or document some kind of interaction with the body, sometimes I try to convey the intimacy of our connection to place and display the subtleties of body’s relationship to space and time.

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You work a lot with 35mm, what do you think are the values of working with 35mm analog vs digital?

It’s really just a preference I think but in the cases when I shoot 35mm I find that you have to be more precautious about what you shoot, or at least be more certain when you take a picture because you’re more aware of how many shots it limits you to.

 

What body of work are you working on right now?

A collection of zines I hope to have ready for GradEx alongside a series of select prints. Lately my work has been revolving around aspects of community and physical collaborative efforts like building something or being proud of where you’re from.

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Your portraits are vulnerable and convey the obvious trust these folks have with you. How do you develop this kind of trust with people you are photographing to make them comfortable?

I’m not much of a talker and I really appreciate being able to listen, visually photographs can say a lot of different things. I’ve come to learn that I’m happiest with the photographs I take that are the most genuine, whatever that means. I like to think that authenticity is something you can translate without words so I search for that in my subject matter and wait until I can seize an opportunity to capture a moment worthwhile.

 

What drew you to photographing skateboarders and skateboard culture?

The energy for sure. It takes a lot out of you but it also gives you a lot back. It’s very meticulous but also very gratifying.

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How do you think your art practice has evolved or changed over your years at OCAD?

Going to school taught me that I need to have a work ethic at what you want to be good at, so I suppose that I learned to keep practicing.

 

Does research have an influence in how you produce your work and your art process?

Lots of “field research”.

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How do you think the critique process in Directed Studio has helped the way you view your work and process?

Contextually it helped me understand where I want to go with photography, I view it as a labour of love more than anything else and critique allows you to hone in on your talents.

 

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

Don’t be afraid to fuck up, get back up when you fall down and keep trying until you get something right…then repeat that process again and again.

 

 

Check out Syd’s Instagram and his website, and view his work

at OCAD’s Graduate Exhibition from May 3rd – May 6th

~

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.

Ryerson – Photo Symposium March 16-17

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For the Complete Program: https://ryersonimagecentre.ca/symposium/photography-the-black-box-of-history/

For a text version of this event, visit http://bit.ly/2oreGdOPlease contact us if we can make any accommodations to ensure your inclusion in this event.

Copyright © Ryerson Image Centre. All rights reserved.

Image: Michael Mitchell, Black Square: Alberta Badlands, Brooks, 1979, chromogenic print. Courtesy of the artist

Friday #ArtCrush: Patrick Corrigan

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

In this series, Patrick and Morgan talk about ideas of simulation in photography, constructing light boxes and cinematic inspirations.

Can you walk us through your process of developing a concept or research grounds for your work, and starting to produce the work(s)?

I try to work locally with my concepts. Self-reflection has proven to be the most genuine means of finding any kind of subject matter that really feels like I can speak factually on. After landing on a topic I feel is important enough to warrant further investigation I try to decide on how I can create something that best conveys my idea through image-based media.

Who or what are your main artistic inspirations?

In my past photographic works I have taken to making miniature sets which were captured in the style of film-stills, inspired by romantic cinema tropes in films like Casablanca. Recently, however, I’ve been trying to materialize a conceptual work which has been highly influenced by digital spaces and simulation. Ridley Scott’s movies have also played a big role in shaping my conceptual outlook on projects.

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

In most, if not all of my work, the underlying concepts of the fake and the real are always present. Photography has a very unique way of providing commentary on subjective perception using semiotics.

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Patrick Corrigan, Untitled 2, lightbox installation – digital image, 2018

What role does research play in your art practice?

Research plays a fairly large part in my practice. A lot of what I have encountered in my own explorations of photography and image making have already been discussed by various theorists, so having a published source always helps to provide a more fortified concept.

What body of work are you working on right now?

I am currently working on my thesis work which is centred around the creation of various lightboxes which will be filled with plants. The plants will create a silhouetted projection onto the image plane effectively acting as a representation and a depiction of the object in real-time.

Can you speak to the dream-like aesthetic of the images in your thesis work and the relationship between using lightbox’s (physical objects and materials) and the photographs?

Each lightbox contains red, green, and blue LED lights which project and diffract around the enclosed plants creating the aforementioned aesthetic. I felt that the LEDs best relayed the idea of digital spaces as many computer screens use a similar means of backlighting. The photographs, when viewed in on a computer or cellphone screen can communicate in a similar fashion as they are effectively representing the same information as the lightbox.

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Patrick Corrigan, Installation Lightbox Image, basswood and plexiglass, 2018

You are working with this idea of simulation and deception vs reality and physical materials, and the ambiguity between these thoughts. What do you hope viewers discover or contemplate while viewing your work?

I hope that viewers can adopt a principle of ambiguity within every image while viewing my work. By affording each image properties attributed to both fake and real content the audience’s ability to effectively interpret the artist or author is reinforced. The ambiguity that exists within the work also becomes a demonstration of how simulated content can take on its own physical properties.

What is the process of creating a lightbox?

I have previously worked with found objects such as shelving units, which I have then turned into frames that would make for an appropriate lightbox. After finding the frame, a back paneI is fitted with LEDs which vary depending on the intended projection and the objects are sealed within the box using plexiglass and frosted mylar. I am currently in the process of learning how to create the frames in the woodshop, which I feel will create a more substantial final piece.

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Patrick Corrigan, Untitled 1, lightbox installation – digital image, 2018

How do you think your process has evolved over the past couple years?

My process has evolved immensely over the last few years. Early on in my schooling I found it difficult to create any concept-based work and was purely aesthetically driven. As I progressed through my education, I have been able to derive concepts directly from my own life experiences and the resulting work becomes something that I truly enjoy making.

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

A lot of the upper-year photography faculty have really provided me with an outlet to voice my crazy ideas and have not been afraid to tell me when they are not as effectively executed as they could be with more exploration. Kotama Bouabane and Nick Pye have been invaluable resources in years passed while Simon Glass has been a huge help in developing my work this year.

What do you find the most valuable about the critique process that you’ve experienced in Thesis?

Having a class full of educated artists to critique your work regularly is not something which can be easily replicated outside of the university setting, I am extremely grateful for being able to show my work to my peers and receive well-founded opinions on the work along with feedback.

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Patrick Corrigan, Love, digital inkjet print, 2015

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

I think everyone has their own approach to making images and that each work should serve to improve on that unique element. That being said, one of my instructors once advised against making ‘easy images’ which is a sentiment I would echo. Try to make work emphasizes how you see the world.

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: 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.

kadijah-guillaume-i-matter-too-digital-inkjet-print-20172

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.

 

kadijah-guillaume-for-your-eyes-only-digital-inkjet-print-20164

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.

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