OCAD U Photography Program

News about events, our community & opportunites

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INTAC Exhibition Catalogue

The INTAC catalogue for “a thousand words” is now available for viewing online. The show is up until May 31.



Summer Job Opportunity – Prefix Photo

New Publications and Collections
Assistant position at Prefix. This is a full-time 13-week summer job for a
student returning to studies in the fall. The focus in on supporting the
production and circulation of the magazine, and on improving access to the
reference library.

Please forward to anyone you think might be interested. Applications due
next Thursday, May 16th by midnight.


Friday Art Crush: Lily Lu

Friday Art Crush is an interview series highlighting the work of Photography students in their thesis year at OCAD U. We grab a coffee and chat about what they have been exploring, and they share great advice for working on a year-long project. The series was created and led by Morgan Sears-Williams; this year, it has been taken over by Ana Luisa Bernárdez.

This week, Ana chatted with Lily Lu, a Photo major in her thesis year.

Tell me a little bit about your explorations throughout your time at OCAD

I have been consistently exploring things related to identity, first of all, and then different aspects that shape identity: the environment, technology,evolution, and spirituality, which was a really important one. Naturally… pun unintended, nature was important for understanding spirituality, and linking that to the body and identity. My better developed works throughout second and third year were about the body and the landscape, and that definitely carried into my thesis, but with a more socio-political lens.

What are you focusing on for your thesis project?

My project is titled Beyond Spaces of Belonging, and through it I’m aiming for a rewriting of history through the creation of a new mythos and using my main medium, which is photography. This project documents the lives of female and Asian bodies –  we came together and collaborated on community building and healing, as well as on the creation of these images, which challenge the patriarchal and colonial gaze.lulily_a_game_to_play_together_62inx24in

What has your process been like since your initial idea back in September?

The first stage of my thesis was totally continuing my previous explorations of my personal identity and the landscape in a fundamentally spiritual level, using photography as an investigative and experimental tool, almost mirroring the way that it has been used for science and documentation. I used it to record an evidence of my interactions with nature through my movements and through positioning my body in ways that resembled gestures of nature: the way the grass grows, the way a tree bends… I also did some self-portraits of myself nude, in search of body positivity for myself – I have never conformed to the “ideal body”, but at the same time I can’t help but to feel self-conscious. I was trying to liberate myself, and focusing on the question of what is at the root of my body and soul, and searching for that in the landscape, through an attempt of embodying the landscape. So, that was the start of the thesis, but it has shifted a lot…

Definitely, even from a distance I have seen your work change and evolve. What are you focusing on now? How did that change come to be?

Fundamentally, it shifted from a personal philosophical exploration to… something else. Initially, it shifted because in the very first critique I received comments about my nude body and how it was not clear what it was trying to represent, when it was just my body trying to join and imitate the landscape. I kept receiving feedback about needing to be careful as to what I was representing through nudity. So, I started having thoughts about representation, and how a naked Asian woman cannot help but be eroticized and fetishized, and I am told that I need to be careful, and that I should challenge this view because it will be the view that people will see in the work. So I started reaching out to specific women that I knew, because there is this collective anger over how our bodies are said to be seen, and I decided to bring that collective feeling into the images. It kept developing, and throughout my process I did a lot of research that didn’t necessarily include pen, paper and text, but actual oral histories, sharing of personal experiences, processes of healing. That is research, too.


How was the process of transitioning from working in a kind of solitary, quiet way, to working with a larger group of people?

It was pretty hard. I didn’t have the idea of community building, I never thought of that being something that I could do with photography. But I think part of the universe’s signs and the ways in which it informs me, a lot of things started to come together through just me reaching out to mentors of a similar background. That definitely helped me understand… a lot of them were already making work about Asian representation for years, and they’re mostly activists – I have taken a course with Min Sook Lee and she really informed the collaborative part, which is an often dismissed but really central part to art itself. That adds up to this drive to make art that actually changes something, and not just protests or says “this is wrong” and then everyone being like “oh, yeah, this is wrong” and then they everybody just goes on about their lives. I want art that makes a difference immediately.

I think this is something that you achieve through your engagement with your community, because I can even feel it through the images themselves. How has the process been like?

Before, I thought art had to make a difference through the audience, but I learned that art can make a difference through the process. This makes a difference for us, the community. I took the step to go out and seek for my sisters, who I always longed for… We started having conversations, sharing experiences, questions and topics that we all have come across at some point but nothing really gets done about it… it is always the same conversation “yeah, this man did this, and this prof. does that, and this happened…”, and everyone is very tired of complaining and nothing changing. So I reached out to specific women telling them that I was trying to do work about the representation of women’s bodies bodies, and that I wanted to have interviews and roundtable discussions. We did, and my intention was for it to be about the conversation and the engagement, rather than starting off thinking about making an image. Something that I wanted to bring attention to was how Chinese art and culture has influenced us, regardless of our diasporic situations, or if we grew up with it very present or not. It is in our blood, in our cross-generational trauma and in our histories, so I dug into that as well… I wanted to talk to them about this cultural patriarchal history, and these images that are all of men and mountains and landscapes. Regardless of our diasporic background, what we share in in common is colonization, patriarchy and the images that we see of the fetisization of people who look like us.

How do the images come to be after doing the hard work of building a solid community?

I think I used to think too hard about how images come to be, so I now completely let that go and I let it be carried out through the process. It also has been being able to realize that sharing is work, sharing is art. I consider the process as the work, and the images are the fruit of that. I mean, I still have that desire to produce art, and that is when images come to play. And since images of Asian women are a thing we have in common, we’re challenging it. We are shouting out to the world that we are here, we are having these conversations, we are taking up the space, and that we need to be respected. We want people to know that we are healing.


I find particularly compelling the video of all the women, very still, and someone skating around them. Could you talk a little bit about that piece?

The idea for that was feeling that photography, no matter how much you challenge and confront the gaze, it still has some potential to objectify because someone is still going to look at you the way they want to look at you… you can’t step out of the frame and grab the viewer by the throat, you know? And because we’re so used to images, we don’t realize how awkward it can get when a picture stares at you. That was the power of film in its early days… people were so shocked by moving images. So these videos make you feel safe at first because it looks like a still image, and then someone starts skating, but everything else is still. It tries to blur the line between the still and the moving image.


Earlier you talked about your relationship with nature in your more personal/individual work. What is the relationship between nature and this sisterhood?

One is to refer to Chinese traditional paintings that show men in the landscape: these landscapes are there to lift the man up. It is a very anthropocentric view… land serves men and men’s purpose. On the other hand, it is just where we are and also where we spent our spare time growing up – it is a part of our assimilation to Canadian culture as diasporic people, for example, once you immigrate with your family, you go camping. I look at it is a documentation of how we engage with the land, which is obviously colonial. I also meant all the spaces to be recognizable, like Scarborough Bluffs and Toronto Islands.


What is a piece of advice that you would’ve liked to know before starting thesis?

You are valid. Your ideas and what you want to express, keep to it. Obviously, listen to constructive criticism, but don’t compromise out of fear that you’re not good enough. Your search for whatever question you may have is valid, you’re an artist if you think you are. I wish I had that.

What are some professors that had a positive impact in your work?

Min Sook Lee, Meera Margaret Sighn… I think whatever prof or mentor you find whose work  relates to yours already helps a lot. I also reached out for people outside of school which was so eye opening, I found a lot of movements started by Asian female artists and went to events, met people, and learned a lot.


Epson Printer Awards 2019

We are pleased to announce this year’s winners of the Epson Printer Awards

Alejandro Rizzo Nervo



Dawn Howie


Each receive an Epson SureColor P600 printer thanks to the generosity of Epson Canada.

Each year there are many who deserve the award and would make excellent use of the equipment, so thank you to all you  who applied.

401 Richmond: 2019 CAREER LAUNCHER PRIZE – Submissions due May 10, 2019!


401 Richmond Tenants,Each year, we welcome an emerging artist into our community through the 401 Richmond Career Launcher Prize. The Career Launcher Prize provides an exceptional opportunity to occupy a coveted 500 sq. ft. studio for one year in the building. The recipient is chosen from a Toronto-wide competition by a panel of visual arts professionals. The Career Launcher Prize has been presented annually since 2000 as a way of providing space and support for research and experimentation at a critical time in an emerging artist’s career.


  • Applicants must be recent graduates of Toronto post-secondary fine arts programs, have completed at least one formal exhibition and be strongly motivated.


Candidates must provide:

  • Full contact details
  • An artist’s statement
  • A resume or curriculum vitae
  • A Letter of Intent (1-page maximum) including an overview of expected professional outcomes of the residency
  • Documentation of recent work. These should be audio/visual items on an USB. (Please note that all support material will be discarded after the selection process)

Applications and supporting documents should be submitted to:

Career Launcher Prize c/o Urbanspace Property Group
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 111
Toronto ON M5V 3A8

Deadline for applications is Friday, May 10, 2019 by 5pm. No applications will be accepted after this date. Prize recipient will be notified by end of June 2019.

Please share this email with someone who you think may be a good candidate for the 2019 401 Richmond Career Launcher Prize.

For more information, please visit the official announcement, here.

For any questions, please contact: careerlauncherprize@urbanspace.org.

Urbanspace Property Group

Friday Art Crush: Margaret Cornell

Friday Art Crush is an interview series highlighting the work of Photography students in their thesis year at OCAD U. We grab a coffee and chat about what they have been exploring, and they share great advice for working on a year-long project. The series was created and led by Morgan Sears-Williams; this year, it has been taken over by Ana Luisa Bernárdez.

This week, Ana chatted with Margaret Cornell, a Photo major in her fifth year.

Tell me a little bit about the themes have explored in your years at OCAD?

Funny enough, all throughout my four years before thesis, I hadn’t created any sort of work about the relationship between my mother and I, which is what I’m working on now. Previously, I had created work about body image, the representation of women and men, and I also would explore ideas of gender and race. Then, in my third year, I started playing more with abstraction, focusing on colour, space and time. I found it really cool and interesting, and I thought I was going to carry that into my fourth year. But that year was mostly about exploring different ideas, because I definitely didn’t know what I wanted to do for my thesis.


What are have you been working on for the past thesis months and how did you come to choose your topic?

It really didn’t hit me until this past summer when I went to Nova Scotia, which is where my mom is from. Being around family was what made me realize that was something I wanted to explore. My work is centered around my relationship with my mother, who was born with a physical condition called Arthogryposis, which causes the locking and curving of the joints. When we were going through some old things in my grandparents’ attic, we came across this book of photos of my mom and I, and there was a cutout of an article that talked about my her being one of the very few people with her condition to successfully have a child. I had never seen this posting before, and that was the exact moment when I realized this is what I wanted to focus on for my final work.

Growing up, I found it really hard to connect with her; I, being of abled body, fell under the pressures of society: I wanted to look and act a certain way, mostly put on me from media, television… no one was really representing people with physical disabilities, and if they were, it wasn’t done properly. I only learned the exact terminology for her condition about two years ago… it was never something that came up in conversation, or something I was curious about. It was probably that part of me that was blocking things out, and I didn’t want to ask because I wasn’t sure what I should or shouldn’t ask, even though she is my mom. I think it all comes back to the way society made me feel about her disability, as if I couldn’t ask those questions because it wasn’t right. I have vivid memories of parents telling their kids not to ask questions when we were in public – obviously, kids were very curious, and the response of some parents most often than not was something like “Shh, you can’t ask that”. It’s hard for people to see her and see someone who lives the exact same life as people with abled bodies do: she goes to work everyday, comes home, pays the bills, has a family – she just has a different way of doing it. I wanted to use my thesis to speak on this, it  has always been on my mind and something I have wrestled with my entire life.

How was the process of opening up with your mom and presenting your idea to her?

At first she was open to it, but she was really nervous at the same time. She is never asked to get her picture taken in this sense… people have taken pictures of her while we’re in public, and it has made her feel as if she is an attraction for people, as if the spotlight is on her for the wrong reasons. For my thesis, it was different for her, because it was probably the first time someone wanted to photograph her as a way of showing appreciation for her body, and celebrating her for who she is. Obviously she’s really happy for me, what I’m trying to say and how far I have come, but she was really timid and nervous about her image being taken.


It must have been hard. How have you been able to make her feel more comfortable in this process?

We’ve had a lot of conversations about the reasons behind her not liking her image being taken. I didn’t want her to feel as if she was just my “subject”, but this is something that I have come to understand as I worked through my thesis. In the beginning, my work was only based on photoshoots of her. After getting critiques from my peers and doing my own research, I started doing collaborative studio shots in which I would photograph her, and then she would photograph me, which is not something that she gets to do very often. This is what eventually led me into the next stage, where we are both in the photographs. In a lot of these photos, her and I are both topless in her bedroom, and that was to show our similarities as mother and daughter, our equalness, and the intimacy of touch.

Do you think this work was a turning point in your relationship with her?

Definitely. Peter Sramek and I had a lot of conversations about the route I wanted to take with this, and sometimes I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. Some of these things are really hard to hear and understand coming from a parent. I kind of had to put on a tough exterior and take in what she was saying, knowing that I was using this information towards my practice, to try to make people aware. Overall, it was hard for me to hear but I did it because I think other people need to hear it as well.

Do you think the images need to be contextualized in some way to be able to carry your message across?

Besides the three prints that I am showing, there will be a written piece by her. I asked her to write whatever she wanted, knowing the focus of my work. She started off with her name and her condition, and then spoke a little bit about her early life— being a part of a family of five children, and then gradually getting into being a mother with a physical disability, and the pushback and doubts she got from both society and health professionals. I felt this was a good way to sum up everything I had to say, and everything I wanted to express, but through her words and writing. I asked her to hand write everything, which is an important aha moment for people: looking at her hands and the lack of movement, someone could assume she can’t write, but her handwriting is actually beautiful.


How is your vision for your final critique and GradEX?

I’m actually having my images framed right now, so I’m not going to do much more shooting for school, although I think I’m going to continue working with her in the future. For GradEX, I have three images— with these I intend to tell a story of our relationship, where it started and where it is now. Then there is the written print as well.

What is something that you would’ve liked to know before you started thesis year? And a piece of advice you would give to someone going into their final year.

I think not to freak out if you don’t have a concept or theme right away, because sometimes it’ll hit you in the funniest ways. I think that is kind of what art is about, letting inspiration come to you rather than looking for it. Thesis is just a time for you to express you as an artist, and an opportunity to explore something that maybe you’ve been interested in doing for a while but haven’t had the chance to do so. It’s important to not freak out all the time about “What if this isn’t right? Or if that isn’t right?”, but just going with it and doing the work.

For me, I found that talking to people helped a lot. Guest speakers, or anyone coming in and talking to us. To have another person’s opinion is really important… sometimes for my topic I found that my classmates didn’t really know how to critique me on it, and I totally get that. So getting a second, third, fourth opinion was really key for my progress.

What are some professors that had a positive impact in your time at OCAD U?

Nicholas Pye, April Hickox, Peter Sramek.

Margaret’s work will be on display during GradEX 2019:  May 1st – 5th!

To learn more about her work, you can visit her website.

Creating Inclusive Spaces Exhibition Career Launcher



Deadline: April 15, 2019


Mackenzie Investments and the Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers are excited to announce the creation of a one-year exhibition Career Launcher for graduating students from the Faculty of Art. The theme of this exhibition is Creating Inclusive Spaces.

From May 2019 to May 2020, the selected works will be prominently exhibited inside the Mackenzie Investments’ lobby located at 180 Simcoe Street in Toronto.


Artists will receive $500 per selected work, to be on temporary loan for the exhibition for one year. A jury of representatives from Mackenzie Investments, the CEAD, and the Faculty of Art will finalize a selection of works for the exhibition.

Artscape Youngplace Photography Exhibition Career Launcher




Deadline: April 15, 2019

The Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers (CEAD) is excited to announce the 6th annual Artscape Youngplace Career Launcher for graduating Photography students. This year, students are offered the opportunity to participate in a group exhibition in the Hallway Galleries of Artscape Youngplace. The curatorial team at Artscape will work with faculty, CEAD, and an OCAD U Photo alumni to transform the Hallway Galleries into a showcase of emerging contemporary photographic practices, for selected recipients.

As part of the Career Launcher, a jury comprised of faculty members, a graduate of the CRCP program, and the curatorial committee at Artscape Youngplace will select an artist from the group exhibition and award them a featured solo exhibition during the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in May 2020.  Additionally, an essay will be commissioned from the CRCP graduate to accompany the solo exhibition.

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