OCAD U Photography Program

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Friday #ArtCrush: Caleigh Clements

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

In this series, Caleigh and Morgan talk about the intersections of art and activism, works that speak to our own individual pain and trauma and bringing people together through art.

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Who or what are your main art inspirations?
I find I am often inspired to make work from things outside of looking at visual art. I was not introduced to photography as anything beyond a hobby until I was 18, but I always was creating photographs and reading/writing. I find inspiration from poetry, non-fiction books and life experience.

What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on?
I seem to be drawn quite often to subject matter that is personal but can be explored through a more political or historical context. Issues like gender inequality seem to be natural for me to work on as it is something I personally experience, but I find it easier to take a step back and evaluate the ways it affects society and where this comes from.   

What drives you to work with that subject matter?
I spent a lot of my childhood in some situations where I could have used an advocate. I found it very hard to speak for myself, so creating this work allows me to advocate for others while also working through issues that affect me.

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“I find it impossible to make work that isn’t in response to a much larger context of injustice. It is my natural response.”

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Having a Photography major and Art and Social Change minor, what do you see as the artists’ responsibility in reflecting the current social and political environment in which they live?
Art is a medium that is so easily accessible as a means of transmitting information and experience. Artists often are observant and draw from their experiences. I find it difficult to connect to work that overlooks the current political and social environment and I think it is absolutely essential in 2018 to make art that brings people together, distributes useful information or critiques our current situations.

Looking at the different works that you have done, how do you think your artistic practice has changed over time?
My work is becoming more and more personal. I slowly realized the importance in utilizing my unique and diverse life experience and the ways that sharing it could bring people together. I think I had underestimated the power of personal storytelling and the public’s interest in listening.

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Caleigh Clements, Blood, digital inkjet print, 2017

What do you believe the value is in having art that is accessible and distributable (such as your Health Journal) or art as performance and social justice acts (such as your Hospital Intervention)? At what point does art become activism or activism become art? 
My work has always been intended to bring people together. The aspect of community, shared experience and the distribution of information have always been important parts of my work. I’ve always struggled to find the balance between creating art that has aesthetic value and art that is useful and distributes information or experiences that I think others could benefit from. The definition of art and the definition of activism are virtually the same if you make a list. I find it impossible to make work that isn’t in response to a much larger context of injustice. It is my natural response.

What body of work are you working on right now?
I am continuing to work on my thesis and finalizing my health journal. I hope to have a book launch for a second larger version of the work in the summer.

What has been your biggest learning experience in working on this project especially as it shares your intimate experiences with your health and Canadian health care?
My biggest learning experience and what shocked me the most with working with these women is the value of shared experience. People who experience trauma and hardship are so often isolated because of the shame and fear attached to going through something. This leads to greater issues that I have learned are not worth staying silent for. Sharing information, experience and observations about what we go through can be the greatest device for reconciliation.

Where do you foresee your career path going? Is there anyone who you would like to work with in the future?
I wish to leave my future open. My only goals are to find myself in a career where I can turn research, conversation and experience into art that is useful and bring communities together along the way.

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Caleigh Clements, Hair Growth, digital inkjet print, 2017

Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?
Min Sook Lee is the biggest influence on the way my work was shaped. She was the first faculty that showed me art I could recognize as useful and important to my experiences as a political and social being. Her “Art and Social Change” courses pushed me to ask more questions, do more research and go into the world and talk to people.

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

My one piece of advice it to take anything that drives you, whether it is something that makes you angry, sad or embarrassed and investigate that feeling, find its power and make art about it.

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To see more of Caleighs work visit her website.

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

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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 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: Ava Margueritte

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.  This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Ava, a fourth year student majoring in Photography.

In this issue, Morgan and Ava talk about using the body as a tool for performance within photography, trauma and family relationships and the process of thesis.

Who or what are your main artistic inspirations?

Most of my inspirations are from film directors, Wes Anderson, Emmanuel Lubezki and Christopher Nolan.  A few photographers are Francesca Woodman, Elinor Carucci, Yoko Ono and Lisa Steele. Other non lens based artists such as Eugene Schiele, Andy Warhole, Henry Moore as well as The Arnolfini portrait by Jan Van Eyck has always stuck with me. So many artists have influenced me but what keeps me motivated to make art is seeing other people in my life make work. I am so inspired by the community surrounding me and that me excited to continue my practice.

 

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

I have always been focused on making feminist artwork and I am currently focused on self-portraiture. This year I have focused on my series A Chair for My Mother, which discusses trauma within a familial context.

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A Chair For My Mother, 2017

 

What drives you to work with that subject matter?

As I’m sure most people in photo know, I have several learning disabilities. I am dyslexic, I have CAP-D (an auditory processing disability) and ADD. My work aids me in communicating emotions that I have difficulties expressing verbally. I am mainly interested in advocating for equality and my topics are often revolved around taking a small part of society that I perceive could be better and voicing my opinion on it through my photographs. This year I focused on exploring how to reclaim myself from trauma.

 

Often I find your images similar to a film still with a specific narrative, character and mood. How do you use narrative strategies within image making to portray your intention?

Including clues into my personal life such as objects from my family as well as using images from a certain period of time in my life. I shoot in my own domestic space, using spaces that I’m comfortable to allow myself to perform private emotions. I use negative spaces to create a focus on my subject and the narrative that I want my viewer to pay attention to.

 

How does the use of natural lighting in your images connect to your conceptual basis for your series?

The most important thing for me to portray in A Chair for My Mother is the honesty that I want to portray. It is a very personal project and I expose a lot of my personal life in it. By using natural lighting I feel as if I’m giving my images the honesty that my narrative depicts.

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A Chair For My Mother, 2017
What body of work are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my series A Chair for My Mother which is about finding a way to give myself a voice in a situation where I am not being heard within familial relationships. I explore how to reclaim my body from trauma, addiction, domestic abuse as well as sexual assault.

 

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 really had to push myself, at the beginning of my thesis year I didn’t really understand what my work was about. It was driven by anger, hurt and sadness, so I continued to put myself in situations that made me uncomfortable and paid attention to the trigger signals that my brain was sending to my body. I put myself in spaces where I had endured abuse year after year and just simply let my body direct my work.

A big thing that has come from my work is pushing myself to trust my decisions. Confidence is something that due to my upbringing hasn’t come naturally to my project and me has forced me to rely solely on myself. It is a very heavy subject and unfortunately might change my relationship with my family for me in the future but I know that it is important for me to do nonetheless.

I didn’t fully understand how much my work would impact me. In my final critique I felt so many emotions, I was overwhelmed and hurt by the emotions I had channelled but after my presentation and looking around to see how many people I had impacted with my story and struggle I was astounded. My work has made me stronger and confident, I am proud of the work I have done and proud of how far I’ve come.

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A Chair For My Mother, 2017

 

Self-portraiture is a common theme among most of your work, what do you think is the value in inserting yourself into your images? 

It is especially important in my current series [A Chair for My Mother] to work with my body because it is about me and the best way to represent myself is by performing for the camera. I like to think of my body the way a painter would think of a paintbrush, I use it to compose my image. I know myself best and can use that to my advantage to frame my image. After spending so many years behind a camera it’s interesting to put myself as my subject because I know what I am looking for. What I mean by this is I know what feeling I want to express and how to obscure my body to relate to my theme. There have been a few times this year that I have taken an image and known immediately that I already love that image, however there is a ton of trial and error. Inserting myself in my images gives me the same excitement that shooting with film does, in the sense that I have less control and I have to rely on myself as the subject. Something that has really become apparent to me is my body’s natural reaction to feelings and thoughts I have. I started paying attention to my body a bit more during a shoot that I had in the fall. I was at my cottage where my dad now lives and I was in his room and I just started taking pictures of me in his space. I was sitting on a dresser with my feet on the bed and my body just collapsed, I didn’t cry, my body just gave up. It was then that I became interested in what my body language had to say versus my facial expressions.

 

There is a long history within feminist image making and using the body as a tool to express a concept. How do you use your body and performance to express your concept?

In my series I explore the male gaze, growing up with a narcissistic father, I saw how he treated women. In A Chair for My Mother I decided to try to turn myself into an object by placing myself in obscure positions within the domestic space that I grew up in. By doing this I wanted to challenge the gaze and how women are perceived. By doing this I wonder if I turn myself into an object, a literal object, will the male gaze still objectify me?

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A Chair For My Mother, 2017

 

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

Lee Henderson has mentored me since my third year at OCAD and has always pushed me to think more conceptually. He has always pushed me to try strange projects and helped me work through a lot of my own insecurities about my work.

Course wise I think I have taken every single class that allows me access to everything in the photo centre and it’s amazing there are so many different ways to go about photography. Also trying things outside of the photography program, I have taken printmaking classes which are really cool, as well as I took an animation course and I kind of wish I took more animation courses but drawing is, unfortunately, not my forte.

 

Do you have any advice for students beginning to study at OCAD?

Persevere through that first year of general arts is the main thing wanted to quit so many times and I’m very glad I didn’t. In regards to profs take everything with a grain a salt. One thing that really changed the way I worked was looking at things from my professors perspective, what were they looking for, what interested them. Not because I necessarily cared about what they wanted but it allowed me to think about different subject matters and ways of working.

 

You can see more of Ava’s work on her website and instagram

See Ava’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Natalie Wainewright

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.  This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Natalie Wainewright, a fourth year student majoring in Photography.

In this issue, Morgan and Natalie talk about lighting in food photography, collaborating with other artists and the influence of instagram within the realm of photography.

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

This year I’ve been looking at a lot of commercial food photographers such as Maya Visnyei, Ditte Isager, and Eric Wolfinger. However, I’m also very influenced by artists such as Laura Letinsky and especially by being surrounded by the work of other students.

 

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

I tend to shoot with one light with a medium softbox and reflectors as needed. I use a Nikon D750 and a 28-300 lens but usually shoot at 70.

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Peppers, 2017

 

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

For me, shooting in studio provides a lot of flexibility as you can experiment with the light and change the set up around the fixed light, but shooting on location requires good timing and waiting for the light. I like to plan shoots and lighting in advance, so it is helpful knowing that the shoot can go on in bad weather. However, approaching summer means that there is more opportunity to experiment with natural lighting.

 

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

Although all of my shoots involve food, I like to incorporate some human aspects and more of the food-making process as well as some general still life for some variety.

 

Do you collaborate with any other artists or food stylists? How does collaborating change the way in which you approach your subject?

Collaborating with other artists and people in general is one of the best parts of being involved in photography because it always gives you multiple perspectives and pushes the work further. It is also nice being able to work through ideas with other people who have a different styles and experience.

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Cake, 2017

With the rise of instagram and with so many people taking iPhone photos of their food before they consume it, what do you think is the value of professional food photography?  How does this change your creative insight into photographing food, as we are already inundated with images of?

I think Instagram is a powerful tool for photographers and being able to see so many food photographs can provide inspiration. Professional food photography has the potential to say more about food and the issues surrounding it than the average food photograph you run into online because of the time spent with the subject. I hope to be able to bring this into my work and find it an important part of considering the impact of commercial food photographs.

 

What do you think is essential to know or show in food photography?

I think the process of preparing food and the social aspect of it is important to bring into photographs and something I am working towards. It’s interesting when food photographs offer a different perspective to the everyday.

 

How does the atmosphere of your images change by including people in your photographs who are interacting with the food you prepare?
I think including people in the images brings in the human aspect of preparing and consuming food, which is something everyone can relate to on some level. It also helps visually to create movement and give the food more context.

 

People often talk about the tricks of shooting food, how to use different materials or other options than food itself. What are your tricks for photographing food that look fresh and new?

Personally, I just work with fresh food and use edible materials to add to the food to keep waste to a minimum.

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Mussels, 2017

 

What are other subjects or places that you like to shoot and how does this tie into your general artistic vision?

I love to work with people and shoot the landscape with film. Shooting portraits definitely influences how I work with people in food photography and hopefully I can tie in shooting with film and some on location shoots in the future.

 

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

I’m hoping to work as an assistant for a commercial food photographer after school and eventually start my own business to work with publications.

 

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Sweet Potato, 2017

 

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

My advice would be to be open to collaborations and change in work and to always be looking for people to look up to.

 

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

Every course I’ve taken and prof I’ve had has influenced my work, but I’ve become especially interested in working in book format over the past couple years.

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To see more of Natalie’s work you can visit her website or instagram.

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See Natalie’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Sebastian Perez Vicentini

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

This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Sebastian Perez Vicentini, a fourth year student majoring in Photography.

In this issue, Morgan and Sebastian talk about the politics of responsibility in representing other peoples’ stories, working within multiple mediums and complicating ideas to create new possibilities in art.

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Who or what are your main artistic inspirations?

I tend to become obsessed with some artists work at different points in my life. I used to do a lot of self-portraiture and could stop looking at the work of Blanca Haddad, and the early work of Adam Neat, I liked it so much that I just wanted to do exactly what they were doing. Eventually I stopped looking and began doing my own thing, developing my own style and obsessions until my work overpowered their influence. So, I like to understand my influences in depth rather than saturate myself with images or ideas or anything.

 

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

In the past few years I have spent most time working on themes of violence, protests, and how our bodies are political. I have touched on these issues in many different ways, and trying to reinvent the ideas, contradict them and see what happens.

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Can’t be called dead, 2015

 

What drives you to work with that subject matter?

I guess I am trying to understand the part I play within these issues. I think sometimes is an act of denunciation, or self-criticism. Definitely I am always looking to detonate emotions and ideas in others and myself.

 

Do you work in any other mediums and how does that inform your work?

I try to work with any mediums that help me communicate and complicate an idea. I enjoy working with sculpture, printmaking, and drawing; using hands and making tangible things that I can later develop through photography or something. So, mixing disciplines opens up my field of view and keeps me interested and at play. But I still find photography to be the ultimate mediator, it’s like the Avatar because it can embody all the other disciplines, and contrary to what most people say I find the beauty and social value of photography in its reproducibility and dissemination.

 

What body of work are you currently working on?

I am currently creating a body of work for thesis that focuses on the student protest of 2014 in Venezuela. In this work, I am making sculptures and photographic explorations of some of the students that where killed during these protests to speak of issues of institutionalized violence, memory, fear, and social division.

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Praying card in honour of Bassil, 2017.

 

The work you are doing for your thesis explores the artist’s responsibilities while sharing other people’s stories, especially when they are related to social and political violence. How do you navigate this emotional attachment you can find with the individuals you are highlighting, specifically when their lives are or could be similar to yours (age, gender, nationality wise)? Have you had any significant reflections while doing this work?

I think we all have responsibility to speak about these issues, not only as artists but also as human beings. Because although my artwork is specific to Venezuela and its complexities these type of issues are happening all over the world at different levels; violent repression in the United States, Mexico, you name it. I think that is were the emotional attachment comes to play, there is social discontent, and people receiving political bullets in a lot of places (and not far away from Toronto), and yes we are all participants of the violence. But when you think one of these students could be you, then this issue doesn’t feel alien and un-relatable. The thing is that back home it is normalized.

 

What do you see as the artists’ responsibility in reflecting the current social and political environment in which they live?

It is important to reflect on the day-to-day, and the mundane to understand our position in the social environment, the personal is political. Everything we do is political without being directly about politics; our sexual life, the way we eat, how we move through the public space, and the way we relate to institutions. These interactions transcend into bigger social implications and it is our responsibility to reflect on them.

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The critique boat, 2016

 

Your work touches on social, economic and political issues in Venezuela. How do you navigate being Venezuelan and working around social issues in Venezuela, but working in Canada?

Well I work around issues that preoccupy me on the daily. Sometimes I feel it is not effective to talk about Venezuelan issues in the context of Toronto. But I think that tackling these issues symbolically can detonate emotions and creates reflections about what happens here too.

 

What do you think the value is in being a multi disciplinary artist and interweaving multiple mediums into your art practice?

I just think it opens up the possibilities. If I work in one medium for too long I develop tunnel vision and become stuck. Especially as students discovering ideas and techniques there is no reason not to use all the OCAD toys.

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Saint Students (work in progress), 2017

 

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

So many teachers have influenced me throughout my time at OCAD. I have learned the most from teachers like Katherine Kiloh, Jonathan Groeneweg, Simon Glass, and Paul Dempsey. Also, I remember in first year I had a class with Peter Bowyer; on the first day he took us dumpster diving to find materials for the class. I kept up with it, and I can proudly say that half of my living room and art materials come from the dumpster.

 

Do you have any advice for students beginning to study at OCAD?

Play as much as you can, and use all the facilities that OCAD has. Don’t just go about doing assignment after assignment; I think it is important to start creating themes early on, doing whatever you want and making the assignments fit to your personal practice.

 

To see more of Sebastian’s work, check out their website

 

See Sebastian’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Nyaomi

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.  This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Nyaomi, a fourth year student majoring in Photography.

In this issue, Morgan and Nyaomi talk about how to connect to people through art, the intersections of research and art, and using textiles and embroidery in image making.

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Who or what inspires your art making?
Life, Love and people. In general I love connecting with people and art allows me to do that. Through this, my understanding of life has shifted and I’m thankful for that.
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What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on? 
Since I spend a lot of time analyzing life, my subject matter tends to be about my experiences and those close to me. So it starts off really personal and I try to make it so more people can relate, not just me alone. I usually start at a place of hurt. My belief is there’s a lack of self love and this is the root of a lot of the issues we have relating to ourselves and others. To have more loving interactions and relationships, we have to unlearn negative ideologies that have been normalized.
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NS Wallpaper, 2015. Originally a scan from handwriting.

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What drives you to work on this subject matter?
Purpose. I believe that ultimately my purpose is to help others and art is my gift and vessel to do so. Art gives us a platform to inspire and stir up conversation, so I ask myself what conversations I’m trying to spark when creating. My aim is to bring awareness to what’s been repressed and present alternative perceptions.
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You work a lot with portraiture, what do you believe makes an effective and compelling portrait?
Body language. 55% of our communication is body language.
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Looking at the different works that you have done, how do you think your artistic practice has changed over time?
In past shows, all my work was photo based until 2015. More recently I’ve been creating textiles/patterns and working with fabric and embroidery.
In terms of subject matter I used to focus more on the black experience. For example Appreciation which is about black men and Preference Is Not Privilege I which is about skin and hair. This year I’ve been looking into alternative perspectives on depression, something that effects all races.
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Preference Is Not Privilege I, 2013. Digital Photography. 73×38

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You have mentioned before that research is a part of your process and how you work, how do you think research intersects with the art work you produce? 

Yes, Research is huge for me – it’s what grounds my work. However my research is not books and essays alone. I learn from fellow artists’ (singers/songwriters, screenwriters, all visual artists), conversations, and my experiences, etc. I am a student of life so I’m taking what I’m learning and expressing it visually. I start off with a topic, research it to understand it better, then share my understanding though art to have more conversations and shared learning.

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Do you see your research and art separate or as intersecting elements?

Intersecting. Especially this year. I’ve learned so much about depression and myself while creating which  has informed the work. So the art making became a part of my research, it is a beautiful exchange. As a result the meaning of the work has shifted. And I am okay with that.

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Rosa Seca, 2015. Embroidery. 10″ hoop.

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Where do you see your career path going and who would you most like to work with?
I see myself becoming a full time artist connecting with like minded people to learn, grow, create and share.
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How do you think your personal life has affected the kind of art work you want to make?
It is the biggest influence. All my work stems from a personal place.
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Appreciation, 2013, Digital Photography, 73″ x 38″ 
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Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?

Betty Julian!!! She reminded me to think critically about what I was doing. For clarification, she didn’t teach me to be hard on myself (that’s all me) but I knew not to come to her critiques with insincere work and contrived explanations. My art practice became stronger after Betty’s Current Practice class, so I always tried to be in her classes.

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

Be open minded. We can learn a lot from each other when we let go of our egos. But know yourself. What is it you want to communicate with your art? Don’t be easily swayed by what others are saying and doing. Remember your truth.

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To view more of Nyaomi’s work visit her website or check her out on instagram

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See Nyaomi’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Aaron Moore

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

This Friday’s art crush is Aaron Moore, a fourth year thesis student majoring in Photography.

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In this issue, Morgan and Aaron talk about re purposing images, issues of representation in photography and ideas of what a photograph can be.

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

Right now I’m really interested in Broomberg and Chanarin, Walid Ra’ad, Taryn Simon and Thomas Demand as well as Martin Creed, although his work isn’t mainly photographic.

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

I’m really interested in geography, history and issues of representation within images so I find myself going back to the history and landscape of Northern Ireland (where I’m from) and The Troubles, and I enjoy working with material I can pull from that.

 

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Aaron Moore, Star Wars #2, 2016

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You work often with found and/or archival images, what draws you to those objects and what makes you want to use them?

I think it’s that there are so many associations that already exist within those images, and I find it far more satisfying to reuse an image, and work with whatever it provides me than to try and invent my own, I actually don’t take a lot of photographs at all.

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

For me it’s more about shifting contexts around photography, I think archival images and photographs with text are indisputably photography, I’m just not too sure what a photograph is at the moment.

Much of the subject matter you use in your work, and in the found images and materials you use can been seen and interpreted as political. Do you see yourself as a political artist? What do you believe or see as the line between being a political artist and using politics in your work?

I believe my work is political, but only as political as every other kind of art object; I’m not necessarily trying to push any kind of political statement onto a viewer, but I enjoy using politics as a subject and it’s important for me to critique certain politics, and make that critique available to others.

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Aaron Moore, Star Wars #1, 2016

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Do you work in any other mediums or do you blend photography with other mediums?

I work with found objects quite a bit, I also work in video sporadically and I’ve recently started making sculptures.

What is the value of being able to blend photography with other art mediums? How do you think that changes viewers experiences?

I try to use whatever medium I’m working with in a kind of utilitarian way in order to articulate my ideas, I’ll use sculpture, video or readymades if what I want to express can’t be expressed in photography, it definitely has the ability to change a viewers experience but that really depends on the object/medium and its function within whatever I’m doing.

What body of work are you working on right now?

I’m working on my thesis work right now which I’m calling Diverted Traffic, I’m basically taking around six different issues that come up around the history of The Troubles in N.I. and rethinking and reinterpreting them in a particular way.

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Aaron Moore, Untitled, 2016

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

I have no idea, I’d like to continue to try show my work, and the goal is to be able to sustain myself and live comfortably through my art practice, but I’m not too sure about how I’m going to get there right now. In my ideal world I’d love to work with Broomberg and Chanarin, Martin Creed and lots of artist working in Toronto right now.

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

There have been lots! Nick Pie and Simon Glass have really helped me develop what I do conceptually, as well as Jean-Paul Kelly, Jeff Tutt, and Lee Henderson, there’s lots of great people working in that building.

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

I get stressed out a lot, so I would say relax !

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See Aaron’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Meghan Boyle

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Meghan Boyle, a fourth year student at OCAD University, majoring in photography.
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In this issue Morgan and Meghan talk language in relation to gender roles, disrupting the patriarchy and the feminist gaze in photography.
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Who or what are your main inspirations?
Some of my main photographic inspirations would have to be Henri Cartier Bresson, Carrie Mae Weems, & Nan Goldin. As well as writers such as bell hooks, John Berger, & Allen Ginsberg.
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What drives you to work with that subject matter?
I think the idea of a female, or any other minority really, being the role of anything other than the muse or person in distress disrupts the patriarchy & I get a kick out of that.
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You speak often of the ‘female gaze’ in photography. What does that mean to you and how is that shown?
I like to think that I’m trying to propose the idea of a “female” or “feminist gaze” by presenting women in a new way, outside of the inherent sexualized and victimized role typically seen in media. I think it’s so important to me because for so long I felt that I did not have censorship or control over how my own body was being seen or portrayed, & I feel that’s a feeling both men and women have alike.
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Meghan Boyle, Projections, 2016
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What do you believe to be valuable in the idea of women taking photographs of other women and how does this subvert the typical male gaze? 
Women taking photos of other women opens up a new way of seeing, in my opinion. Not to say that every time a man photographs a woman or vice versa, they are being subjected; but by giving women the option to be both the artist & muse, we can be empowered by things outside of our looks and physical appearance or how men see us.
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How would you describe the aesthetic you choose to work in? 
I would say my aesthetic reflects my outlook on the world. I typically try to look for the positive side of things, hence the colour palette and serene lighting. But sometimes you can’t help the dark days or feeling down about things, which is why I tend to hint towards the darker side life through certain symbols & other implications.
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You have spoken before about having an intersectional feminist framework for your work, what does that mean to you and how does this come out in your work? 
I aim to create intersectional feminist work because I feel there is a big misrepresentation of what feminism is truly meant to be in mainstream media. As often as I can I try to address how the patriarchal & capitalist society effects both men and women of any demographic through creating idealistic or idealized living standards. In my current thesis work I am aiming to use language to create a piece that can speak to many different generations and subcultures.
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Meghan Boyle, The First Time, 2015
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You work a lot with film, what do you think the value is in working with film in an increasingly digital age?
Working in film is something I’ve been doing since I started taking photographs, there’s something about how film works as opposed to digital. I enjoy the idea that film photographs are one of the only ways you can create something personal without having to digitize it or share it over whichever social platform you choose. I also prefer grain over pixel.
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Besides photography, what other mediums do you work in? How does this influence your art practice?
I enjoy working with other mediums such as embroidery & printmaking, I find that these mediums can help me piece together my ideas in a tactile way without bombarding the viewer with too much information. I also work with collages quite a bit, they help me with my process & to subdue or narrow down my thoughts and ideas.
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What body of work are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on my thesis which is going to be a textile installation with photographs addressing language and gender roles. I’m also creating zines which are basically like monthly photo diaries. As well as a portfolio of editorials and still lifes.
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Meghan Boyle, PUSSY, 2016
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Where do you foresee your career path going? Who would you like to work with in the future?
I see my career path going many different ways, I’d like to try a lot of different things in this life but I’m hoping to someday to have my own publication that speaks on what I think are important issues and ways to live a more feminist and sustainable life. The list of people I’d like to work with is never ending, which I like.
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Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?
I wouldn’t say there are many that influenced my work visually. But some OCAD U Faculty such as Paul Dempsey from printmaking and Peter Sramek, and Simon Glass from photography really made my education about becoming a better artist and using my time in school to learn about how to translate and express my ideas through art in a meaningful way.
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Meghan Boyle, What You Don’t Have, 2016
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What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in photography?
My piece of advice to anyone who’d like to take up photography is to always always have your camera on you! Shoot everything that catches your eye, good and bad. It’s important to figure out your own eye and shooting style, figure out what you want your photographs to look like and say, if your photos aren’t unique to you then no one will care.
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See Meghan’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Natasha Hirt

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

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

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

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

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

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

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

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

What drives you to work with that subject matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

What body of work are you working on right now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See Natasha’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

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