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Friday Art Crush: Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok

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 Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok, a Photo major in her fourth year.

 

Tell me a little about what you’ve been exploring during your studies at OCAD.

I’m really interested in absurdity, more specifically in creating believable absurdity. I’m really influenced by magical realism, and I try to translate that into photography, in a way. It’s been through something that I have come to call “banal absurdity”. Everything I do has an aspect of fiction, but also tries to pass as reality. It’s usually something absurd and a little funny, there’s always an aspect of humor in my work.

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How has this translated into your thesis project?

For my thesis, I’ve been taking self-portraits that are meant to look like family snapshots, but all the subjects are me. The photographs follow two fictional sisters, who I guess are twins. I haven’t exactly sorted out the precise story of their lives; I want it to be ambiguous, and I don’t necessarily want to know everything. The work is definitely influenced by my relationship with my sister, and my mom’s relationship with hers.

What are some of your strategies for achieving an aesthetic that looks from a specific time period?

I thrift a lot. I’m very interested in second hand clothing, and I have even done projects about the past lives of clothes. I own clothing that look as if they are from a certain time, even if they’re not. I also use photoshop to edit things like wallpaper, but I don’t necessarily want them to be perfect; the photographs are completely artificial, and I don’t mind if people realize that at some point. They are fragile constructions, which is something that I like.

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From i was there, a self-portrait series in thrifted clothing. 2018.

 

How was the final presentation of your thesis project last semester, and how do you see it evolving?

By the end of the semester, I was starting to explore installing the photos as if they existed in a domestic space. I had a bunch of these images in a photo box that people could pick up, and also a couple of prints on the wall. I think what I’m leaning towards for the end of the semester is creating an installation that looks like a room: some wallpaper, photos on the wall, and also others that people can pick up and look at. I like the idea that the more people handle the photos, the more authentic they’ll look. The goal is also to find second hand furniture, things that already have a past life.

What are your visual references or inspirations for your shoots?

I definitely collect photos from antique stores, and it’s good to keep track of different formats that were most commonly used at different times and what they look like. But I’m going to be focusing more on the 60’s – 80’s time period, because that’s what I mostly see in my family albums, which have definitely been an inspiration. I get ideas from those photographs: birthday or halloween shoots, what people were wearing in 1984, or if someone is standing in a particular way. I take that, and create something similar.

You have done a lot of self-portraiture, have you also worked with models, friends or family?

In an interview, Cindy Sherman talked about feeling bad when asking other people to stay still for a long period of time during a shoot, or struggling to get the right performance out of them. If you’re your own model, you know exactly what you’re looking for, and how to achieve or deliver that. I’m also always available at the time that I need to be available, which is convenient. I definitely felt held back by the idea of doing self-portraiture in the past, I used to think: “How am I going to make this idea work? How am I going to take a photo of myself? It’ll be so difficult”, but once I started doing it, it became the easiest option. In high school, I was very into Henri Cartier-Bresson and the idea of the decisive moment, but then I started wondering if I was ever going to happen upon a “decisive moment.” Being so impatient, I ended up thinking “Why don’t I just make it up?”.

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It sounds like your project is more rooted in a curiosity for the vernacular and familial aspect of photographs, rather than in attempting to create a survey of the “History of Photography” through self-portraits.

Initially it was more like that. Maybe not necessarily the history of photography, but as if there were these two sisters that were transcending time, or being reincarnated. I wanted the work have this weird, fantasy aspect to it. Then I realized it wasn’t working, and I became more interested in the relationship between my mom and her sister, and me and my sister. I focus more in that time period, because it is something that I understand better.

How was the process of choosing your thesis topic?

This is kind of an amalgamation of all the ideas I’ve had throughout OCAD, when it comes to photography, and I vaguely had the idea before I started thesis. The most important thing is realizing what you’re interested in. For me, it was realizing that I was interested in storytelling, in making up stories. Every time I’m stumped for an idea, I ask myself “What do I like? If I like stories, how can I incorporate that?”. In other projects, I have also come back to  family relationships, siblings, vintage things, props, clothes; it all came together to make sense. If people are thinking about how they’re going to get ideas for thesis, it is really important to step back and think about what you’re interested in.

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That makes a lot of sense, I think “an amalgamation” is a great way to describe it. Do you also write stories?

I used to, but now I’m always writing in my phone notes. It will be sentences that I plan to use in songs, or sometimes I just think “I need it to write this, these words sound good together”, and I do. To me, they are like mini stories as well.

I know that you’re also a musician, do you think your approach to your artwork is also reflected in Slobrina as a persona?

I’m always putting on characters, and it always goes back to storytelling, magical realism and absurdity. With Slobrina I’m inhabiting a different character than I am in my photographs. In that character there’s a lot of self-pitying, which is a specific part of myself that I channel mainly through music. I like confusing people with who I am, and I think there is power in that; although none of my photography is overtly political, I do think there will always be a political aspect in it. I used to sit around and wait for something to happen, for myself to get represented. Then, I started using  photography, music, and different characters to be whoever I want to be.

During your experience with thesis, what have been some obstacles, and what has helped in overcoming them?

I always feel like I’m rushing to the finish line, stressed about trying to get everything done. It always works out in the end, but my biggest obstacle is time management. Figuring out a system of how and when I’m going to take the photos has been working for me, but, at the same time, I work more instinctively. I don’t have a lot of time to sit and think about it, especially because I want to have volume.

What is something that you would’ve liked to know before you started your thesis year?

You get to do a lot of experimenting, which is not something that I realized before. I stressed about how concrete things needed to be, but the first semester it is all about research. You are still moulding what your idea is going to be, and you can try all sorts of things. I think that people shouldn’t be afraid to experiment, or trying different ideas before settling. April is always emphasizing that people’s ideas should be looser, so that there can be different pathways to explore and take. Growing from something very concrete is harder.

Who are some professors at OCAD that made a positive impact in your education?

Nicolas Pye, Derek Sullivan who is a Sculpture prof, and Lee Henderson. Usually, my favorite profs are those who give really interesting examples of other artists, because I feel inspired in their classes.

 

To see more of Sabrina’s work, you can visit her portfolio, and follow her on instagram. To know more about Slobrina, check out her music account.

 

Interview by Ana Luisa Bernárdez

Friday #ArtCrush: Cassandra Keenan

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

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

Who or what are your main inspirations?

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

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

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

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

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

What body of work are you working on right now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cassandra Keenan, #15, Digital Inkjet Print, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Abigail Holt

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

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

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

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

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

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

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


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

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What body of work are you working on right now?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

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.

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”.

sydp6

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: 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.

patrick-corrigan-untitled-1-lightbox-installation-digital-image-2018

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.

patrick-corrigan-installation-lightbox-image-basswood-and-plexiglass-2018

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: Ishkhan Ghazarian

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Ishkhan Ghazarian, Untitled Portrait, 2017

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Ishkhan Ghazarian, Untitled Portrait, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ishkhan Ghazarian, Untitled Portrait, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Cameron Lamothe

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

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

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

What body of work are you working on right now?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

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