OCAD U Photography Program

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Faculty Spotlight: Meera Margaret Singh

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

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

 

How would you describe your art practice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Patrick Corrigan

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

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

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

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

Who or what are your main artistic inspirations?

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

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

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

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

What role does research play in your art practice?

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

What body of work are you working on right now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the process of creating a lightbox?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Patrick Corrigan, Love, digital inkjet print, 2015

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

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Kadijah Guillaume

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

In this series, Kadijah and Morgan talk about using the self as muse in photography, tackling identity politics and the subverting the gaze.

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Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

I just recently enlisted Stacey Tyrell as one of my photographic inspirations because she works with the themes of identity, race and heritage within post-colonial societies. My favourite works from her is Backra Bluid where she addressed the issue of “Whiteness” and “Blackness” within Western societies. The images and her artist statement blew me away. I find it extremely important to know that there are current Black artists who are not afraid to address issues of race and identity instead of keeping it hushed. It inspires me more to be a part of this movement and really shows that we are not afraid to speak up – especially in the Art world. Plus, Stacey is a graduate from OCAD!

 

 

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

Majority of my conceptual work comes from my own personal life or from societal topics pertaining to the black race, the human body and womanhood. I feel as a young black artist, it is important to let others know that these topics are still very crucial and essential that hit close to home for me and for many others who choose not to openly address these through art.

 

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Kadijah Guillaume, I Matter Too, Digital Inkjet Print, 2017

 

You have often used yourself in your work, what do you think are the differences of photographing yourself and photographing other people? What do you think is the value of inserting yourself into your work?

It all depends on what my work is about. Often times I use myself because it is easier to communicate what I want and how I want to visualize my concept in the photograph(s). Photographing others can be a bit of a challenge as it can be difficult finding time to photograph said person. However, on a bright note, photographing other people can be an interesting experience. Often times, I see great amount of potential in the person that they themselves don’t see. Sometimes the message comes out stronger when I photograph someone else, as it shows that the issue exists on another person other than myself. In addition, sometimes the work I am producing opens up a personal and intimate dialogue between the photographer and the model.

 

What body of work are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my thesis body of work, momentarily titled, “Where Does That Leave Black Women?” I am bouncing around different titles for this work but I am determined to come up with one successfully as soon as possible! This work was inspired by a question my friend, Tahjay, asked me in relations to black women lacking advantage and success because of their gender AND skin colour. I plan to research more on black artists who have done work relating to the topic of black womanhood. I am currently readings novels and articles that I believe to be of great help with building more ideas.

 

In your thesis you combine photography and text, which is a common theme in your work. What is your process of deciding how to incorporate text into/ on to your images?

That’s a good question. Whenever I use text, I want to make sure there is an equal visual balance between the photograph and the text. In my “I Matter (Too)” project, I used each model’s back as the canvas for the text to be placed on. I could’ve made the text take up the entire back but then the backs would be overshadowed, thus removing the presence of the black body. Overall, the use of text in my work is only essential if, once the text is removed, the concept of my work makes no sense without it. An example of this is my “Too Pretty to Be Darkskin” project where, without the racial slurs and derogatory insults written on pieces of tape that is then placed all over the model’s face and neck, the photographs just look like beautiful ethnic headshots – which contradicts my main concept.

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Kadijah Guillaume, For Your Eyes Only, Digital Inkjet Print, 2017

You mentioned in your thesis work how you are aiming to confront Eurocentric beauty standards as well as how folks homogenize certain groups of people, in this case black people. While at the same time, as you mention, not trying to antagonize your audience. At what point does antagonizing do what you want it to; confront and boldly ‘call out’ your audience for their own preconceived notions of you as a black woman and artist?

The way I see it, people are both going to understand where you’re coming from and try to help out or hear it but continue on with their life. My work is predominantly attempting to tell the audience that we (the Black community) are tired of seeing one specific form of beauty and are tired of being shoved under one umbrella of what society thinks Black people are. We are fully aware that beauty is not one-sided and that we are fully aware that our beauty and our individualism matters. We just want the rest of the world to see it as well. If a person feels offended by this message, then my theory has proven a point.

 

In For Your Eyes Only, the work draws on photographic cues of traditional pin up images however playfully subverts the male heterosexual gaze by including raw meat and blood. The effect is jarring, amusing and confronts the viewers imagination of pin up.  Can you speak to this subversion of the male gaze and using yourself as subject/object in these images? What has been the response from peers and instructors when you’ve shown this work?

This work was one of the most interesting experiences I ever had with photography. I remember looking at the “Starification Object Series” project by Hannah Wilke, where she posed topless with vulva-shaped gum stuck all over her body. It was quite fascinating how she was able to visually subvert the male gaze by adding something unappealing on top of it. That inspired me to come up with “For Your Eyes Only”. The female body, for decades, has always been sexualized and/or over-glamourized in society. For example, breasts are solely meant to feed our offspring – but in the media, they’re gawked at like sexual objects. And that’s what they were… sexual objects. I wanted to play around with this idea of making the male gaze an uncomfortable and conflicting satisfaction. And what better way to do it than to dress up and imitate a pin up or Playboy doll while holding raw meat in my mouth or hands while covered in blood! I chose to use myself because, going back in history (aka Slavery Era), Black Women were only seen as inferior sexual objects. Unfortunately, traces of that still remains in the media today. I remember when I first showed some of my work to my instructors, peers and friends, the feedback was astounding. There was a plethora of responses and reactions: shock, disgust, impressed, confused/conflicted, but overall very supportive of my bravery! Some people couldn’t look at the images for too long! Nonetheless, I was really grateful that everyone was very open-minded and supportive of the idea and work because it takes a lot of guts (no pun intended) to stuff unusual animal organs in your mouth for the sake of Photography, hahaha!

 

 

“I used to play it safe and just take pictures of buildings and landscape shots, less conceptual. I was always nervous about making work that would spark too much of a conversation – a negative one to be exact. Over time, I began talking to other peers and teachers who weren’t afraid to push the boundaries and make controversial work and it was from that moment on that I become influenced to spark conversation with my work.”

In your work, I Matter Too, confronts systemic racism as well as challenging (mostly non-black people) to think critically about the ways in which they can homogenize certain groups where the effect can be violent. The work also speaks to stereotypes on blackness and the idea of being ‘not enough’ both for folks who are black and non-black. I’m wondering if you can elaborate on this idea of not being ‘enough,’ responses you have had to this series and where the project drove from. 

Not being “Black enough” is a phrase that’s used to determine “Blackness” solely based off stereotypes and certain standards for what a black person should be, look like, sound like, act like or dress like. It’s extremely damaging because it not only pins certain black people against society, but it pins black people against each other. This relates to me personally because I have been in situations where I was told I don’t speak “black” (aka ghetto or overusing slang in my sentences) by non-black people or “Why do you speak white?” by fellow black people. Every person that is involved in this project can tell you that they have been in situations where they would surprise someone when they defy common black stereotypes. For example, one of my friends, a dark skin man, said to me that people would look at him differently because he listens to rock music. Prior to executing this series, I sat down and had discussions about the topic of “not being black enough” with many different black men and women. It was fascinating listening to their stories about ways their Blackness was challenged or “questioned”. But it was also sad to hear that their Blackness was questioned BECAUSE of these preconceived assumptions and standards of what a black person is. My project is a personal project, not just to myself, but also to those involved and to any other black person who can relate to it.

 

What is your process from when you get an idea, to shooting, and presenting the work to peers? Is research part of your process?

When I develop an idea, I like to do a bit more research through articles, books, artists’ websites and my own personal experience(s). I often think about how this idea relates to me or relates to current events happening within modern day society. I find works that relate to either one are easier and more successful for me to execute. That’s the easy part. The challenging part is the execution: finding a place to shoot, finding someone to shoot (if I am not using myself) and gathering the items/tools needed to bring this work to life (i.e: props). Speaking to those who I believe can relate to my work on a personal level is really important because the reality of the topic becomes very apparent and authentic.

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Kadijah Guillaume, I Matter Too, Digital Inkjet Print, 2017

 

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

I would definitely like to work with more people from the Black community because I think it’s really significant to hear different people’s stories and applying it into my work. I believe their stories will influence more of my work and bring forth more awareness of the Black body in the art world. Although I have not thought about working with a specific artist per se, I do want to work with more PoC artists who use their work and practices to address the topics of race, identity and Womanhood within their culture. Minorities have a voice and it can become a very powerful one when we put our voices together, especially in a world that often mutes our mouths.

 

How do you think your process and art practice has changed over time?

I definitely can say my work as changed a lot since I started getting into Photography. I used to play it safe and just take pictures of buildings and landscape shots, less conceptual. I was always nervous about making work that would spark too much of a conversation – a negative one to be exact. Over time, I began talking to other peers and teachers who weren’t afraid to push the boundaries and make controversial work and it was from that moment on that I become influenced to spark conversation with my work. I have grown a new attachment and love towards conceptual work. I love a photographic project that allows me to look at it and think or have a serious discussion with another person because photography is not just about taking pictures of landscapes anymore to be on the “safe” side. A lot of my work is conceptually based off my personal life and current social issues that I was once too afraid to openly talk about.

 

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

I would say any of the courses I have taken where I had to use the body as the subject or make conceptual work definitely has influenced my work. A few examples are: Body and the Lens, Conceptual Photography, Light and Studio, Colour as Meaning, Face Forward, just to name a few. These courses allowed me to push boundaries and try things I have never done before in regards to ideas and concepts.

 

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Kadijah Guillaume, For Your Eyes Only, Digital Inkjet Print, 2016

 

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

Be prepared to spend a fortune on equipment! Hahaha. But in all seriousness, do not hold back on what you want to photograph or how you want to photograph your idea. I am speaking from a conceptual point of view. Not everyone will understand your work or your practice and that is 100% okay. At the end of the day, it’s about YOU. It’s about your satisfaction and how YOU want to achieve your work. Your work isn’t meant for everyone and that is something I learned throughout my years studying photography. I have had people try to persuade me into a different direction of their liking, but I didn’t let them because my work wasn’t trying to impress them.

From a general point of view, learn the history of photography before you go into it. I find a lot of people go straight into digital photography but have never even touched a film camera (no, not an instant polaroid camera) or knew what Photography began with. It’s similar to that episode of Big Bang Theory where Penny wanted Sheldon to teach her about Leonard’s work but Sheldon couldn’t do so without first explaining the history of Physics. I find learning about the history of photography and the development of it over the decades will allow a person to appreciate Photography and its practice a lot more.

Other than that, just keep shooting. Never stop shooting. Even walking around with a camera on you is always good because you never know when you might need it or when you’ll discover the type of Photography you want to practice in.      

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Check out Kadijah’s Instagram, and view her work at OCAD’s Graduate Exhibition in May!

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Jerome Clark

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

In this series, Jerome and Morgan talk about engaging with questions of failure and perfection within artists, how to create effective portraiture and using historical photographic processes.

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Who or what are your main inspirations?

I mainly find inspiration in conversations, interactions with others, and thoughts (often questioning why I am interested in something). Also just taking in the environment and culture around. There is something within those experiences that act as a catalyst in wanting to push an idea further, transforming the idea into a body of work.

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

The subject matter I have been spending the most time working on is interactions with people through past experiences. I have also been working on trying to find elements or materials that can serve as a way to represent a message. This has led me to explore techniques in the darkroom and using many processes as a platform for tying my work to subject matter. For example, in my thesis, I have been using solarization as a way to represent a loss of control, as you lose some control through the solarization process itself and you are never quite sure what the outcome of the prints will be.

You work a lot with portraiture, what do you think are essential elements of creating an engaging portrait?

Some essential elements of creating engaging portraits are having an understanding of what is being created beforehand and being on the same page in what is being created with the subject. I am interested in taking photographs that are thoughtful and hints or says something beyond aesthetic (though aesthetic still plays a role in my work). Listening to what the subject likes or dislikes is important in creating an engaging photo. Paying attention to these details not only shows that you care, that you are listening and you have the subject’s interest in mind but this also helps you to think of other ways to successfully photograph the subject in a way where everyone is happy.

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Jerome Clark, Caleigh, resin-coated prints developed and solarized in the darkroom, digital inkjet print, 2018

“The process of solarizing images involves developing the photos in the dark room and re-exposing the images another time to low light as they are developing which ends up damaging the prints but also can changes elements like texture, and colour if the process is effective.”

What body of work are you working on right now?

The body of work I am working on right now is my thesis. I have been talking to artists about how their ideas surrounding perfection can negatively influence or affect their work and state of mind. Through conversation, I was really interested in hearing and understanding their thoughts from many different perspectives, and the psychology behind their way of thinking about their work. I was also interested in finding commonalities between myself and the subject, which range from feeling the work is inadequate, to feeling the work is never done or like you have failed after starting over two or three times.

The title of your work, Before our Conversation, insinuates to the process of the art practice. Of conversations that happen with those who are photographed and how that is the process of the project. What is your insight into how these conversations contribute to and mould your concept? 

The title definitely insinuates to the process of the art practice. It can be broken down into two parts. The first part involves taking the subject’s photograph with a medium format camera to capture a high amount of detail. Taking their photo always happened before the conversation involving the subject’s artwork. The second part involved having the conversation, where I got to listen to what was being said and learned about the subject’s way of thinking. I felt naming this body of work Before our Conversation made a connection to something outside of the images, even before the viewer has a chance to read about the work. The title implies that something has happened and that the images are the outcome, which helps when looking at the photographs and not necessarily knowing exactly what is happening. These conversations contribute and mould to this concept through all of these conversations and showing how aware people can be of their own negative thoughts, especially towards their own artwork. 

Solarizing the images also speaks to the idea of loss of control and giving that control up to other elements. What made you want to take this project in that direction, and what is the process of solarizing the images?

The topic of control plays a big part in my work. I often feel a loss of control and that my work is incomplete because I cannot be in complete control of the outcome in what I am trying to create. This realization is what led me to think about experimental processes where some control was being lost, which is why using solarization worked for this body off work. The process of solarizing images involves developing the photos in the dark room and re-exposing the images another time to low light as they are developing which ends up damaging the prints but also can changes elements like texture, and colour if the process is effective.

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Jerome Clark, Aref, resin-coated prints developed and solarized in the darkroom, digital inkjet print, 2018

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

Yes, there are so many people I would like to work within the future, especially in portraiture. I would like to collaborate with other artists where they also bring their discipline to the work we would create together, whether that involves painting, drawing, sculpture, creative writing or text, etc. This will help in bringing out one’s interests and passions in a photograph. At the same time, we can learn a lot about each other through our interests.

You seem to work as a conceptual artist as well as a commercial photographer. What do you see as links between both of these streams and how do they inform your art practice?

For me working in both conceptual and commercial photography, it is important that both types of photography are communicating something. Also that both styles of photography share a message beyond aesthetic or what is on the surface despite how different both styles may be from one another. The principles of design can also be found in both styles and I am actively considering different elements like line, space, mass, colour, and texture in how they inform the end result of an image. I would like to work on ways to have both conceptual and commercial styles coming together more in my art practice. There are image makers like Nick Knight, Inez and Vinoodh, and Sølve Sundsbø who I feel blend conceptual art, commercial photography and fine arts well together.

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Jerome Clark, Loredana, 2018

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

Yes, there are a few! 

Peter Sramek who has influenced refining the technical aspects of my thesis work in the darkroom, especially when showing me another way to solarize my prints to isolate certain things about the solarization process that I like. Kate Schneider, April Hichox, and Simon Glass have influenced me to think more critically about what I am seeing when looking at artworks and thinking more critically about what I am trying to say. Catherine Black, and Lillian Allen, for influencing me in articulating my thoughts, especially when describing my work. (Take one of their Creative Writing classes if you can!) And John Jones, for influencing how I see light in studio, and guiding me to look for elements in photographs that hint at something else like symbolism for example.

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

Photograph everything and anything you find interesting. There have been so many instances where I did not take a photo of something I found interesting because I was conscious that there were people around me or I was worried about being judged for taking a photo of something that someone else would have thought was bizarre in that moment. The subject that caught your interest should be the only thing on your mind in that moment.

~

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.

 

 

~

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: Hilary Riem

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

In this series, Hilary and Morgan talk about the subjectivity of archiving, decontextualizing political imagery and influences of commercial practices on your conceptual art work.

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Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

Because so much of my work is research and theory based, most of my inspiration comes from reading and researching the writings of thinkers.  Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben is a huge inspiration for me, and his writings on gesture, particularly those from the chapter in his book Means Without End entitled Notes on Gesture has become the basis for my thesis work.  He talks about gesture’s immateriality, where nothing is being produced but rather supported, and the way in which images both support and destroy these notions by reproducing that which cannot be quantified, which i reference heavily within my work.  That being said, I have also been looking at the work of Sarah Cwynar, Walid Raad, and Josephine Pryde.

hilary-riem_pointing-map-2_inkjet_2017

 

Hilary Riem, Pointing Map, Inkjet print, 2017

 

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

For the last two years I have been focusing almost exclusively on gesture and body language, the social and communicative aspects of gesture, and how this plays out through means of mechanical reproduction like images and film.

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

I think pulling from photographic archives can function in both ways, and challenging the subjectivity of the archive and the selective history it creates also creates a conversation around what photography looks like in a post modern condition, as well as what images mean within an image saturated society.

 

” I think especially in the political climate we exist within now its important to consider how incredibly poignant nonverbal forms of communication are.”

 

What body of work are you working on right now?

I am currently working on my thesis, which explores themes of gesture and body language, specifically pointing gestures and their political, social, and communicative functions in relation to notions of documentation, memory, and the photographic archive.   I’m really focusing on the political function of pointing, and it’s role in the development of perceptions of political identity, leadership, and nationalism.

I’m also currently collaborating with another artist on a project that explores ideas of borders, boundaries and other forms of obstructing views, and how that affects our understanding of space and the landscape.

 

In your thesis work, you reference the influence of these archival images in relation to their gesture and body language and how it claims power, leadership and insinuates nationalism. How do you attempt to decontextualize or bring attention to these images and their constructed histories? Additionally, why do you find these images and their context important to examine?

My current explorations employ conventions used in media publications, primarily halftone processes, to both decontextualize the images and reference the context in which they have been disseminated to the public.  By making reference to the actual context in which we consume these images while providing no textual information to contextualize them, the viewer is left to navigate what these gestures mean and the role they play in our understanding of national identity.  Conversations around politics generally focus on what is being said, and even within things like political debates little attention is paid to the ways in which political candidates or leaders body language and gestures are affecting the publics perception of leadership, and how that plays into the perceived competency of a political leader.  I think especially in the political climate we exist within now its important to consider how incredibly poignant nonverbal forms of communication are.

How closely has research been tied to your practice, and what do you think are the relationships between research and production for you?

Research is an integral part of my practice and always the beginning point for me when trying to work through ideas or questions I have about what I want the work to be about.  If I hit a roadblock when I begin production, or if I feel that the work isn’t saying what I want it to say, I always look back to my research or begin to research another aspect of the concept in order to answer whatever questions I may have about the work.

hilary-riem_means-and-ends_inkjet_2017

Hilary Riem, Means and Ends 1, Inkjet print, 2017

 

You seem to work as a conceptual artist as well as a commercial/documentary photographer. What do you see as links between both of these streams and how do they inform your art practice?

My documentary work is often the jumping off point for my more concept based work, and a lot of times going out and observing and shooting helps me work through the unanswered questions that arise in the research phase of my conceptual work.  Conversely, I find that the concepts that I work with in my commercial work usually come from ideas I work with in my conceptual work, and become a way to produce these thoughts in a less nuanced and more aesthetic way.

You have worked with archival images in numerous projects and I am interested to know your thoughts on how the archive constructs what we see and don’t see as ‘history’ and how the archive constructs subjectivity. Do you see the ideas of the archive and archiving as a practice relate to your practice or your current body of work?

I’m fascinated by the question of what constitutes an archive.  Institutional archival practices began as a completely objective way to preserve records, and historically relevant information in order to look back and be able to understand that period of time.   Of course because of the inordinate amount of time and resources it took to build and maintain these archives, information that seemed irrelevant or unimportant to the archivist slipped through the cracks, and this subjectivity is where archives became more of a constructed or idealized depiction of the history it preserves.

hilary-riem_pointing-map_inkjet_2017

Hilary Riem, Pointing Map, Inkjet print, 2017

 

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

I never think too much about working with anyone particular, and my practice tends to be very solitary and introspective.   That being said, I would love to get into doing archiving and preservation work within a specific archive, because I think that understanding the technical aspects of archival work would help me gain better insight to the functions of these archives and their role in relation to ideas of collective memory.

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

Gabi Moser’s photo theory class which I took in third year was where I began to become interested in photographic archives, and was where I really began to think critically about what photography makes visible and invisible.

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

Use the incredible amount of resources available here, and explore as many mediums and processes as you can, especially those outside of photography.  Once you graduate it will be infinitely harder to gain access to these things so take advantage of it while you can!

~

To see more of Hilary’s work visit her website and instagram.

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 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.

_ava1563

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?

_ava1467with-edits

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: Sheana Canthan

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

In this issue, Morgan and Sheana talk about how lighting changes the mood of her fashion shoots, collaborating with other artists and turning your art practice into a business.

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Who or what are you main photographic inspirations?

My main photographic inspirations would be Annie Leibovitz, Nick Knight, Mario Sorrenti, Tim Walker, and Peter Lindbergh to name a few but, most of my inspiration comes from other art mediums and my surroundings as well.

 

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

My favourite lighting setup would be rembrandt lighting. This lighting pattern gets its name from the painter, Rembrandt van Rijn who often utilized this light in his work.

brendan

Untitled #1, 2016

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

For my shoots I usually set up the studio depending on whom or what I’m shooting and the concept/mood of the shoot. If the look is more grungy, I’d use a more harsh lighting setup, but if its something more eerie and whimsical, I’d use a softer lighting setup.

 

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 shoot outdoors, I love scouting for different locations and having the subjects interact with their surroundings vs. in studio unless I have a set stylist working with me, sometimes I might be limited on props and create a story around what resources I have. Depending on whether I shoot on location, or in studio, I always preplan the lighting setup that best conveys the mood for the story I have in mind.

 

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

The subject matter I tend to shoot the most are people and fashion.

delaney-1

Untitled #2, 2016

Do you collaborate with other artists on your shoots? What do you see as valuable about collaborations between artists?

I do collaborations with all types of artists whether it is a stylist, illustrator, a sculpture and installation artist or painter. I love mixing other mediums of art with my work. I think its important to collaborate, because it allows you to expand your horizons and network with other artists, which is important in this industry.

 

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

I usually have a theme or concept in mind that I want to execute and I search for models or people based on that. I also work with modelling agencies as well.

 

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

Usually images that strike to me or flow with each other and best convey the story or concept I had in mind for the shoot.

michael

Untitled #3, 2016

 

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

I would eventually like to shoot commercial or advertising work and be signed to an agency.

 

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

This is something that I’m still learning so much about and its really trial and error and what works best for YOUR art practice. Something I wish I had started much earlier was collaborating, attending more networking events and building an online presence. The more people you meet, the more your work gets out there. Its really word of mouth in this industry, aside from have an online presence on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Youtube depending on what your art practice is.

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Untitled #4, 2016

 

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

BETTY!!! Most of the work I produced in my first three years at OCAD was surrounding gender, sexuality and nudity. Betty really pushed me as a fine artist to think about my art practice and why I make art.

 

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

REACH OUT TO THEM!!! The worst answer you will get is a no, and if so, there are a million other artists out there. (80% of the time it’s a YES)

~

To see more of Sheana’s work you can visit her website

and instagram: @sheanacanthan

~

See Sheana’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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