OCAD U Photography Program

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Friday Art Crush: Margaret Cornell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How is your vision for your final critique and GradEX?

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

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

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

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

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

Nicholas Pye, April Hickox, Peter Sramek.

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

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

Creating Inclusive Spaces Exhibition Career Launcher

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https://careerlaunchers.format.com/6172122-2019-creating-inclusive-spaces-exhibition

Deadline: April 15, 2019

 

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

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

 

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

Artscape Youngplace Photography Exhibition Career Launcher

 

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https://careerlaunchers.format.com/6125977-2019-artscape-youngplace-phot

Deadline: April 15, 2019

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

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

LAST WEEK TO SUBMIT FOR BEYOND BORDERS: A CONTACT EXHIBITION IN THE GREAT HALL!

A few more days to submit!
Please spread the word!
Beyond Borders is a curated exhibition of OCAD University student work from the Faculties of Art and Design. These moving and still images all defy or define boundaries, borders, margins, and edges. A lens inherently serves to create a border between artist and subject. Simultaneously, it provides a platform to describe and/or transcend and transgress physical, societal, political, personal, historical, cultural, racial, gendered constructions. While some choose to bridge borders, others may examine their defined edges. The still and moving images in this exhibition flirt with thresholds of the borders we so often struggle to define.
DEADLINE: APRIL 1, 2018
For more information and to submit:
beyondborders

International Collaboration Studio courses 2019-20

Applications to join the International Collaboration Studio courses for next year are now being accepted. Open to 300 and 400 level students in all programs, decisions will be made in time for the Fall/Winter Registration period. Please ask any questions you have and prepare your application early.

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Ryerson IMA Converge Lecture Series: Laura Letinsky

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CONVERGE LECTURE SERIES 2018/2019  

LAURA LETINSKY

IMA 307 | March 27 | 7-9pm | Free Admission
122 Bond St (School of Image Arts – Ryerson)
Driven by her interest in “control, accidents, and contrivance,” Laura Letinsky is best known for her exquisitely composed still life photographs, redolent with ambiguity. Keenly aware of the rich narrative possibilities inherent in still lifes and influenced by 17th-century Dutch still life painting, Letinsky crafts tabletop vignettes that suggest larger narratives, as she explains: “It’s this idea that the narrative has already occurred; the meal has been eaten, the cornucopia has been consumed, something has been consummated, and this is what’s left in the early morning light.” Letinsky holds a BFA from the University of Manitoba, 1986, and MFA from Yale University’s School of Art, 1991, and is now a Professor in the Department of Visual Art at the University of Chicago.
 
All lectures are open to the public, accessible to all bodies, welcoming to all faiths and backgrounds and a hundred percent free!
 
 
For questions or concerns please email convergelectures@gmail.com

Friday Art Crush: William (Matt) McCleery

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 William (Matt) McCleery, a Photo major in his fourth year.

Tell me a little bit about what you’ve been exploring during your studies at OCAD, and how that eventually led you to your thesis project.

The work that I’ve been doing this year specifically is what I came to OCAD to produce, but never got the opportunity to do so. It wasn’t necessarily because of the curriculum, I just couldn’t fit what I wanted to do around assignment guidelines. I kind of lost what I wanted to really create throughout the past years, up until this one, when I really got to dive into it and refine it, and it’s been really liberating. Specifically, what I’m working on for my thesis project is a study and photo essay around the ideas behind environmental photography. When you look at the work of the most well known environmental photographers simply documents the issues without providing solutions, or showing real interactions within the environment. These are often large prints of drone photos or photos of catastrophes, which are presented in a way that makes the viewer feels small, as if they are helpless in the face of environmental issues.

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What are some differences between your work and the environmental photography that you’re trying to distance yourself from?

I think the most important aspect is bringing a sense of empowerment to the viewer, specifically through showing that people are actually doing something in the face of these issues. Whether it is me participating in the event, or me documenting the event. It is not this doomy and gloomy show of “the world is going to end, we’re the cause of it, there’s nothing to do about it”, but rather “the world might end, we are definitely the cause of it, but people are doing something so that maybe it won’t”. If you’re always presenting the negative, who’s to say that anyone is going to do anything; it makes it seem like the issue is too big for you, but it only takes one person to start.

Tell me a little bit about the evolution of your thesis since you started.

My thesis project has changed over the course of the year a lot of times. All the iterations fall under the same theme of environmental photography, but the exact issues that I have been photographing have been changing. My final for last semester, I ended up documenting a river off of Lake Ontario that goes through Hamilton; it specifically goes right past the Hamilton steel factories, and right next to the shore line is a bird reserve, oddly enough, next to this big source of pollution. While in Hamilton, I documented several bird houses that were built by the community, and also the factories in the background, showing the juxtaposition. I wanted to continue with that focus, and I my plan was to record my visits as I helped clean up the space, but the inclement weather didn’t really allow me to do that, unfortunately. So I decided to explore something else, which is what brought me to Polar Bear Provincial Park.

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Environmental issues are very broad and have numerous avenues from which they can be approached. Are you focusing on something specific in the areas that you are visiting?

Currently, I’m focusing specifically on logging. In my research I found that Canada’s #1 export is actually lumber, but the way Canada logs is better than most countries because it is selective logging, instead clear cutting. This allows for more growth in the woods and helps prevent forest fires, which can be catastrophic in a large scale. Within what I’m doing, I’m going to areas that have been logged, and areas that there’s a large population of people that interact with the environment and I document that. A lot of my work has been shot in Polar Bear Provincial Park, an old logging mill on the northern end of Georgian Bay, Jasper National Park, and also Algonquin, which besides of being one of Canada’s most visited parks, it is also one of the most logged. Because of the season, I haven’t been able to photograph the other end of the spectrum, which is tree planting, so that would be the final addition to the series. That way, I would able to present a problem, an interaction, and a solution, which is what I think is lacking a lot of the time in environmental photography. I think there is a lot of good that comes with the bad, it’s not just always negativity, there’s a lot more that should be done and shown, but there are a lot of steps that are taking place.

Right. I also think that one of the main issues with some of those environmental photographers is that, more often than not, their works are produced, bought, and hung in spaces that don’t provide any type of change, and that actually participate in the damages made to the environment. What are your strategies for considering this while producing your work?

This is exactly why I am doing this the way I am, in a practical sense. In the exhibition Anthropocene at the AGO, there was an image of a battery acid field, and I was looking at this and questioning what the environmental ramification of this was compared to that of chemical waste from film development. For my thesis, I am looking for ways to reduce my carbon footprint, all the cameras I shoot with are 100% mechanical, so no battery needed to shoot. Of course that does limit me to shooting in film, but in my research I found that the actual damage caused by battery acid is so much more harmful that any type of photographic chemical waste, as long as you’re using a silver recovery unit to take the silver out of the liquids. I still am producing waste, it is almost impossible not to, but my impact is greatly reduced simply because I’m not using batteries. Even rechargeable batteries will eventually die and end up in landfill.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced so far in the making of this project?

The biggest issue that I keep getting is the fact that working with photography and the environment, I feel like I am always far away from the “subject”, I’m not up close and personal; it’s been bouncing back and forth between a fine art thesis and a journalistic thesis. I think there is a line in shooting style, but I don’t think there is one in what the work is. My biggest issue is trying to find that mix between the two.

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How do you envision this project in its final form? Do you think you’re going to continue working on it after graduation?

I’m still working on scale for what I want to produce, but I imagine it will be a large number of rather smaller photographs hung on the wall. Still working out space and location. At this point and mostly focusing on producing work. And environmental issues will definitely always be an underlying theme in my work. I want to apply to grad school for my journalism degree in Ryerson, Carlton or Concordia.

What is a piece for advice that you would’ve liked to know before you started your thesis year?

Being prepared for it to change is a big one. I thought I had it hammered down in third year, but I’m not doing that at all anymore. It’s not a bad thing if it changes, and it’s also not a bad thing if you have two bodies of work between the two semesters. Doing research early, getting the work done, and having fun producing it. If you’re not having fun, reevaluate and adjust it if you have time. Breaking apart your ideas and taking the key factors that you want to talk about is important.

Who are some profs that positively impacted your work at OCAD?

Simon Glass, Kate Schneider, and Meera Margaret Singh.

 

Beyond Borders – CONTACT Photo Show – Call for Submissions

Beyond Borders is a curated exhibition of OCAD University student work from the Faculties of Art and Design. These moving and still images all defy or define boundaries, borders, margins, and edges. A lens inherently serves to create a border between artist and subject. Simultaneously, it provides a platform to describe and/or transcend and transgress physical, societal, political, personal, historical, cultural, racial, gendered constructions. While some choose to bridge borders, others may examine their defined edges. The still and moving images in this exhibition flirt with thresholds of the borders we so often struggle to define.
DEADLINE: APRIL 1, 2018
For more information and to submit:
beyondborders

Meera Margaret Singh
www.meeramargaretsingh.com
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