OCAD U Photography Program

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Friday #ArtCrush: Meghan Boyle

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

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Lesia Miga

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

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In this issue, Morgan and Lesia talk about claiming public and private spaces with our bodies, performativity in photography and the value in being a multi disciplinary artist.

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Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?
A lot of my inspiration for the type of work I make comes from reading, I particularly enjoy essays, zines, and even opinion pieces. I read a lot of work on contemporary feminist thought, art theory and I absolutely love listening to people’s stories. It helps me to frame my own personal experiences in new ways, opening me up to new ways of approaching a problem or idea. If I’m really stuck on an idea, I try and take a long walk, visit an art gallery, or (ideally) take a nap.
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What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on?
I’ve spent a lot of my time at OCAD producing work that centres around the body, and how we experience the world around us through it. My work has focused on gender identity, creating and valuing safe spaces in public and private, feminist issues, and story telling.
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What drives you to work with that subject matter?
Private space has always been something I’ve had to negotiate and fight for in my life. Even in spaces that were delegated as mine, I often felt uncomfortable in. Home was not always a comforting place for me, and I think that has influenced my work in many ways. I’ve found physically creating a safe space for my body is really empowering, and have been playing with how to push those emotional and physical boundaries.
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Lesia Miga, Self Portrait in Public, Video Still, 2014
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Do you work in any other mediums and how does that inform your work?

I have experimented with many different mediums over the past 5 years, taking courses in other programs has hugely influenced the way I create and think about art. I have worked with videography, printmaking, bookbinding, drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, and have put a lot of focus on performance, as well as my photography. If I get really frustrated with a project, I find it really helpful to try and explore the same idea with a different medium. Even if it doesn’t work, sometimes I will see a solution to the first problem. If nothing ends up working, I take a nap.

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You do a lot of performance work, how do you see that intersecting with your photography or video work?

After my second year of OCAD, I was feeling really bored and frustrated with my camera. I stopped taking photographs because I couldn’t find anything exciting to document, and felt that I was constantly taking the same photos over and over again, which I was. Performance and video work got me excited about the possibilities of the camera, helped me to play more, and not focus on the outcome, but on the experience of creating work.

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Lesia Miga, South Hampton Labyrinth, Video Still, 2016

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What do you think the value is in being a multi disciplinary artist and interweaving multiple mediums into your art practice?
I think it’s incredibly valuable to explore art disciplines that are out of your comfort zone, it has allowed me to grow in ways I could have never expected. In my first year of OCAD, I remember being very frustrated because I was expected to create art in mediums I was not very experienced in. Looking back I am now really grateful for this experience, it’s taught me that making mistakes is good and that art doesn’t need to be aesthetically pleasing to succeed. (Though certain art school institutions still place a LOT of value on aesthetics)
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In your series ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?,’ you experiment with gender roles and identities. What started that series and why do you think it spurs a valuable conversation?
What do I want to be when I grow up, or WDIWTBWIGU?, began as a mix of anger, frustration, and a kind of way to laugh about gender expectations that were being placed on me. There’s always been a lot of expectation placed on me by my family to dress more feminine, and at the time that expectation was really in my face. I was getting a lot of comments from my family about how I wasn’t dressing or behaving like “a nice young woman”, and how I “wouldn’t get taken seriously if I didn’t dress more appropriately.” Then, I had some (bro) customer at work ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, in the most patronizing way. I was so sick of it, so I decided to “dress like a grown up” by taking my parent’s “adult” clothing and dressing in it. This turned in to a series of self portraits in a studio, of me putting their clothes on my body in the most ridiculous and childish ways I could think of, mixing up the gender divisions in to whole new strange and silly outfits.
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Lesia Miga, WDIWTBWIGU? Series 2, 2016
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What body of work are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on a few projects right now, one of which is recreating the WDIWTBWIGU? series, but instead of self-portraits in a studio, I am working on photographing in my parent’s home. This work will be in an exhibition called Bed of Roses, for the 2017 Contact Festival. I’m also currently creating a body of thesis work, which focuses on public and private space, grieving, healing, and the body through performance, video, and installation. I intend to show this at Grad Ex, if I can make it through the rest of thesis in one piece!

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Do you prefer working with analog or digital and what value do you see in either of those?

I really enjoy working in both analog and digital, but for very different reasons. Digital is a lot more accessible, and quick, I use it a lot for the documentation of my performance pieces, because I tend to focus more on the conceptual aspects of the piece, rather than the aesthetic. When doing straight photography, which tends to be for personal enjoyment, I love to use analog photography, particularly focusing on medium and large format photography. Photographing with film really allows me to slow down and focus on the pictures I’m taking, and I love the anticipation of developing the images. The darkroom was one of my favourite places in high school, I would often hide out during lunch and enjoy the silence and darkness, it felt very intimate and peaceful.

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Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?
There have been many faculty that have made a huge impact on my work. To name a few, Betty Julian, Johanna Householder, Ashley Scarlett’s Intro to Visual Theory was amazing and first introduced me to Zines and small press, Richard Fung, and Lee Henderson. I took a course last year in printmaking with Anthea Black called Nano Publishing, and highly recommend it, we got to participate in Canzine at the AGO in 2015, and create our own student run workshop. Another professor who I particularly appreciate is the late Wendy Coburn, who gave me a very honest and helpful critique. Basically, I tried to bull sh*t the reason I included a sculpture in a mixed media piece, and she rightfully asked if I included it just because it was a sculpture class, which I had. Lesson learned.
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Lesia Miga, Scars 3, Mixed Media, 2016
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What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in photography?

EXPERIMENT! Don’t just stick to photography. I have learned so much more about myself and the way I create art by taking courses in other programs. There is such a vast amount of knowledge and equipment in the grey institutional walls of OCADU, it is so important to find ways to use it, and grow from it. This institution is for you. Don’t forget that. Don’t be afraid to demand change when it’s needed, and to use your voice as a student.

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See Lesia’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Natasha Hirt

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

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

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

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

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

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

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

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

What drives you to work with that subject matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

What body of work are you working on right now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See Natasha’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

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