OCAD U Photography Program

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Friday #ArtCrush: Ishkhan Ghazarian

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Ishkhan Ghazarian, Untitled Portrait, 2017

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Ishkhan Ghazarian, Untitled Portrait, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ishkhan Ghazarian, Untitled Portrait, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: 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.

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Cameron Lamothe

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

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

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

What body of work are you working on right now?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Caleigh Clements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Caleigh Clements, Blood, digital inkjet print, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Caleigh Clements, Hair Growth, digital inkjet print, 2017

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

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

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

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To see more of Caleighs work visit her website.

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

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Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Jason Collette

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

This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Jason Collette, a fifth year student majoring in Photography.

In this issue, Morgan and Jason talk about collaboration with artists, tips for designing an arts-based business, and merging editorial and fashion photography.

Who or what are your artistic inspirations?

The main reason for my interest in photography was to learn more of all the discourses involved with what it means to exist. I will not say that what I am creating is meant to be political although I can say that I often think about what it means to be human. Some of my main influences are Robert Frank, the school of Düsseldorf, Bauhaus, Lee Miller, Stephen Shore, or Jeff Wall. I wish I could create a list of photographers and artists to know if you go into art school because it could fill this entire interview.

 

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

If I could control the sun that would be my lighting setup, but when I have to go inside because of the weather I try to setup too use a three-point lighting system. I use the speedotrons, softboxes, and sometimes a grid diffuser.

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Jason Collette, Untitled, 2017

 

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

First off, I grab myself a speaker to play music. Next, I get a coffee and sit down for a while and get mentally prepared.  It’s really necessary for me to organize my plan for shoot. I often use fabrics as backdrops – we have backdrop stands in the photo cage that are really versatile for staging. With lighting I really consider balance, the background, and key light. I cannot say that I shoot the same way every time though. I recently have been experimenting with flash on the front of my camera for a more ‘snap-shot’ aesthetic during my shoots.

 

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

I like to think about art and its associations with advertising. My work is most often speaking on behalf industrialization, cross-contextually, and globalization in some way. It can be confusing to a viewer of my work because the subject matter is not direct, or in a series, but that is the point of what I make. I want the viewer to think about their place within the world while looking at my work.

 

Do you prefer shooting on location or within a studio setting? How does this change the way you approach your subject(s)?

I always want the model or subject to interact with its surroundings. I think a lot about the space in the framing and the shapes within the picture as a whole. Whether I am inside, or out, this is something that is in my mind while shooting.

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Jason Collette, Untitled, 2017

 

Do you ever collaborate with other artists to make-work together? What do you see as the value in collaboration? 

I believe that collaboration is one of the most valuable things to any artist, whether it is photography, music, writing or any art form, it is really important to share ideas with others and get an understanding of what people in your community are thinking as well. For me, even if you do not agree with the values of others around you, it is important to see their point of you. I believe that these ideas will help any artist find their own voice within the world.

 

You have said that you work between editorial and fashion photography. What drew you to work within that framework and how do you see the similarities or differences between the two?

I guess a main point is that fashion photography is about the garments and editorial is more about the story that the images tell. For me, this line can be blurry. What brought me into this type of photography was my interest in people, in collaboration, and in the history of clothing. There are a lot of valuable movements in the world today because of how designers have addressed their work.

 

How do you think your art practice, or the way in which you approach art has changed over your time at OCAD?

I started out with a keen interest in street photography. I would rebel against anything too experimental or hands on. I believed that I could make great work like the American street photographers by simply pointing and shooting my rangefinder. I see now how much more goes into those images than I initially believed. There is much more to the process of photography than I would have understood when I started at OCAD University. Although I can still be very resistant in my image making, today, I am much more open to try new things.

 

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

I am going to continue my pursuit in creating art, and working in fashion. I wouldn’t mind working with Wes Anderson or Martin Scorsese, that would be great. I am currently working with a company called Bypseudonym and am very excited to help them develop their body of work.
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Jason Collette, Untitled, 2017

 

How did you get involved photographing for Bypseudonym, and what was your process designing their unique collection of fashion photography for their website and brand?

I reached out to the owner of the company, Summer Ellis, and we shot an editorial with her talented team. For their collection of images, we try to create a more candid look for each image and are interested in neutral tonality that accompanies the styling. It is important for us to also consider the gaze and posing of the models in each image.

 

Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?
I want to give a BIG thanks to the entire OCADU photo faculty.  We have a very diverse and interesting group of talented photographers. My biggest influences have been Gabby Moser, one of the most talented photo historian I have met, and to John Jones, and Kotama Boubane.

 

What are your goals to take your business to the next level? What is your advice for other artists also looking to make their work into a business?

It is important for me to create valuable relationships within the art and fashion community. My best advice would be to practice, practice, practice, because there is always something new to learn in photography and to meet as many people and be as involved in the school and city as you can while at OCAD University. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people.

 

To see more of Jason’s work you can visit his instagram

 

See Jason’s work at the 

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Meghan Boyle

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

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

Friday #ArtCrush: Natasha Hirt

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

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

Who or what are your main photographic inspirations?

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

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

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

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

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

What drives you to work with that subject matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

What body of work are you working on right now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See Natasha’s work at the

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

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

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

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

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