OCAD U Photography Program

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Friday #ArtCrush: Naaz Niazi

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

In this series, Naaz and Morgan talk about collage as a form of image making, working as an Iranian within the Canadian context and exploring multiple identities through photography.

 

 

Who or what are your artistic inspirations?

My inspiration come from anything that makes me pause and think further about art. For example, references to  the everlasting masterpieces of architecture sites in Iran, Persian Miniature paintings, Persian textile and Persian geometric pattern have been an inspiration for me to create an art with new meaning.

I’ve recently discovered a selection of amazing art through Instagram pages such as art_psycho , love.watts, artbasel and collage_expo introduce contemporary artists and instantly update me in the world of art.

 

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

I’ve always been drawn to subject matters such as visual narrative and constructed scenery, paradoxes of culture,  magic realism and surrealism in photography. My approach to photography is explored through self-representation and performance while exploring the space between the real and unreal.

 

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Transposed 1, Digital Collage, 2017

 

What drives you to work with that subject matter?

As an Iranian-Canadian artist the ambition to share a true expressive work in themes of cultural identity was always an element of interest. My aim was to combine the traditional identity versus the modern identity and the notions of the self as an Iranian in society. I am also interested that through juxtaposition, I can offer a relationship between objects, subjects, locations and their new environment while provoking the viewer’s imagination and bringing memory to a constructed reality.

 

Do you work in any other mediums and how does that inform your work?

I’ve been drawn to create a painterly aesthetic to my photography and lithography has given me the ability to create a  texture similar to a painting. I have also worked within matte medium transfer on vellum which creates a delicate see through piece that works well with light and installation. These mediums take photography out of its 2- dimensionality and create a closer relationship between the artist and their work.

 

In Transposed (your thesis work), you have been dealing with themes as a transnational artist and straddling different identities living in Canada and being Iranian. What is your experience working as a transnational artist and how do you bring this into your work?

As an Iranian artist I dealt with duality of culture, identity, memory and nostalgia, Iwas hoping to produce a work that shares a true expression of this experience while using assemblage, juxtaposition, and manipulation to create a visual narrative that provides an open-end format to the viewer and brings a sense of experience to the audience.

 

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Transposed 2, Digital Collage, 2017

 

Working within collaging, how do you decide what different materials and images to bring into making a single image?

In my imagery I mostly use pictures I shot previously  . I believe that each image had a purpose when it was  shot , so i’m constantly looking through new and old images while developing a concept .I also look for symbolism and iconic images within the Persian culture.

 

How do you think your art practice has changed or evolved over your time at OCAD?

I am so glad that throughout my years at ocad vie experienced a  combination of mediums  . I was always interested to explore art through different mediums and am glad that I  took such multi-disciplinary  courses in painting , printmaking , digital art and video .

 

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Transposed 3, Digital Collage, 2017

 

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

I am going to continue making my art and am hoping to collaborate with more local artists and be a part of the artist community in Toronto .

 

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

I’m so thrilled to be working with so many amazing people through my journey at OCAD . Nicholas Pye have been supporting my ideas and art for the past three years .I  was lucky enough to be mentored by  April Hichox and Nick Pye in my thesis year.

Throughout my liberal courses Mark Dickinson and Gabby Moser affected me  expanding my knowledge in a critical way and their passion in teaching and learning .

 

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Untitled, Digital Collage, 2017

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To see more of Naaz’s work visit her instagram.

See Naaz’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: Nyaomi

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

In this issue, Morgan and Nyaomi talk about how to connect to people through art, the intersections of research and art, and using textiles and embroidery in image making.

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Who or what inspires your art making?
Life, Love and people. In general I love connecting with people and art allows me to do that. Through this, my understanding of life has shifted and I’m thankful for that.
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What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on? 
Since I spend a lot of time analyzing life, my subject matter tends to be about my experiences and those close to me. So it starts off really personal and I try to make it so more people can relate, not just me alone. I usually start at a place of hurt. My belief is there’s a lack of self love and this is the root of a lot of the issues we have relating to ourselves and others. To have more loving interactions and relationships, we have to unlearn negative ideologies that have been normalized.
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NS Wallpaper, 2015. Originally a scan from handwriting.

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What drives you to work on this subject matter?
Purpose. I believe that ultimately my purpose is to help others and art is my gift and vessel to do so. Art gives us a platform to inspire and stir up conversation, so I ask myself what conversations I’m trying to spark when creating. My aim is to bring awareness to what’s been repressed and present alternative perceptions.
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You work a lot with portraiture, what do you believe makes an effective and compelling portrait?
Body language. 55% of our communication is body language.
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Looking at the different works that you have done, how do you think your artistic practice has changed over time?
In past shows, all my work was photo based until 2015. More recently I’ve been creating textiles/patterns and working with fabric and embroidery.
In terms of subject matter I used to focus more on the black experience. For example Appreciation which is about black men and Preference Is Not Privilege I which is about skin and hair. This year I’ve been looking into alternative perspectives on depression, something that effects all races.
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Preference Is Not Privilege I, 2013. Digital Photography. 73×38

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You have mentioned before that research is a part of your process and how you work, how do you think research intersects with the art work you produce? 

Yes, Research is huge for me – it’s what grounds my work. However my research is not books and essays alone. I learn from fellow artists’ (singers/songwriters, screenwriters, all visual artists), conversations, and my experiences, etc. I am a student of life so I’m taking what I’m learning and expressing it visually. I start off with a topic, research it to understand it better, then share my understanding though art to have more conversations and shared learning.

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Do you see your research and art separate or as intersecting elements?

Intersecting. Especially this year. I’ve learned so much about depression and myself while creating which  has informed the work. So the art making became a part of my research, it is a beautiful exchange. As a result the meaning of the work has shifted. And I am okay with that.

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Rosa Seca, 2015. Embroidery. 10″ hoop.

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Where do you see your career path going and who would you most like to work with?
I see myself becoming a full time artist connecting with like minded people to learn, grow, create and share.
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How do you think your personal life has affected the kind of art work you want to make?
It is the biggest influence. All my work stems from a personal place.
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Appreciation, 2013, Digital Photography, 73″ x 38″ 
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Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?

Betty Julian!!! She reminded me to think critically about what I was doing. For clarification, she didn’t teach me to be hard on myself (that’s all me) but I knew not to come to her critiques with insincere work and contrived explanations. My art practice became stronger after Betty’s Current Practice class, so I always tried to be in her classes.

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

Be open minded. We can learn a lot from each other when we let go of our egos. But know yourself. What is it you want to communicate with your art? Don’t be easily swayed by what others are saying and doing. Remember your truth.

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To view more of Nyaomi’s work visit her website or check her out on instagram

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See Nyaomi’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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