This post is a school assignment for my class “New Media Studio” (hey everyone). As I understand this exercise, we are to post 10 photos that we’ve taken. Next week we are presenting another photo assignment of 10 works from around our neighbourhood.
Since quite a large part of my photographic practice is specifically about where I live, so I’ve decided to present 10 works that outside of this part of my work. I’ll save the local stuff and its sordid back-story for that next assignment.
This was a difficult but a very valuable endeavour. The tight constraint of choosing 10 interesting photo works over a scope of over three years was challenging but rewarding.
For example, after reviewing so much of my work as chronical narrative, I am starting to believe my relationship with photography is as activity, performance on par with gratifications of memory and communication. Perhaps it was not an approach to create an object so much as a record of meaningful work.
I am pretty much a painter and drawer, even with a camera. Everything I do is composition and conceptual based and sacrifices any notion of being a window or representation in order to try to be interesting.
I don’t know how to use even use a proper camera and I look forward to picking up those technical skills and the chance to work with DSLRs. In the meantime, I’ve been working with my cell phones and whatever software I could hack or was free. Welcome to my digital image revolution.
This panorama is from a series of surreptitiously taken photos at a horrible place I worked at in Montreal. I had a crappy silver flip-phone with a camera. The phone OS promised the ability of composing panorama with three left to right shots. It just forced whatever three photos you took together as best it could, and I loved that. You could create some really messed up compositions by “breaking” the functionality, which is something harder to do with more recent digital camera technology. Today’s algorithms simply will not render a picture that won’t look consumer shiny and flawless. That to me is very interesting. These panoramas had to be taken in order and with a few seconds in between before the little camera phone would take a few minutes to stitch together a pale, grainy and misaligned sequence for you. It seemed to lend it self very well to the vast bland cubicle maze I was surrounded by. Problem was, at that time all phones (by law) made a sound when you took a photo. If I was caught, I would of been fired. So I figured out that if my phone was calling another phone, it would not make a sound. So I kept a speed dial number of some insurance company and proceeded to call them and have about 7 minutes before their system would hang up on me. Unfortunately, my cell signal would cause some rather dramatic interference on nearby monitors and feedback on speakers. Luckily, no one figured out it was me causing this. It was all very fun and exciting. This work is significant for me as the beginning of using a camera, subverting the technology and creating photo based collages. I did not care if it was not a high quality photo because I thought it conceptually made sense to be a low quality photo. As a painting, this work would make sense. These are my themes throughout the rest of my photo work, I think.
So I quit that job. I’m from Ottawa and spent a lot, and I mean a lot, of time driving back and forth for two hours. This time, a friend was driving so I decided to make more use of my crappy phone camera’s panorama function to take pictures of the road ahead with that horrible sun blaring. I did this as fast as that little piece of plastic would let me the whole way back. Three years ago, I came across these various photos and created a collage work. I really liked, then and now, the time based mapping of that journey. I like the idea this is as valid a landscape as any other landscape depiction. Perhaps it is even more real. I’ve done similar based work since.
An artist friend of mine, Andreanne Hudon, was having a show of her ceramic squirrel heads at a gallery in Toronto I was curating for. Being from Montreal and being a small gallery, the attendance was sparse. Since her partner was letting me take pictures with his really nice DSLR camera, I decided to stand outside and invite people in to have their portrait taken. It was fun and really interesting. Most people were ok with it. I also like the lighting I rigged up, which consisted of a filmless projector throwing light from behind the subject from the right, and she is bathed in light from the left. I think the angle of the dog’s head helps re-enforce this movement.
I scanned the well worn path up the side of a mountain in Mexico with the panorama function of the iPhone 4s, happily stressing both its purpose and ability to render seamlessly. It is important to me at this point that my work is entirely captured, rendered and output through a mobile device and on location during one session.
For me, there are several classical and contemporary themes in the work, such as: the supernatural; a formal approach to landscape; a questioning of political / social issues involving digital topographical mapping; a spiritual journey reflecting on death. There are many other contemplations that are evoked for me when I engage the work, and hopefully there will be for the viewer as well.
I enjoy the compositions of the shadows and the rocks, as well as the idea of a digital shadow cast on real objects through a challenging process of documentation for both the tools and the artist. The stresses of this effort on the image and the human traces archived in the process are a very interesting for me.
Also in Mexico, I used my iPhone to approach the classical form of still life with skull. I quickly realized that this was giving me the wide and flat yet close scrutiny of the surface I wanted. I only had my mobile device. What to do? Well, I realized I could take a series of photos of the skull in sequence of a 4×4 format, starting with the upper left corner, and it would appear as a grid in the thumbnail preview of the phone. Simply screen capture that, treat with some photo apps and I was creating rich collage works. This work appeared in an exhibit I had last summer on James Street. Oh, and this work is about death. Notice the flowers under the white plastic and highlighted about the shadows?
This is another collage from the same series, but using the source photos and composed later on my PC in Canada. It was exhibited as well, and both works are five feet across.
As you can see in the previous work, I seem to like taking things apart and reassembling them in different presentations. Including landscapes and the idea of collage led to this kind of work of pulling stills from video I would take on trips and presenting them one by one. More maps of time and space. The below video is from a bus trip many would be familiar with between Hamilton and Toronto, and right through Ford Nation territory. As such, I named it “A Nation’s Official Landscape”. I like the blury smears of colour and the wiry trees and bleakness. It reflects my astonishment of the landscape of southern Ontario consisting almost entirely of suburban sprawl and highways. This is our shared ceremonial landscape and I understand if you grew up in a populous region such as this it is not unusual. But it is for me and this is my way of showing you that, I think.
I also enjoyed the wide array of consumer level photo tools available, and continued to enjoy pushing them to stressful limits both conceptually and technically. I often made work through multiple exposures, layering, as I did with this series of photos from a protest in Hamilton. I made this anon because I wanted to focus on the mass of people as a formal study of light and landscape and not political.
Here’s a recent photo that I like a lot. It stresses the technology and is an interesting formal composition to me, as the paper border is broken only by my hand and a little leak of light at the bottom left hand corner. I think I am finding placing myself as evidence of framing my own photos is theme that is emerging.
Here’s another selfie. I like messing around with as many image capture and rendering apps as I can, so I tried to capture my head with a 3D object app. The result is simply simulacrum. I really want to do a whole series of this, whole bodies in groups. Somehow so each part is something you can turn and play with.
Again, I love the idea of imperfect transportation into the digital realm. Perhaps I have Tron envy.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading the post and thanks to my classmates and Professor for being my captive audience for this artist talk. I’ll take it when I can get it.