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2008 Jan
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Charles Taylor / Barbara Goss / Leigh Nunan / Evan Wargon / Andréanne Germain

Installations in Audio / Sculpture / Video / Photography

March 1 to 14, 2008


587A College Street, Toronto
Opening Thursday, March 6, 2008, 7pm onward

Through various media, Charles' work is an attempt to unify the bestial, the rational, and the angelic in the human. In his installation for Material Projections, sounds of the artist's breathing are layered to create a rhythmic soundscape which contrasts with a dreamy video loop.

Barbara is an installation artist interested in the spaces created by the objects within them. Her current work addresses the spaces implied by the intersection of straight lines and curves. The human body's interaction with such spaces creates a longing for the whirling movement of the circle. This series was inspired by the round walls of a Mongolian ger (yurt).

Leigh is a filmmaker and video artist. In this video installation she explores the experiences of physical and of verbal intercourse through both form and content. The piece is intensely personal and challenges both artist and viewer to look past their conscious persona and confront the reality of their animal selves.

Evan is a filmmaker and performance artist who is deeply concerned with power relations and the political economy of images. His past works have dealt with the human body and its transformations arising from context, as well as the moral implications of (and tacit endorsement inherent in) the voyeuristic act. His present work, concerning the attempt to apply a personal, subjective ideology to an alien culture, is his first performance piece involving bodies other than his own.

Andréanne Germain is a French Canadian video artist interested in documenting the evolution of nationalism and identity within a globalized world. Her piece, a tactile recreation of a man's chest, explores how the concept of male physical beauty is reliant upon cultural experience.

Exhibition Supported by the RYERSON STUDENTS' UNION
Reception Sponsored by THE SWEET POTATO Organic Market


Upstairs at 587A College Street, at Clinton Street, Toronto, M6J 3B3

Gallery Hours: Mon-Fri 6pm-10pm, Sat/Sun 2pm-10pm

Leigh Nunan, exhibition curator
materialprojections@gmail.com / 416-972-6064

Luke Correia-Damude, gallery director

Feb 29, 2008
Kim Taylor

Straight from the Camera
It's a Project Dammit

Kim Taylor : straight from the camera (crop)

I worry sometimes if it's just a lack of imagination that keeps me coming back to certain themes, like ropes or colour. OK I know part of the problem is that my categories are way too broad, after all if you shoot in colour you're doing "colour" and there are almost as many things to do with rope as there are models but still...

My defense is that "it's a project" and that's OK. One day I may actually get around to collecting some of these projects and doing something with them. Then I'll see just how far overboard I've gone. In the meantime the idea is to keep working into new ideas and new ways to approach the same theme.

Of course I could always declare it my "style" and be done with it.

Hey, there's only one orientation/rotation that shot doesn't work, and it's not the one I thought it would be.

So, your assignment here is to decide if seeing the shot above will bias you away from seeing the correct orientation of the shot as "normal".

Now look below.

Here's another question, is it the model or the other cues in the shot that tell you which way is "up".

Kim Taylor : Straight from the camera, crop Kim Taylor : straight from the camera, crop
Kim Taylor : straight from the camera, crop
Kim Taylor : straight from the camera, crop

I see lower right as the only one that doesn't work, while I assumed that upper right would be the one I didn't believe. To my eye and brain having the model balanced on a bent piece of yellow rebar seems more plausible than having her head down. Upper left is perfectly acceptable to my brain since the model is upright, never mind that the fan that blows her hair straight out from her head also has to be strong enough to blow the ropes tight.

Looking at that set of shots in a square I notice something else, I started us off with the upright orientation and the direction the model is looking, along with clocks, pretty much dictates that we'll see the real orientation last. This may also serve to confuse the issue, I just asked my son and his friend to tell me which was the way I took the shot and they took a very long time to figure it out.

A final point, check out upper and lower left, notice how the tension in the model's body changes depending on which you're looking at. I assume in lower left that she's using a lot of strength to hold her body straight like that so I see a lot of tension. On the other hand, upper left tells me that this girl amazes me, for the amount of strength she must be using, (along with the two hours sleep she had) that pose is remarkably relaxed.

Which only tells me one more time that the model has a lot more to do with the success of a shot than I do.

Here's my Kodak-like slogan for today: "I push the button, you do the rest"

Feb 28, 2008
Photo Educators' Forum 2008
Friday, May 2 & Saturday, May 3
Ryerson University, Toronto


This is the 15th year of the Photo Educators' Forum, a popular two day conference for photo educators and student teachers. Organized by volunteer teachers, the conference is dedicated to the promotion of education in photography and related media. The two days include a broad selection of workshops offering application for the teacher in the classroom as well as the teacher as artist.

Friday, May 2
Brian Storm
President of MediaStorm

Saturday, May 3
Alison Nordström
Curator of Photographs, George Eastman House, Rochester, New York

Registration Fee: $295.00, both days - $195.00, one day
Special Student Rate: $195.00 - $135.00
(full time post secondary student)

For complete Forum details and Registration info: www.photoeducators.ca

For inquiries please contact:
John Panjer
416-395-3824 x20137


Feb 28, 2008

Paper Shadows
Photo Installation by Joan Kaufman

February 27- March 22
Gallery hours:Wednesday-Saturday, 12-5pm
Opening Reception:Saturday, March 1, 2-5pm

".....from beekeepers to parachutists; from suicide bombers to surfers; from airliners to blackbirds, Paper Shadows plays a visual riff on contemporary hopes and fears. Held together by a simmering underbelly of disaster that floats just below the surface, the images are both instructive and darkly amusing. They are also just paper shadows."

Kaufman's work embodies aspects of sculpture, film-based photography, and digital media. She works in series producing large format black and white photo-based images that blur the boundaries between illusion and reality. By creating constructed realities her images are experienced as moments suspended in a larger unfolding narrative.

A Toronto-based artist, Kaufman has exhibited both nationally and internationally in public and artist-run galleries; is the recipient of Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council and Manitoba Arts Council grants; and has works in both public and private collections. See www.joankaufman.com for more information.

The Red Head Gallery
401 Richmond St. West, Suite 115

416 504 5654

Feb 28, 2008

In the Quiet: exhibits a preview of Rick O’Brien’s ongoing study Portrait of a City documenting the stories of the everyday objects so commonly unnoticed. His portfolio pays homage to the largely forgotten medium of black and white film photography. Being shot In the Quiet of night, O’Brien shows his respect for and mastery of the medium’s delicate relationship with light. As a result, the collection of work captures those fleeting moments when our everyday mundane exudes brilliance before again being lost in our daily backdrop.

Exhibit Runs from Feb 29th – Mar 14th.

Opening reception Friday Feb 29th – 7-12pmArtist will be in attendance. Live jazz will accompany the opening reception.


The Cryptic Canvas

For more information visit our website at www.thecrypticcanvas.ca.

Gallery Location: 8 Waterloo Terrace, Toronto (King & Bathurst)
(Waterloo is located at 624 King Street West)

Hours of Operation: Tuesday – Friday 11-5, Saturday 11-4, Sunday 12-3

Media Contact: Ash Butti, Director 416.703.0379

Feb 28, 2008

Isabelle Hayeur, Si jamais la mer, 1998, digital video, 5:20

Si jamais la mer reveals a paradoxical space, a hypothetical landscape. Into this strange environment sand pits change into sand bars, for a moment the desert becomes a shore. Vanishing visions, glimpses, mirages our regard is confused, submerged. These fictive spaces witness our common taste for grandiose and remind this universe of spectacle induced by the media.

Born in 1969, Isabelle Hayeur, lives and works in Montreal. She completed a BFA in 1996 and a MFA in 2002 at Université du Québec à Montréal. Since the late 1990s, she has been known for her large-format digital montages, while she also produced several videos, site-specific installations and a few net art works.


Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain
372, Ste-Catherine Ouest #216
Montréal QC H3B 1A2
tél: 514-395-6032
fax: 514-395-1299
Feb 28, 2008
Kim Taylor

Straight from the Camera
Sometimes Simple, Sometimes Not.

Kim Taylor : Straight from the Camera
Beam me up?

Sometimes you make it complicated, like the shot above which is one of my "no photographer" shots, involving a point and shoot, a digital projector, a speedo with a snoot, and a model who, apparently, can vibrate really fast.

Below is a shot we grabbed using natural light while I was making the photo for the projection above.

Kim Taylor: straight from the camera

And then of course there's the shot we were going for in the first place.

Kim Taylor : straight from the camera

Just keep throwing it all in there and something will turn up. As one fellow once told me, even a blind monkey can find a banana once in a while.

Feb 26, 2008


Elora Centre for the Arts – Minarovich Gallery

Julie René de Cotret
A Material Mélange of Comfort, Style and Violence

This exhibition is a physical reflection of our man made world. This exhibition is a sculptural installation, featuring a re-constructed environment and offering the viewer a re-interpretative perspective of our World. Julie René de Cotret uses process to inform her work conceptually. She utilizes common objects, images and techniques to reference everyday life. The process which these “things” are subjected to, is one of material and conceptual deconstruction.

The opening reception for A Material Mélange of Comfort, Style and Violence is 7:30 p.m., Thursday, February 28, and runs until April 6, 2008. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and weekends from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Elora Centre for the Arts
75 Melville Street, Elora, Ontario N0B 1S0
T: 519.846.9698
F: 519.846.0996



Feb 26, 2008
Kim Taylor
My Official Soundtrack

You may have noticed the link to folkradio.co.uk up there, that's now the official soundtrack of the 180 editor's blog. I've been listening for a couple of days and haven't got bored yet so if folk is your thing, check it out.

Feb 25, 2008
Lisa Klaptock, Picture 5-Toronto (detail), 2007, Digital C-Print

JESSICA BRADLEY ART + PROJECTS is pleased to present Depiction, Lisa Klapstock’s second solo exhibition at the gallery, February 28 to March 29, 2008.

Opening reception, Wednesday February 27, 7 to 9 PM

With Depiction, Lisa Klapstock continues to explore the relationship between photographic depiction and visual perception. These photographs use depth of field to investigate the fragmented nature of human vision and the artifice of pictorial construction. The pictures slow down the eyes’ movement, making the viewer conscious of the way we see. Klapstock’s attention to quotidian detail reveals the seasonal lush vegetation found on ordinary urban streets. The first works from the ongoing series Depiction were featured by Rick Rhodes, editor of Canadian Art, in The News at 5 at the Toronto International Art Fair 2006.

Born in Kamloops, British Columbia, Klapstock lives and works in Toronto where she first became known for her photographic exploration of downtown alleys (Living Room and Threshold series 2000-2004). In her 2003-2005 series, Ambiguous Landscapes, finding her subject matter in Canada and abroad, the artist created views of the figure in undetermined spaces. These pieces confounded the viewer’s sense of depth and distance, often with the effect of transforming the familiar into an abstract painterly plane.

Klapstock has been invited to residencies in Holland, Finland, and Denmark, subsequently showing her work in these countries, and across Canada. Currently her work is in a two-person show with Paulette Phillips at the Centre Culturel Canadien, Paris. In 2006, Klapstock's full colour hardcover book Liminal published by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery, and the Kamloops Art Gallery, was released in conjunction with a national touring show of her work. This publication is an exploration of the artist's oeuvre of the past decade.

1450 Dundas Street West
Toronto M6H 2W3

Gallery hours: Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 5 PM,
or by appointment

Feb 25, 2008
Kim Taylor
Critical Writing

Critical writing can be amazingly dense sometimes. I'm reading Thirteen Essays on Photography (Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography 1990) and as with much of "serious" writing it's a hard slog. I used to have the drive to rip into this stuff in order to get to the undoubtedly deep and meaningful information hidden inside the prose but now that I'm much older with a lot less time to spend on this stuff I am beginning to think it's just bad writing.

If I can't get the point... no, if you can't make your point in three or four paragraphs of clear writing, I'm out of there.

A lot of photography out there is the same way, I don't mind reading a paragraph to explain what's going on but if a shot needs an essay just write the essay and forget the photograph.

Feb 24, 2008

Toronto Image Works Gallery is proud to present: Re-creational Spaces by Montreal artist Jessica Auer.

"My compulsion to see and understand places, as well as my fascination with recreation and tourism, has led me to photograph popular cultural sites in North and South America.

These images show how landscape and architecture have been preserved, restored or altered for tourism. By photographing places that have a long-lived history, as well sites that have either been recently built or severly transformed. I create my images to provoke reflection on personal experience, cultural authenticity and collective memory of specific sites.

My goal is to place the viewer in my stead and invite them to be a participant in these landscapes."

Please join us at the Opening reception on Thursday, Feb 28 from 6-8pm and meet the artist.

Toronto Image Works Gallery, 80 Spadina Avenue, Suite 207 at King Street.

Feb 24, 2008
Kim Taylor
Online Photo Sharing

Quite a few years ago I used to be on three or four photo sharing sites, this is many years before Flickr but if you're familiar with that one you know the general layout of all of them.

One I joined in 2002 was Photosig.com. While I seem to have stopped posting there about a year later in 2003 I got occasional "missing you" emails from the system and recently I put a couple of shots up.

I got spanked. Seems I did not critique other photos on the site and this is a bad thing since others are critiqueing my photos and I'm not "giving back". I explained that I wasn't really looking for critiques, that I was only posting because I was asked to, and that perhaps my shots would stimulate some thought on their own (as the comments seemed to indicate). Today I got the following comment from an administrator " If you're not submitting your photos here for critique please don't bother. Thanks."

Umm. OK no skin off my backside since it takes time to post the things and I have to be careful about where I spend that, but it reminded me of why I stopped posting to that particular site in the first place and got me thinking about critiques online and critiques in general.

First, Photosig.com. Soon after I joined the site I realized that it was a perfect example of man's ability to make anything a sport. Rather than being a place to share and view photos, with occasional discussions on the shots themselves, it became a place to accumulate "critique points" in an attempt to move up in the "most critiqued" listings. The administrators of this site, like many others, had tried to promote critiques by instituting a system whereby you accumulated points of some sort by critiquing other photos and receiving them on your own. There is even a "rating of critiques" where you can critique the critique on a helpful to unhelpful scale.

As I said, the idea soon became "get the points" rather than "learn something". Groups of participants would get together and puff each other's work, critiques became "hey great shot, please have a look at/critique my shot here" and so on. All pretty much meaningless from every point of view you could imagine so I stopped. Doesn't appear to have changed much.

So why does one join online sharing sites with critique systems? Here's what I see happening at the sites I've looked at and participated in. The vast majority of people there want to be applauded for everything they post, and get very upset if they are told their work could use some improvement. The vast majority of those who critique will not do it honestly, or don't know how to critique a work. Seems the best that can be done is "I would have put more light on that shadowed area, that area is blown out, the image is too soft..." you get the idea. As these folks go back and forth with each other you soon develop a distinct look on the site, and depending on the leaders of the site these are slightly different but ultimately inviolable. (It's interesting that each online community of whatever type ends up like any high school clique you will remember, with a few leaders and a lot of followers and each ends up having very distinct and firm ideas on whatever topic brought the group together in the first place.)

To see how this works, check out the "top photos" on any of the dozens of sites out there. After seeing the top 40 or 50 shots you can pretty much predict what the next 300 will look like.

So, not much critique except maybe a purely technical one on the level of a basic photography handbook, and a bias toward the tastes of the top folks or a simple back-patting in an effort to get some sort of points. Not very useful.

I have taught photographic workshops for a few years and still can't get myself into the whole critique thing even there. I can't think what I would say to a photograph placed into my hand except

1. What were you trying to accomplish?

2. Do you think you accomplished it?

3. What methods did you use to try to accomplish this? Perhaps you could try.....

Much more comfortable for me is a photograph along with a specific question. How can I get this effect with the lights? How does this conform to the standard compositional rules? Is this photograph likely to be thought a good fashion/abstract/whatever photograph by this specific audience?

In other words seeing a photograph without having a question along with it or without knowing what the photographer wanted to do, means that all one can say is "this photograph is close/not close to what I would do with it". Anything I'm likely to say about a photograph I see "cold" will simply encourage the author to do things more like I do them.

Not very useful.

Of course by the time any photographer learns how to ask the questions above, he's not likely to need a critique is he?

Instead I prefer to try and get students to think outside their own boxes, to experiment and get beyond the equipment and technique, to get beyond the "photo sharing site" mentality and learn how to trust their own vision. To get beyond critiques.

Feb 23, 2008
Kim Taylor
Look Behind You

I can't remember where I heard that advice first, but it's pretty good, when photographing anything take a look over your shoulder once in a while.

Lunar Eclipse, Kim Taylor

I was out with the family shooting the lunar eclipse when my son yelled "look behind you". I did and was rewarded with a view of the northern lights that I'd never seen before. There they were over the city of Guelph of all places. They lasted for about four minutes and then were gone again.

Northern Lights, Guelph : Kim Taylor

Feb 22, 2008

Open call for submissions

Gallery 133 is seeking submissions from artists currently attending or who have graduated from a Canadian post secondary institute for a commercial project. Selected pieces will be hung in a high traffic office for a period of 6 months. There are no limitations on the imagery or media; however, artwork must be able to be hung on a standard wall. Size can range anywhere from 20" x 20" to 50" x 50". All submissions may be mailed or e-mailed as jpegs to vanessa@gallery133.com.

Gallery 133
1260 Castlefield Avenue
Toronto ON M6B 1G3

Feb 22, 2008
Exhibition space

Ongoing Call To Artists:

galleryDK presents work that refers to all experiences of urban life. Photographic or photo-based work examining, but not limited to, issues of social and urban significance such as transportation, consumerism, poverty, built environments and the urban space shall be considered for exhibition. galleryDK shall be opening in May 2008 for Contact (already scheduled).

We are now programming our inaugural year and invite proposals for exhibition. Your proposal must include the following:

  1. No more than 10 images (CD, DVD or email only, jpeg at 150 dpi and no more than 800 pixels in the longest direction) of the work you intend to show or in the same aesthetic of the work planned to show.
  2. Statement of Intent outlining your rationale for the subject matter you have chosen and your photographic vision. As well as, a potential hanging plan that coherently exhibits the work as it relates to each other.
  3. Artist’s Statement and C.V.
  4. The dates you desire to have the exhibition, hanging requirements, selection of additional promotional services, S.A.S.E., and a deposit cheque of $200.00 (to be cashed only if accepted).

Please send this package attention “Programming” either to info@gallerydk.com or 1332 Queen Street West, Toronto ON M6K 1L4. You can also check our website at www.gallerydk.com/submissions for further information.

galleryDK rents 4-week shows for $1,000.00 + GST. As an artist, you will receive an opening reception, e-invites to our extensive mailing list, listing of your opening in print publications and window lettering for your show. You may also choose us to have postcards printed for an additional $125.00, or list your show in both Slate and Akimbo for an additional $225.00.

Feb 22, 2008
Kim Taylor
The Genius of Photography

I hope all sorts of folks are getting to see "The Genius of Photography", I'm watching the series now on TVOntario each Thursday evening.

Had more to say but after a morning of fighting with my newly repaired power supply on the box, I'm out the door for the weekend, so to be continued...


Well maybe not, as could be predicted I forgot what I was going to say.

Feb 15, 2008

Farheen HaQ

Thursday, February 21 to Saturday, March 22, 2008

Opening reception:
Thursday, February 21, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Farheen HaQ works with video, photo, and performance exploring the body in relation to gesture and ritual. For her exhibition Fray at Gallery TPW, HaQ presents two new video works, Homing and Remember.

A single channel video projection, Homing, follows the artist in a physical and psychological journey through vast landscapes, winding footpaths and a mysterious place of momentary congregation. With her characteristic meditative aesthetic, HaQ uses cinematic space to explore the singularity of one body amid many and the landscape as a larger body encompassing the whole. A second video triptych, Remember, intimately explores the contrast of separation and entanglement.

Born and raised in the Niagara region, Farheen HaQ now resides in Victoria, BC. HaQ has exhibited widely across North America and her work appears in the anthologies Imagining Ourselves (New World Library, 2006) and Voices of Resistance (Seal Press, 2006). She has upcoming exhibitions in London and Kingston (Ontario) and New Brunswick. For more information visit www.farheenhaq.com.

Gallery hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 12-5

Media contact:
Kim Simon
Director of Programming

56 Ossington Avenue
Toronto, ON. M6J 2Y7
p: 416.645.1066
f: 416.645.1681
Feb 15, 2008
Corkin Gallery
is pleased to announce its new exhibition



Presence of Portraits
Continuing until March 2, 2008

Presence of Portraits provides a rare opportunity to see 80 original prints by some of the greatest photographers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Showcasing images of famous writers, musicians and artists, the exhibit examines portraiture as a representation of identity, with a particular focus on the emergence of modernism in 1920s and ‘30s Europe.

Early works in the show include an 1856 portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of playwright Henry Taylor and an introspective image of Victor Hugo, 1852, made by his son Charles Hugo while exiled in Jersey. Playfully exploring unconventional representation, Dadaist and Surrealist works include Sophie Tauber Arp’s self-portrait behind her Dada head, Raoul Ubac’s mannequin portrait, a quietly poised Salvador Dali by Horst P. Horst and a grotesquely disproportioned portrait by Dora Maar, the muse of Pablo Picasso and inspiration for his Guernica.

Famous Ukrainian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, in a work by Germaine Krull, is pictured at his last concert in Monte Carlo, before leaving Europe with Toscanini and Horowitz for the Metropolitan in New York City. Described by some as the greatest string player of his time, this portrait shows an intimate, pensive Piatigorsky on the eve of his departure. Edward Weston’s striking portrait of Imogen Cunningham, the experimental self-portraits of André Kertész and the street photography of Walker Evans are all outstanding examples of modernist photography.

Mid-century American works consist of both the taste-defining fashion photography of Richard Avedon, Erwin Blumenfeld and Francesco Scavullo as well as the social documentary explorations of Nan Goldin, Diane Arbus and Lisette Model. Contemporary artists in the exhibit, including Barbara Astman and Lori Newdick, investigate issues of gender, identity and transformation that reflect upon the work of earlier women photographers, such as Claude Cahun's Portrait of Suzanne Malherbe.

For more information please visit www.corkingallery.com

Media Contact: Jayne Wilkinson, info@corkingallery.com
(416) 979-1980

Distillery District 55 Mill St., bldg 61 Toronto, ON M5A 3C4

Gallery Hours: Tues – Sat 10 – 6 Sun 12 – 5
(416) 979-1980


Feb 14, 2008
This is the Place.

Something has been bothering me for a few days now. It was a news story in the paper, a bad man had done horrible things and the story was illustrated with what looked like a Report on Business portrait. It would have been a school yearbook photo but the man was much too old so we got the "Joe Someone who has opened a new variety store" portrait. The other illustration was, wait for it, a photograph of a house from the suburbs.

I checked, it wasn't a stock image of some anonymous house, the newspaper had actually sent a photographer out to take a shot of what I presume is "the actual house this guy lived in".

So a face shot and a completely banal shot of a house with not even a car parked in the driveway. Could be a snapshot of any house in any suburb in Canada or the Northern USA (there was snow on the ground). That's what the newspaper used to illustrate this rather macabre story.

I could forgive the portrait I suppose, the man is a fugitive on another continent, but far, far from adding anything to the story itself, all that photo of the house did was distract me. Why put a photo of a house there, why send a reporter to shoot a specific house, a house that is anything but specific, it's a nothing house, the same as hundreds of thousands of other nothing houses. All you needed was to write in the story "he lived in suburbia" and you would know what this house looks like. By this time I had given up on the story and was focused entirely on this photograph. Was there not enough text to fill the paper that day? Did the editor owe the photographer some favour? Is he on commission and there was nothing else he could sell that day to feed his starving wife and kids?

Is the news world that lazy?

This is not the first photograph of a suburban house that I have seen "illustrating" a news story. It seems that most crime stories are deemed to be improved by a photograph of some anonymous-looking domicile.

Ah, there may be the answer. It wasn't an anonymous house, it was "this house". In a society where photographs of celebrities being normal human beings are more important than the films or music videos they produce, a photograph of the house of a criminal may actually be more important than one illustrating the results of their criminal deeds.

Mass murderer? Where did he live? What do his neighbours look like? Oooo he could have been my high school math teacher! And a shiver of danger runs down the spine of Mr. or Mrs. Average making them feel just a bit more alive. That's why it can't be a stock shot of just any house, it has to be the actual house the bad guy lived in, some real place in the world, "this place" that we can connect with and compare to the place that we live.

What better than a photograph to show "this place", a photograph is visual, and a shot of something "real". It's closer to reality for us than words on paper or even some quick sketch by a courtroom artist of the criminal himself. Anything that's open to interpretation moves us further away from the feeling that we could be living next door to this dangerous fellow. Photographs, those immediate impressions of real things, are not up for interpretation. They are as they are, they are "that house" and "that man" and can be nothing else. They are "real".

The murdered and other victims of crimes? Not close enough to our experience, but a house, an actual house that sheltered evil, and one that looks like it could be next to mine? I'm shivering all over again!

So, far from being the result of lazy reporting, the seemingly senseless shot of a suburban house is actually part of a brilliant news story. We all know that disaster reality sells better than real reality. Newspapers report on things that, statistically, don't happen. Things that are far from the experience of normal folk. There is a heirarchy of death, for instance. Car crashes may be the most likely way to die accidentally but the much more rare airline crash is a lot more interesting. Industrial accidents may be common but better is a gun death, even better a knife death and if we can report on a sword swinging maniac??? Wonderful!

But as we get further and further away from the real we need some hook to bring it back to the readers... maybe some proof that the sword-wielding maniac lived "right next door" in "that actual house". Rather than die by getting hit by a drunk driver, I could be stabbed by a sword!

I'm going for a sweater, the shivers are getting to me.

Feb 10, 2008
The Tyranny of Originality

The current W magazine has an article titled Can I Borrow That?: The fine line between inspiration and imitation.

The angst of course is about designers referencing (plagiarizing? copying? riffing off of?) other designers. Some columnists are apparently very upset about this trend, but I suspect they are the ones who are fairly young. Consider that you cover the shows for your first time 5 years ago, and this year along comes a collection from another designer that looks a lot like a show from your first year. It's quite a shock, that amazingly original idea from 5 years ago is being recycled by, well not even by a hack, by some first level designer.

Horrors! But wait, what do the old hands say? After all they might be old enough to recognize that the style in question was not quite new in 1972 when it first appeared to them.

Never mind the "shock of the newly retreaded" though, my concern is the underlying idea that you've got to come up with something new in the first place. Who says it has to be original and unique? For hundreds of years in the art world the idea of "schools" has been accepted, and even embraced by art history students who can use the schools to file away whole buckets full of artists. Put them in a school, describe the school and you have the artist pegged.

Somewhere along the way we've lost sight of that convenience. Maybe it's the underlying idea that if you come up with a copyright or patent you'll become rich. Maybe it's the fiction of haute couture where we assume that our dress is unique and no fear that anyone else will show up at the party with anything like it, let alone the same pattern. Neither of these assumptions take into account that most unique ideas are commonly useless, or that the amazing runway show of this month is the flavour of the week in H&M next month.

Let's face it, with 30 or 40 "fashion weeks" on every continent showing at least two seasons worth of clothing each, there aren't going to be a whole lot of new ways for the hundreds of designers to make two arms or two legs worth of clothing. Rather than railing against designers who copy someone else, it would be a lot more productive for our young fashion columnists to start arranging them into schools of design. With them sorted into smaller sub-groups there could be thousands of words spent on deciding who are the major figures and who the followers-along. Much more fun trying to compare the Japanese structuralists to the Italian draperists than restating the obvious fact that one fellow's stuff looks like another's.

Feb 9, 2008

The blogosphere is alive today with ideas on what makes a great portrait. Wonderful.

But I thought that Karsh had that nailed down with his swiping of Churchill's cigar, and that we didn't have to agonize about it any more.

I mean, every portrait is a self-portrait right? And every portrait captures the soul of your subject right? And you follow the rules.

  1. Environmental portrait: You put the chemist into a lab coat and give them an erlenmeyer flask of coloured liquid to hold.
  2. Sports portrait: That's an environmental portrait with a baseball bat.
  3. Candid portrait: Otherwise known as a snapshot?
  4. Posed portrait: Not a snapshot because the subject is now posing for the camera.
  5. Black and white character portrait: You take their cigar away while they're posing and they scowl at you.
  6. Couple portrait: Two people in the shot, usually they're getting married.
  7. Group portrait: More than two people in the shot, either lined up with their baseball bats or cleverly assorted into small groupings on ladders and planks.
  8. Big Portrait: You get the old 24" Polaroid camera out and you centre their pimply face on a white background.
  9. Big Face: Get too damned close with the big Polaroid and their noses get outrageous... then slam on that unsharp mask.
  10. The Avedon... hell this is the same as 8 and 9.

Look admit it, you either isolate the face or you stick them in whatever background you assume defines them, it's as simple as that. Neither method has any chance of telling you who they are, or who you are.

And neither needs to. We're human beings, we like looking at faces in all their glorious variations.

Today I was lucky enough to shoot this face

Kim Taylor : straight from the camera
Kim Taylor, straight from the camera

In over 40 years of shooting I haven't seen this face in my viewfinder, but today I did. First, let me state that it's possible to be in love with dozens of people at the same time, and thousands over your lifetime. With that in mind, I am going to have to confess that I'm already pretty much in love with this face, without knowing a thing about the person behind it.

Here it is. This particular shot isn't perfect, and I'm sure I won't be satisfied with any of the... wow, 852 shots I took of this girl today. I know, however, that I would be quite happy blasting away for another couple of months, trying to find a good shot of this face.

In my opinion that's a great portrait, a face that fascinates. Something that catches your attention but isn't "easy". Something that makes you work for your pay that month. Pretty is easy. Character takes a bit more time, but this fascination is something else again... What exactly, I'm damned if I know.

What I do know is that it has very little to do with capturing anyone's personality.

Feb 6, 2008

Can a painting be the result of a mistake? Chuck Close, in The Genius of Photography says that one of the differences between painting and photography is that photography can result in accidental masterpieces. This is true, there are plenty of snapshots, documentary and reportage that have achieved iconic, even artistic masterpiece status.

Is any great painting accidental in the same way? All painting is certainly the result of a great deal more intention and attention than a snapshot, but I think perhaps one can introduce a lot of chance into it. For instance the drips of Pollock, the running paint of Pat Steir, or Yves Klein's painted models throwing themselves at a canvas all result in some pretty unpredictable images, but they are all the result of planning and thought. None can ever be as unthinking or unplanned as the snapshot that becomes a masterpiece. Even the classic movie cliche of the mad artist throwing buckets of paint at a canvas implies the artist's intent to create a piece of art.

A photograph can be taken for a reason entirely other than the creation of art, and achive the status of art. Can an artist make such a thing?

Kim Taylor : straight from the camera
Straight from the Camera

This image is pretty accidental, the camera was placed without too much thought, aiming at the models, and then the lights were kicked around, eventually ending up aimed at the camera. Here you can see a couple of models and even the photographer if you look long enough. The image is made with as much chance as could be introduced, but in the quest for art, so it's not quite what we're talking about. Not quite the accidental masterpiece.

Is it even art? I'm thinking about it.

Feb 3, 2008
The Mutability of Meaning

Context counts. Whether text or image, the context will modify the meaning of any particular word, and when text and image are in close association, they will modify each other.

It's interesting how several items will come together when you're thinking about a topic. My current lunchtime reading is an essay on Canadian Prairie photography by Keith Bell in Thirteen Essays on Photography Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography 1990 wherein he talks about the use of photography to sell the Prairies to immigrants from Europe.

Photographs taken by professionals for the railroads and governments, and used in sales posters were also offered free of charge to encyclopedias and authors of books. These highly selective and perhaps misleading images, by their placement in multiple information sources beside the advertisements gained a sort of authority and truth that they may otherwise not have had. By their presence in "factual" books they acquired, through their context, a truth beyond what they deserved.

Around the same time I was listening to a radio program where in-store video cameras were being discussed. It seems a shoplifter was filmed and the film released to youtube for wide distribution. The usual discussion of privacy rights, shame and deterrance ensued but one panel member brought up the problem of images with a lack of context. He noted that when he shops with his baby he uses the baby-bag as a shopping cart and a video of him putting cans of soup into the diaper bag would, without further context, appear to prove that he's a shoplifter.

In one case context adds "untruth" and in another the lack of context does the same thing.

Stock photography seems to be a complex challenge to the idea that "photographs never lie". A stock photograph is usually a shot of something that never existed and is intended to be dropped into a context that provides it with any reality it will ever have. The businessman with briefcase jumping in the air (in reality a model in a studio) becomes the exemplar of the company's great strides forward in the annual report. The model certainly existed, as did the briefcase, but what is the "truth" of that image in isolation?

Archive photography can be just as slippery. Commercial shots taken of happy farmers in front of their machinery from Massey Harris can, on incorporation into a government archive, become examples of typical farming practices on the Prairie to be used in school textbooks.

Without context it becomes hard to determine what any photograph means. This isn't quite the case with words. Images that are essentially meaningless, but pleasing to the eye, can be created and accumulated to be put into different contexts which will then create their meaning. The only comparable situation for words that I can think of is the notebook of interesting phrases that the poet creates. "Her lips a rose petal in ice" might reside alone and barren of meaning for years until the appropriate poem is written.

But what is that phrase except an image in our minds, ready to be contextualized just like our happy, hoppy businessman? We each see that rose petal locked in ice, frozen in time, but do we all see it the same way? Write the poem and put it beside a photograph of the petal in ice and we now guide the reader/viewer toward a common and perhaps desired way of seeing the poem. Much like the carefully photographed image of a small town was used to convince the European farmer that the Canadian Prairie wasn't really miles and miles of miles and miles punctuated by six buildings calling itself a town.

Feb 1, 2008