CONTINUUM

There’s this thing called the Karsh Award for Photography. It’s given out every 2 years. This is an off-year. But to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary the powers-that-be decided to ask the previous Karsh Award laureates (of which I am one) to nominate emerging Ottawa-based photographers for a group show.

The seven nominees are: Joi T. Arcand, AM Dumouchel, Leslie Hossack, Olivia Johnston, Julia Martin, Meryl McMaster and Ruth Steinberg. They will be opening Continuum, a show of their work, September 14th at the Karsh-Masson Gallery in Ottawa, curated by Melissa Rombout.

(back row, left to right) Michael Schreier, Meryl McMaster, Ruth Steinberg, AM Dumouchel, Julia Martin, Olivia Johnston, Leslie Hossack; (front row) Justin Wonnacott, Deputy Mayor Mark Taylor, Estrellita Karsh, Jerry Fielder, Melissa Rombout, Tony Fouhse

Interesting that all are women, and also notable is the range in age. The idea that one must be young to be emerging is, if you ask me, well beyond its due date.

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LESLIE HOSSACK

I nominated Leslie Hossack for the Continuum show. Here’s how she came to photography:

After retiring from my first career I bought a camera and set out to learn as much as I could; I was enthralled with the whole process. Photography is definitely my medium. It’s well suited to dealing with complex issues, and that’s what interests me. My work is research-based and continues to be driven by my fascination with the monumental events of the mid 20
th century.

East Gate, 1936 Olympic Stadium, Berlin 2010. From: BERLIN: National Socialist Architecture, 1933-1945

And here’s the thing I wrote about her work:

LESLIE HOSSACK – The Past and The Future

Some artists’ work tends to defy easy classification. Take Leslie Hossack’s photographs . . . looked at one way (on the surface) you might think, “Yes, architecture”, or, “Oh, landscape”. But upon reflection you will see that her subject matter is much more complex and encompassing than any one word (architecture, landscape) implies. If her images were to be represented as a Venn diagram, the circles might contain, amongst others, the words history, document, research, art, politics, and the thrust of her point of view lies in the area where these circles intersect.

The things she photographs, great (and minor) public buildings, monuments and views situated at the crossroads of history and public discourse, are interesting in and of themselves, but they are also stand-ins for a larger, more encompassing critique of certain aspects of 20th century history. Her photographs show us the residue of the ethos of power and, often, infamy. Her stringency (“Just the facts, ma’am”) coupled with her choice of subject, of scene and detail, elevates the work, adds implication and stance, asks us to remember and consider.

Leslie researches and tracks down her subject matter and then renders it in a plain and simple way . . . she shows us the thing in front of her camera. It is, in a way, reminiscent of the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, but with the politics more overt and the formalities of typology downplayed. Chosen and photographed in an icy, removed way, Leslie’s photographs of the past look as though they were shot in the future, after some kind of global cataclysm. They are a record of aspects of an epoch that, like the monument to Ozymandias, will surely recede, fade and crumble.
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Okay, enough of that. Here are some of Leslie’s pictures . . .

From Moscow: Stalin’s Architectural Legacy

From Kosovo: Testament

From England: Charting Churchill

You can find much more of Leslie’s work here.
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LAST WORDS ON SUBURB

Went on the CBC radio the day of my opening. Did this interview.

View from waiting room, CBC Ottawa

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Thank you for your time

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TITLES

Been thinking about what I’m going to call the project I’m currently working on. I’ve been referring to it as The Future, but as I develop the project and my thinking about it advances, that title seems too descriptive, too prescriptive. And it has nothing to do with the fact that you (obviously) can’t photograph the future. That doesn’t matter because, after all, this project was conceived as a work of fiction. (Not that all photos aren’t some kind of fiction, but that’s a topic for another post.)

Then, out of the blue, on my way to complete some mundane chore, a new title came to me. Just like that. And so far it seems to be holding up to my scrutiny and to my ambitions for the project.

And you know what? I’m not going to tell you what it is. I will, however, show you a few pix from the project formerly known as The Future. (Click on images to enlarge.)

And thinking of this project in light of this new title has subtly shifted how I’m seeing the pictures, changed in some small way the things I’m looking for and photographing.

Funny how titles can do that, frame a thing.

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WAITING FOR A TRAIN

The photos I shot in Barrhaven last year are about to be exhibited. I’ll hype the show/opening here on drool as the show (Suburb) approaches
(Sept 8).  Today, though, I want to talk about planning, waiting and preconception (which are my least favorite ways of photographing).

One of the first times I went to Barrhaven I stumbled upon a passing train. I didn’t even know a train went through the place. (BTW, stumbling and not knowing are two of my favorite photo-taking techniques.) Anyway, I snapped a shot and kind of liked it but thought, well, trains run on schedules, why don’t I scope out the tracks, find a better spot and lay in wait, get a better shot. So I did that. A few times.

Here’s a selfie of me missing the train, and the accompanying Instagram caption:

Went to Barrhaven to photo the train going by . . . picked out the perfect spot, then, because I was kind of early, bopped around and snapped some other pix. Figured I had lots of time to get back to the spot to catch the train. Lo and behold, as I was shooting elsewhere there I heard that lonesome whistle blow in the distance. The train was early. I comfort myself by telling myself that a/ I didn’t like the light anyway and b/ there’s always another train.

Anyway, without getting bogged down in details . . .
-I eventually did catch the train.
-Twice.
-Ended up liking the first, stumbled upon, photo best.
-All the train photos ended up on the cutting-room floor.

So much for planning, waiting and preconception.

Here are the Barrhaven train shots, all out-takes, in the order I shot them. (Click on images to enlarge.)

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LONDON CALLING

I was scrounging around looking for something in the heap I call my archives (analogue archives, that is) and happened upon this little book-thing I made in 1994. (I’ve got a ton of these one-off books, all produced in different ways.) This one’s called London Calling.

It’s sorta crude. Xerox had just come out with a copier that turned B&W photos into sort of halftone images, and I was taken with that and liked the whole DYI aesthetic and that it was so cheap. I just make ’em for myself, anyway. I guess you could call it research and development or, maybe, just a pastime. 

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I welcome your comments. No vitriol please, but contrary opinions and insights are welcome.

Thank you for your time.
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