STATUS REPORT

It had been quite a while since I’d done a portrait project, so when I finished Suburb, that’s what I decided to do: shoot some portraits. Initially I thought the project might be of/about young women. I don’t really understand them (as if I really understand anything) and one of the main reasons I initiate a project is to try to learn about the subject. So I began.

Then one of the initial images kind of knocked me for a loop. It was, nominally, a portrait, but it also seemed to be about something else. Or, to put it more accurately, it made me think something besides “portrait” or “young woman”.

click images to enlarge

So there I was with this photo that seemed to be trying to tell me something, seemed to be a signpost pointing somewhere. . . somewhere
I had no previous thought of going. But where was it pointing?

Time for a rethink.

And what I thought (and felt) was that the image reminded me somehow of the future, if you can be “reminded” of things that haven’t yet happened. For the next 5 or 6 months that was my working premise . . . to find the future. Of course, photographing the future is not possible in any literal way. But, as William Gibson says, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”.

So I began looking for and photographing slivers of the present that represent the future I was imagining. And I was imagining repression and regression, a changing climate, increasing uncertainty and fear.

Working title: The Future.

But that working title became too problematic for my tastes. It was so descriptive, too proscriptive. I was vexed. Then a new title (or, perhaps, premise) came to me, a new way of thinking about the photos I was taking, and the project morphed again. It has become more complex, more nuanced and more flexible, a (slightly) different can of worms.

What seemed to be a path forward has changed into something less defined. What that is and where it leads me is to be determined. But I’m determined to find out and looking forward to the trip. The future is unwritten.
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Thank you for your time
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NOTICE

Suburb, the exhibition, got a decent amount of notice in the local press. Great. Thanks. I appreciate it, really I do. It certainly helps to bring the
folks out to have a look at what I’ve done. It’s nice to be noticed.

Yes, there is a place for noticing, for celebration, for boosterism, but that’s really just public relations. Just (and only) noticing things sets the bar too low in terms of developing an artistic community. As well, it lends some kind of legitimacy to that which gets noticed, whether it deserves it, or not. (Whether something is deserving is an issue for another post.)

Add to this the fact that artists often frame their work for the media (and for their friends and for themselves) in the way that they, the artist themselves, want it to be seen. Of course.

But believing spin (even if its your own spin) is a mistake. It’s not up to the artist to tell people what to see in their work or to say their work is controversial or significant or a breakthrough. That must be the job of the critic and an informed audience.


And this, finally, brings me to my point:

I have long believed that the Kapital City Culture Scene™ has suffered from a paucity of informed public criticism, that the local media spends too much time noticing and not enough energy actively engaging with the work local artists present.

For sure there are institutions here, both public and private, that invest the time and the care and the emotion to present art within a critical frame work. But without critical thought engendered and brought forward through the media, without public attempts to contextualize, to analyze, to consider and, dare I say it, to educate, local artists and their audience remain at a disadvantage. And, by disadvantage, I mean settling for merely being noticed and entertained, rather than being challenged.

Don’t tell me what the poets are doing
Don’t tell me that they’re talking tough
Don’t tell me that they’re anti-social
Somehow not anti-social enough
from: Poets, by The Tragically Hip
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OVER
TIME

Time (past, present and future) is a component of my new project. But you can’t really shoot time, you can only allude to it. So one of the things I’ve been doing is, I’ve been photographing a couple of locations over the seasons.

A crude device, perhaps, when seen here consecutively. But sprinkled through a longer sequence these images have the potential to be echoes, to give a sense of deja vu, to reference the tilt of the Earth and its orbit around the Sun. Upon bumping into them over time you might wonder, where have I seen that before?

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REVIEW

Further to the bit leading this episode of drool. Peter Simpson reviews some local photo shows.

Peter used to work at The Ottawa Citizen, had a thing going there called BigBeat. He put himself about, went to see all manner of shows, thought about it and then wrote about them. He didn’t just notice, he actively pursued. A year ago or so he took the buyout, set to work on his novel, took on some other biz ventures. And in there somewhere he still manages to put himself about, go to see all manner of shows, think about it and then write about them. All this with the regular paycheque of a big media conglomerate removed.

That’s what I’m talking about.
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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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