Just about a year ago Jocelyn Keays and Alexandra Barlow got this idea.

Recently graduated from photo school (SPAO) they wondered what was going to replace the intensity and focus that that kind of environment engenders. And where would they find community? They decided to create their own intensity and focus.

Thus was OPAL Community born.

The Ottawa Photography and Art Label would, they decided, create and print a magazine/book hybrid that showcased local (Kapital City) artists. A celebration.

Covers: OPAL Nº 1 and Nº 2

The scope was Ottawa-centric because of limited resources . . . they had $300 and no real experience with this kind of endeavour. All they had was desire and the faith to take a leap.

In June, 2018, they did a soft launch (social media) and a rudimentary website was created. (They intend to expand the scope of their site, which I hope happens because there’s nothing like the power and reach of print and digital combined in one cause.)

They asked for Ottawa-based artists to submit and thirty-one artists answered the call. From these Jocelyn and Alexandra chose 26 (mainly photographers, but also artists who use other media) and printed 125 copies of OPAL Issue Nº 1.

Andrew Macartney
Aimee Campeau

The official launch of the printed publication took place October last year at Bar Robo. Jocelyn and Alexandra had no idea what would happen. Would people come? What kind of support would they get? Would traditionally stingy Ottawans actually spend money on a publication such as this? They were about to find out.

Well, the place was packed and the issues sold out. It would seem OPAL had struck a nerve, fulfilled some missing link in the Kapital City Arts Scene.

Buoyed by the support, and with the first issue experience under their belt, OPAL took a bit of a breather and then got right back in the saddle. Let’s begin to think about the second issue. Let’s expand our scope. Let’s be more ambitious. Let’s continue to not charge any entry fees. Let’s see what happens the next time.

Hannah Evans
William Lalonde

They rethought and rejigged their social media strategy, figured out a way to extend its reach beyond Kapital City borders. And it worked. Their next call for submissions brought in over 200, with more than 80 coming from places other than Ottawa. From these submissions Jocelyn and Alexandra chose 48 artists and produced OPAL Issue Nº 2.

The launch of Issue Nº 2 is happening at The Ottawa Art Gallery this coming Thursday, June 6th. Accompanying this will be a show featuring 9 of the artists whose work is in the issue. (Full disclosure: I have some work in the publication, as well as on the wall.)

The image I’ll be showing at the launch. Seen in my back room.

The publication has beautiful, clean, design. Nothing fancy or trendy here, instead the selected works are given room to breath and to be. Some artists are represented by a single image, others have spreads. Scattered throughout are quotes from famous artists, writers and philosophers as well as a sprinkling of statements from some of the included artists. It’s the type of publication that encourages you to sit, slowly turn the pages, look and wonder.

My one beef is that the publishers/curators include their own work. I can’t help but see that as a conflict of interest, one that may cause some friction as they seek to move their endeavour forward.

Maegan Beck

Having said that, it will be interesting to see how OPAL evolves, and to see how the local scene reacts to OPAL’s more global-based focus.

I wish Jocelyn and Alexandra all success because, if you ask me, this is what Kapital City needs: people who are actively looking beyond this city’s limits, people who embrace larger possibilities.

Issue Nº 2 launch
OPAL Instagram (recommended for its human approach, its inspirator qualities, and to be notified about the next call for submissions.)
Jocelyn Keays
Alexandra Barlow
Ottawa Art Gallery


June 6th, 1944, Operation Overlord, better known as D-Day, began.

Exactly 75 years later Leslie Hossack will be showing the photographs she made in response to that event, and launching H-Hour, her book of those images (plus essays, etc.), at Studio Sixty Six, in Ottawa.

Leslie has been studying and photographing aspects of WW ll for more than a decade, looking at it through a peripheral lens: National Socialist architecture, the internment of Japanese-Canadians, Winston Churchill, and so on.

Her approach, always rigorous, has both remained the same (cool, calm collections that show the architecture), and expanded (non-architectural artifacts) over the time she has been approaching this subject.

This show (and book) should be on your list of photography to see. Details here.

Author: Tony Fouhse

Tony is an Ottawa-based photographer.