AN INTERIOR VIEW

April last year I bought a new camera, first new one in ten or twelve years. An easy one-handed snap-shooter. The plan was to shoot random stuff and see what developed.

I haven’t done a project this open-ended since I was a young man. Back then I revelled in chaos, randomness and a devil-may-care outlook. For at least the past twenty years, though, I’ve set geographic and/or demographic parameters for myself to, you know, tone down the confusion.

Well anyway, I got off to a good start, if “good” means consistently shooting a bunch of random stuff. But after a while I got bogged down, confused, maybe even a little bit pissed off. Nothing I was doing made any sense. It didn’t add up.

There were a few fleeting moments when I thought I had caught a glimpse of what this project might be about. I put a bit of effort into sequencing some images, to see what I had been doing, but it just didn’t pan out. I couldn’t find a handle.

Then, over the holidays I said to myself, I said, Tony, have a solid look at what you’ve done so far. Pick ten that feel right, put ’em into a row, shuffle them around, reshuffle, add and subtract images, re-reshuffle, repeat as required, find the thread. Begin, goddammit.

So I did. And now, after nine months of effort and aimlessness, I think I’ve finally figured it out, realized what I’ve been working towards, where I want this to go . . .

As I mentioned above, all my previous projects were rooted, somehow, in the specific location or demographics I was photographing. But that’s not what’s important here. This project is not about any specific location or demographic, in fact it’s not about the exterior world at all. It’s an interior view.

Of course it’s all tenuous at this point, and my thinking about the way forward, about the permutations and possibilities, is very bare-bones. But my thoughts now have a foundation on which to build.

In the meantime . . . this sequence is my first glimpse at the way forward. Into the inside.

(Best viewed enlarged on a big monitor. Click the first one for the slide show.
But I know that, these days, that’s probably asking too much.)

_____

OTTAWA NOTES

DAVE HEATH- In Concert For The Silent Witness

Though best known for A Dialogue with Solitude (1965), American photographer Dave Heath (1931-2016) spent his latter years in Toronto, teaching and photographing.

His good friend, Michael Schreier, was left with the archive of colour photos Dave was working on towards the end of his life. A selection of these works will be on display at Studio Sixty Six. Opening January 9th and continuing until February 9th.

Not to be missed. All the details here.

PHOTOGRAPHY & POLITICS

Couple of things to make clear at the start . . .

I’m not talking here about the day-to-day, vernacular photography we see posted on social media. I quite like some of that and appreciate the function it fulfills. (Although some of what follows can be applied to that kind of photography, too. After all, all photographs define, somehow, some aspects of the aspirations and world view of the person who took them.)

What I am talking about are the bodies of work created and circulated by photographers who intend to situate their work within the confines of the “serious” and/or “fine art” realms of PhotoWorld™. What are their personal politics? How is it rendered in their work? Do they care? Does it matter?

So okay, with that out of the way, let me begin . . .

My view of, and interest in, photography has always skewed towards the political. And I define “politics” in photography quite broadly. It need not be, in fact often isn’t, overt. It includes informed and incisive looks at, and dissections of, the world. It might consider personal or global politics from a tempered, poetic perspective, or simply be a photographer trying to honestly define their life. (Can there be anything more political that trying to honestly define your life?)

And, it must be said that a good photograph, no matter what, contains a multitude of wonderful aspects to appreciate. What I hope to find is informed opinion and intelligence, photographs that will educate me by showing me something I haven’t thought of before. Or photographs that cause me to reconsider or expand my world view by shedding new light on something that I have thought of before.

But I also look for and analyze the politics contained in images, whether those politics were consciously embedded by the photographer or not. (And this coincides neatly with my belief that many photos are gateways to some aspect of their creators’ subconscious, to their aspirations and/or world view . . . i.e. their politics)

But (and remember I’m talking here about “serious” and “fine art” photography) . . . but a lot of photographs that are created, liked, and given blue-chip support seem to me to be nothing more than pro forma, commercial images that merely support a product. The product being the status quo.

There are, of course, a million shades of grey. I’ve seen quiet, beautiful work that is profoundly political, just as I’ve seen bold edgy work that seems nothing more than a clever way to separate money from patrons who want to appear radical (while at the same time making sure the art they buy matches their glamorous decor).

Don’t get me wrong, I know we need a certain amount of joy, distraction, and just plain beauty in our lives. And, sure, there’s no reason art can’t supply some of that.

But the embrace of anodyne photography equals a tacit acceptance of the tumult that the world (your world, my world, everyone’s world) is being subjected to these days.

Which side are you on?

OTTAWA NOTES

JUSTIN WONNACOTT STUDIO SHOW

This Friday and Saturday Justin Wonnacott will be opening his studio. You are invited to drop by, look at some photographs, have a drink and a chat. And, it must be said, chow down on some of the stellar snacks he’s been known to make.

Happening this Friday, November 29 between five and nine and on Saturday the 30th from one until about six.

Getting there is a bit tricky but will be worth the effort. This is what Justin says:

Folks are invited to a party in my studio with things to eat,
some wine and pictures on the wall.
My studio entrance is the north door at 82 Rue Hanson in

Gatineau on the second floor of La Filature .
I will leave a note on the door with my phone number to call
and I will open the door for you.
Come and see where I work. But….. If you plan to come please

RSVP in a facebook message to let me know when you are coming.
Thanks, Justin Wonnacott

REMI THERIAULT at STUDIO SIXTY SIX

Also on Friday, No Vacancy, a show of Remi Thériault‘s images of life on the road, in the clubs, and stuff, will open at Studio Sixty Six. That’s November 29th, six to nine.

BACK IN NOVEMBER

Last year I was photographing November. I had 30 or so sheets of 4×5 film and a month to do it. Vertical landscapes.

But not really just landscapes, no, I wanted the photographs to represent how November feels. Psychological. And for those of you not from here, here November is a grey, bitter month. Foreboding.

But November light and skies are something else. On the right day they encapsulate more than just November. Some primal thing . . . the end of the world, or maybe some new beginning. I reckoned this would be a kind of a riff on my last project, After the Fact.

November 10th last year . . .

And then, November sixteenth last year, there was a huge snowfall. Overnight everything turned pretty. Damn. I didn’t want pretty.

A different road, six days after the previous photo . . .

Well, I was bummed. How are you supposed to photograph bleak and grey when there’s a soft white layer covering everything? So I abandoned the project and began to think about other things.

And then what happened? I’ll tell you what happened. Another November happened. That’s what. Turns out there’s one every year.

So I loaded up some film and went out to feel the biting wind on my face and the waning sun on my back. Once again I was in my glory, out in the world feeling . . .

And then it happened again. Snow. Lots of snow. This is what the short walk to the street in front of my house looked like on November 12th . . .

But in the meantime I’ve managed to cobble together ten images that seem to get the job done. (Ten or twelve final photographs was my aim for this project). If you want to see them big click on this. (Best seen on a large monitor for all the 4×5 goodness.)

I might revisit this again next November. I might not. We’ll see . . .

___

OTTAWA NOTES

FIGUREWORKS

For those of you who like the competitive aspects of the art world, Figureworks Prize announces the big winner of their local portrait contest. Wednesday, November 10th at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, six to ten. Some photography is involved.

OPAL Issue Nº 3: launch

Local photo publication The OPAL Community launches Issue Nº 3. Featuring photography from all over. Thursday November 21st, five thirty to nine at House of Common, 11B Fairmont Avenue (around the back).