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What’s it mean to exhibit at Bloomingdale’s?

I got a call from my friend Evelyn Aimis in Miami two weeks ago to let me know that my work had been included in a group show at Bloomies in Coral Gables. Huh? I’ve dreamed of exhibiting everywhere. In my first year at Ryerson Photo school I met André Kertesz, who was, besides my idol, the first photographer to have a one-man show at MOMA. “Ya”, I thought “MOMA. Got a nice ring to it!” But a department store? What’s that mean? Comments?

“Star Power” is included in the exhibition

Lately I’ve been discovering new ways to exhibit, distribute and market my images to the art buying public. So why not a department store? “Well”, I reply “Does anyone actually look at the art at a department store?”

“Well”, comes my retort, “they’re not there to get cultured, but they are shopping. They are actively shopping! They have credit cards in their hands. They’re in the mood to buy. And you’re selling, right?”

“Ya”, I think, “I think I get it now”.


OK, I like shooting my instamatic, my hipstamatic and my photo booth. I call it my absurdomatic. In fact I love photo booth so much I was gonna call this post “I see better with my iPad!”. But as the evidence below shows, I hear better with it too!

The clincher though is that my life actually revolves around my Canon 5D. I carry it everywhere, recording every moment and mood of my life. And I love that. I see my dreams in the world and capture them – in the city, the country and the places where city and nature intertwine. It gives me clarity and detail I can understand in a muddy world. The 5D’s full frame sensor gives me lots of data that allows me to crop where needed without giving up size.

My Canon USM 24 to 105 is awesome, though I dream of the advanced detail I’ll get with a fixed lens, like the awesome  EF 50mm f/1.2L USM. That’s high on my wish list.

Nevertheless, the optics are still great, and the image stabilization so good that I took the image below at 1/15s, propped up against an iron fence in Toledo, Spain. I sold a 24 x 36″ copy of it about eight months ago that was sharp as a tack – and not with a lot of fiddling. It’s that good.

I was a Nikon guy when I shot in analogue, so to be fair I’ll be comparing some Nikons and other cameras against my baby in upcoming posts.

We’ll see how they fare!

Osheen Harruthoonyanat at Toronto Image Works

Osheen Harruthoonyanat is a Toronto photographer who works with black and white negatives and a wide range of darkroom tools to create uniquely emotional works of art. 

This exhibition features works from two groupings: Nocturna Artificialia and Uchronie Fragments.The images are taken on 4 x 5 negatives and then manipulated using various physical tools and chemical processes. The resulting prints are huge and tactile black and whites with water marks, scratches, chemical markings & finger prints. The large still lives that make up the better part of the exhibition (from Nocturna Artificialia) are very much artificial and definately nocturnal. They are gorgeous. Tulip II, Aurora (below) & Heartbeats (featuring splayed tulips, tightly structured gerberas and black peonies in turn) stand under what feels like a black, chemically induced rain.

There are echoes of other, perhaps better times in several of the pieces. Pomegranates (above), a dark sill life with a mysterious halo is very much reminiscent of a Cezanne. Renaculas, a photograph of weeping roses at a glass cafe window has a special nostalgia reminiscent of Paris at the turn of the last century, and perhaps a bit of Edward Steichen.

Tulip is my favourite.  The shadows of its stamens stand up against brightly streaked petals, It’s open, sensuous and inviting.

Four layered negative prints from Uchronie Fragments round out the show. If you’ve clicked on the link on the word Uchronie and been to wikipedia to look up uchronie as I have, it’s easy to see what we’re looking at: Overlapping imagery harkening back to a more perfect time when human relationships had solemnity and grace.

Transference features two men shaking hands, their heads bowed in deference. Not a very 2011 scene, but perhaps what another 2011 might have felt like if we hadn’t slipped down the road we’re on.

In passing features five women passing something to one other, each in turn. These are actually layered photos of the same two women. Their overlapping dresses in themselves suggestive of a parallel history.

Multiverse is a scene of two men standing in expectation in a darkened theatre. Something important is about to happen.

My favourite is Ceremony. Shot from the rear, three men seemingly face the eternal in what must be a funeral. The man on the right stands stiffly – at military attention – while a boy looks away to the side. So poignant.

The exhibit, at 80 Spadina Avenue, has been held over until  Nov 26

Don’t miss it!

Childhood Lost On Queen St W

Here are some astonishing images I took on last Sunday’s walkabout at Missdemeanors, Fashion Crimes’ children’s wing. I call them Product Girl, (top) and Product Girl2. They fit neatly into my long term project Product Man, which examines my reaction to the commercialization of everything. Does anyone else have a problem with sexualizing tiny tots this way? I recall this sort of dress code coming into popularity when my daughter was six.  One of the girls in her cohort got up with the grade one choir in three inch heels, a miniskirt and makeup. Stage parents I thought. But as we watched the 20th century slide into history, so it seems did innocence and common sense. These photos document that loss of childhood. Sadly.

But the day wasn’t all bad. I was on Queen West for a walkabout with Jerry Meland, a book publisher of repute who wants to improve his already excellent compositional skills. Besides having a lot of fun, I introduced Jerry to aperture, shutter speed and ISO relationships, as well as those between aperture, distance and depth of field. I tried to introduce Jerry to his light meter but, alas, his D90 is built to discourage full manual control. So we developed a workaround for him to practice. Why Nikon decided to go this way is beyond me. Canon proved how easy it is to create a range of digital cameras that take a growing photographer from fully automatic to fully manual seamlessly. Full disclosure: I use a Canon EOS 5D. But as a film photographer I shot Nikons.

As I’ve already said, Jerry has taken some awesome photos in the past using either Aperture or Shutter Speed Preferred settings. Now he’ll be able to go farther with full control. This is his shot of Villa D’Este. Italy anyone?By the way, no Christian symbolism is implied by the juxtaposition of Jerry’s image with the ones above it! Have a look at some more of Jerry’s super work in our guest gallery.

The Grange Finalists

As promised earlier in the week, there’s much more to say about the Grange Prize finalists now showing at the AGO until November 27th. Check out their website to whet your appetite.

Though my vote went to Gauri Gill (below),

photographers like Nandini Valli and Elaine Stiocki are well worth seeing. Nandini Valli in particular has a set of colourful and exciting portraits that cross the line between portraiture and performance. In her work titled the “Definitive Reincarnate” she creates portraits that emphasize performance in everyday life. Looking to create images that are accessible to her audience, she works with models whom she knows personally, performing everyday emotions in the guise of familiar characters from her culture.

These beautifully imagined and executed photos, such as Seated_1 (right) capture the timelessness of human experiences as imagined within her traditions. Definitely definitive. Definitely reincarnate. She was a close, close second for my vote.

In her work with children, she playfully presents them in familiar terms – as double portraits – firstly as kids play-acting personages from Indian politics, religion and culture, and secondly as portraits of parents representing themselves through their children.

Who’s your kid going as? Indira? Mine’s gonna be Shiva (below)

Elaine Stocki is a Winnipeg photographer with a knack for grabbing raw, simple and engaging action photos. There’s a real passion in her work for the lively and the authentic. My two favourites were Balcony and Jeff, both taken in 2009


Vancouverite Althea Thalberger is the The fourth photographer in the group. Her heady work considers the portrait of groups in which she “invites subjects to develop performances that offer opportunities for self-expression”. Her work will interest those who like the mixture of art with identity, modern politics and semiotics, and so isn’t something that floors me. But the work is wonderfully done and worth seeing.

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