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Posts from the ‘great photographers’ Category

Stolen Childhoods

Steve McCurry’s new post on childhoods stolen by the necessities of poverty is powerful.


I still remember the weight of my jaw dropping when I first saw Manufactured Landscapes, Edward Burtynsky’s landmark photo book from 2003. I’d studied with Ed at Ryerson and knew his work but this was stuff of a different order. He’d found his calling. His photographs captured the impact of industry on the landscape, but they did so neither from a stance of celebration nor indictment. I liked that about it. There was beauty in these brute, manufacturing incursions, but much of it, they seemed to proclaim, was necessary. It would have been easier just to indict manufacturing outright with images like Uranium Tailings #12.  Yet even that image was as beautiful as it was sad.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon Songs of the Future, the AGO’s collection of over 100 like-minded photographers from the permanent collection. I was completely ignorant of our 150 year old tradition of industrial photography, blending environment, industry, landscape, wonder, beauty and design. George Hunter’s stunning dye transfer prints, in particular, foreshadow Burtynsky’s work in their balance between the impact of industry and the beauty of the landscapes despite – or perhaps more accurately – because of their presence. His high angle 1954 photo of Hamilton’s steel mills struck me for their common aesthetic and perhaps their common concerns. Here it is, above Uranium Tailings #9 by Burtynsky.

Among the works on display is a wonderful, 100 year old book that documents the paper production process in Newfoundland.  J.C.M. Hayward’s photo album for the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company includes gelatin silver prints that still glow. Here’s one of them, Pulp at Bothwood, a typical industrial photograph in that it features the equipment, stacks of the product and the thing that makes it all possible – the railway – at its focal point.

STAN DOUGLAS’ False Creek Flats is one of the more famous photos in the collection. But though it resides at the Tate and other great galleries, I don’t see how it “contrasts the transient (shipping containers) with nature, exposing Vancouver” as a “staging ground for … global trade and the film industry. ” You tell me – a disunited work or an insightful piece of art? 

Sorry, I prefer a work of art to speak for itself rather than be just one component of an idea.

Songs of the Future mostly succeeds in delivering the simple aesthetic experience I prefer.  And it’s interesting!

It’s on at the AGO until April 29, 2012

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!

A Vote for Gauri Gill

It’s almost too late, but …

I finally made my long-delayed trip to the AGO.  I’ve been reading about the Grange finalists and realized hey, the vote closes tonight and I haven’t made up my mind.

An alcove at the front of the exhibit features mini-docs of exactly five (5) minutes to each contestant. Relentlessly fair.

I have to admit to getting a little tired of artists’ statements. Half the time they have nothing to do with the work and most of the rest reveal nothing fresh about it. Sometimes they actually contradict what the artist is shooting.  Gauri Gill is a remarkable exception. Speaking about starting with reality and being informed by facts, her work shows her passion for making the invisible visible. She doesn’t have to say it. And in the photos from her series “Notes From the Desert” and “The Americans”, she does much more than that – she dignifies her invisible subjects with strength, playfulness and authenticity. In the case of “Ismat” (below) and many others, she invites them to play with self-representation.

What’s more, she returns to these out-of-the way villages to show her subjects the photos, and to engage them in discussions about them and photography. Hers is a photography of unquestionable moral responsibility. But more than that, she’s not just talking, she’s walking. She gets an A+ for Awe and then some. You can vote for her too at

The work of the other finalists, many of whom share ideas about performance, authenticity and the documentary aspect of photography, are also worth seeing. More on them on Friday. The show continues until November 27th – get out and see it!

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