January 2014

January 2014 solo show at Bau-Xi Photo.

B A U – X I   P H O T O
324 DUNDAS ST WEST
TORONTO, ONTARIO, M5T 1G5
TEL: 416 977 0400
EMAIL: INFO@BAU-XIPHOTO.COM

January 11, 2014 – January 25, 2014
Opening Reception, Saturday January 11, 2-4 PMVacant Retail – Concorde & Kennedy, Montreal

Montreal fascinates me. In 2014 I plan an extended trip to wander and explore. In December of 2013 I went on a short overnight trip and even in that limited time I stumbled on things I was drawn to.

Vacant Retail – Concord & Kennedy, Montreal struck me for the odd window treatment on the back wall of the space that effectively transforms a banal view of an ally, into a glimpse of Birch forest. I Street Viewed this spot in Google Maps and before it was empty it was a hardwood flooring business. The flooring here is beautiful but the pessimist in me finds the window treatment/marketing approach rather ironic. Clearly the owners are illustrating the natural forest setting in the back of store in an attempt to suggest to the consumer they would take home a bit of nature with their purchase. In truth a bit of nature was destroyed to create their flooring. I find this marketing approach similar to car companies advertising SUVs by showing them scaling mountains and crossing beautiful streams. Although my house is made of wood, we have a lot of wood furniture and I buy wood products I’m very conscious of how we exploit our environment. I’m not super hard-core but I do feel that so much of our economy is driven by “natural resources” and we are quickly depleting our inheritance of these commodities in an irresponsible way to gain our Canadian economic advantage. It’s insane that we keep doing this. Future generations will look at us and shake their heads.

I find unassuming interiors interesting. There’s a mystery to vacant spaces. I like to imagine narratives for them. I also like to think about the past and future life of a spot as well as the people that have worked or been in a particular location. I have this weird theory that everyone who’s ever been in place and every action that’s ever been perpetrated there resonates to some degree within the space forever. This is a total fabricated, personal, pseudo-science. This resonance I feel for spaces is not supernatural or mystic but imaginative and based upon a rudimentary high school science education and a lifetime of watching films and television.

This shot is taken from outside the space, through the glass window.Latter-Day Saints – Broadview, Toronto

My camera is with me everyday, everywhere I go. It sits in my bag unused most of the time, but it’s there. I also frequently take transit. In the winter I purchase a Metro Pass and I can get off and on the bus whenever I want. It’s very conducive to exploring. I’m often on the 100 Bus, north from Broadview Station to the DVP and Eglington area. I’ve taken that route for at least ten years.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Broadview is perhaps the most unassuming building you could imagine. One day while sitting on the bus I looked out the window and noticed for the 100th time a large satellite dish that was plunked in the middle of a vacant parking lot. The next day I got off the bus to take pictures. I tried very hard to capture what it was about the dish that made me think, but nothing worked. Just as I had given up, I casually looked through the window of the actual building on the site and discovered this wonderful foyer. I think this is the area just outside the worship area for the church. I shot this—like so many of my other photos over the years—through the glass widow, using available light. I wasn’t inside the space.

This is a completely functional hall. There is however something odd about the haphazardly placed, institutional furniture. The portrait of Christ is unsettling as well. I’m not quite sure why it’s been hung so far up on the wall.  Maybe the draw for me here is that this is a place of worship but unlike other Christian churches it’s remarkably understated. It lacks the typical ostentatiousness of most organized religious buildings. The floor tile is just so 80s.

It’s a large building and I imagine it only gets used on Sundays but I’ve never seen a car in the parking lot and the windows were pretty grimy. Maybe the Mormons have moved onto better real estate and this place isn’t even used anymore. I can see the church selling the place and moving out of town. I also imagine the unimaginative condos that will take this building’s place.Wire Wall – Danforth West of Pape, Toronto

I’ve shot this wall for years and it wasn’t until November of 2013 that I captured it in a way that reflected how I see it most of the time. This is close to a perfect photograph for me. I doubt it’s perfect for anyone else, and I don’t really know the exact reasons why it’s so special to me personally, but it resonates.

I think I like it so much because of the confluence of weird colours, shapes, and arbitrary line. It’s a little organic and a little messed up. The wall is the western most point of a strip of retail just east of The Holy Name Parish Church on the Danforth just west of Pape Station. The wires coming out of the wall are so old school. I can’t believe their legal. Close up they look like rope. I’ve seriously looked at this wall for years and found something neat about it. There’s a Starbucks just a little west of this that I frequent. In the summer I get espresso and sit on the steps of the church and look into this little courtyard that’s not used by anyone for anything other than maybe storage and stare at this wall.

After I took this I re-visited the site a few days later and the wires were arranged differently. My guess is that this was probably a result of the wind. I shot it again but the composition was marred by the new wire configuration. Perhaps the image above captures the wall at the most perfect point in time for me. Often the reward for consistently and repetitively looking at the same thing over and over again is that after a while it often surprises you by telling you how to look at it.

How many people pass by this wall everyday without ever looking at it? Why would you look at this wall? I think I have a healthy fascination for found art. I’m not looking for beauty, but for interest. I’m not motivated to make beautiful things, I’d like to make thoughtful things that have an interesting aesthetic sense. I hope people realise when they look at my work that I truly find my subject matter exciting and engaging, even if that excitement comes very slowly and might be slightly melancholy.Coca-Cola Entrance – Overlea, Toronto

Coca-Cola “was” on my way to work at 42 Overlea. This is the second time in 2013 that I’ve dragged myself off the bus to shoot the building. I’ve always admired the facade. It was built in a time period that I’m connected to. When I started wandering around on this particular visit I discovered that the entire place has been recently vacated, left empty, sold and is slated to be demolished and replaced with a Costco. For now however this network of buildings is directly across from the East York Town Centre.

There’s nothing spectacular about the 50′s era office, but in this quiet, inactive state I really like it. This particular shot is of the front entrance.The colour of the tiles and columns echo the carmel aspects of the signature Coke drink. The old school intercom box is a good indication that at the time this building was in service it was fairly security conscious. I’m sure Coca-Cola is a still a thriving big-business, rotting the teeth and stomachs of high school kids and helping the nation become more obese everyday. I can’t even drink the stuff anymore unless I severely water it down with soda. I use to have it for breakfast when I was a teenager.

I’m slightly bemused that I’m drawn to these type of places day after day. They always have something of an institutional feel about them that’s sort of creepy.

I went by the offices and factory a few weeks after this photograph was taken and the entire complex is now surrounded by a temporary fence signalling that the demolition will soon begin. I would really like to get in this place now and shoot all the empty rooms and offices before they’re gone. How the heck I would arrange that I’m just not sure. I wouldn’t know where to start.

As of January 2nd the factory building has started to come down.Vacant Retail – Yonge & Davisville, Toronto

This business has closed and the entire block at this intersection has sold to make way for condos. This is just north of the north east corner of Yonge and Davisville. The building is on the corner of Yonge and Millwood. Just south of this place is another huge empty retail place that was an LCBO. I find it strange that any LCBO in this neighbourhood would close.

There is a lot of mauve here. The space also feels like a financial institution on the exterior. It’s very TD-Canada Trust looking. It’s also been empty for a very long time. The Google Street View image doesn’t give anything away, but you can definitely see it was a bank at one time from those images. There’s a night deposit door at the back of the building.

These shots are about the past. For me they’re a remembrance of what a space was, as well they serve as a sort of tribute to that past because they document unremarkable places before they cease to exist. I’m drawn to the grid pattern of interior space that’s delineated by wall and ceiling. I’m also interested in the idea of stasis. That odd purgatory that buildings exist in after they’ve been used and before they are transformed into something else. There’s a nostalgia here along with a little bit of ghost hunting.

It’s also about my process. I shot this same interior five or six years ago and got nothing out of it that I liked. I don’t even remember if those images depicted the same interior. My eye has changed and my aesthetic has definitely changed. I’m interested in different things now. It’s neat to think this place has been visited by me at different times in it’s vacancy.South West Cloverleaf – DVP & Eglington, Toronto

South West Cloverleaf – DVP & Eglington, Toronto is a photograph of the pseudo-park land inside one of the four highway cloverleafs at DVP and Eglington. It could be of any cloverleaf in any city. I love the colours and the weird pastoral nature of these images. For the last few years I’ve thought about locations like this and how they exist in every culture all over the world. I think about the inexhaustible subject matter. It’s park land where nobody ever goes. I imagine these spots as my own private places and wander around in the knee high grass quite frequently.

The word oasis comes to mind. These spots are teaming with wildlife and with the exception of the outermost edges are completely devoid of people and garbage. I think that’s just because nobody ever thinks of them as public space. Maybe you’re not even allowed to be inside these area, but it certainly doesn’t say that anywhere.

If you look closely in the top left hand side of the frame you can see an apartment building poking through the leaves of the Russian Olive. It’s a long way away from the clover leaf but it’s still present in this shot. If I remember correctly these areas are frequently planted with Russian Olives because they are extremely hearty and resistant to salt damage.

The majority of my work is absent of people but almost always indicative of the hand of mankind. There may be nobody in the frame, but there was, and the empty spaces echo and are tied directly to that humanity. I feel however that there’s always someone present. I may not be in the actual photograph but I’m pressing the shutter release and although I’m out of the frame, I’m there. I’m there in every photograph I take.Door Frames – Laird, Toronto

On Laird there has been a lot of development to service the suburban/urban area that makes up Leaside and Overlea. I despise  most of this as bad development. But I’m spoiled by my Dundas West neighbourhood. This whole strip is quickly turning into one parking lot after another, offering nothing but generic products and services of mediocre quality for a community of convenience. I don’t live in this are though and maybe that’s a pessimists view of things. I’m sure 90% of the residents love this stuff. It’s just not for me.

Before the transition happens completely the west side of Overlea has remained relatively untouched. It’s still home to lots of businesses that focus on the automobile, and some weird old school looking light-industrial. The space shown here was attached to an old school indoor carwash wash.

The simple, virtually black & white look that the space has and it’s slightly tired and imperfect construction are interesting. I also like the odd placement of the door and the window frame leaning against the side-wall. These object contrast wonderfully with the whiteness that surrounds them. I’m not quite sure why, but I find this image very mysterious and somewhat otherworldly. To me it’s as if the frames are placed against the wall for some specific unknown and somewhat fantastical purpose rather than simply placed there for storage.

Time Travel.Cinder Wall – James North, Hamilton

I grew up in Burlington and visited my Grandmother in Hamilton every weekend for a couple of years when I was pre-teen. I worked in Hamilton in my late-teens as an actor. I ended up living in the city for most of my 20s. I like the Hamilton, I’m comfortable in the city.

They must show movies on this wall in the summer. It’s simply perfect for that purpose. I imagine a film of the wall itself shot with a hand held camera and projected in such a way that every now and then the film and the blocks line up, but most of the time it would simply make the surface of the wall seem unstable.Empty Gallery – Granville South of 14th, Vancouver

While in British Columbia —for the opening of my summer show at Bau-Xi Gallery on Granville in Vancouver—I wandered around a bit during breaks from sitting in the gallery and found this place. It was two doors south of Bau-Xi. At first I thought maybe it had gone out of business but I looked it up on the all powerful internet and determined The Winsor Gallery simply moved to 258 East First Avenue. They left this behind for me.

One of the first Toronto photographs I printed and framed was of an empty gallery space on Queen West near Roncesvalles. In the ten years or so since then I’ve shot other empty gallery spaces but none have been quite as wonderful as this one. It’s so very simple and so spectacularly lit by the sun filtering in from behind me as I shot thorough the glass of the front door. I picture these images as a series somewhere down the line even if I only currently have three or four images I like.

These are about the nature of gallery space, the neighbourhoods they are in and the narrative that can be imagined by observing the empty space. The first space I shot like this was a springboard for dreaming about showing and it had a great deal to do with me getting my first show. This shot of Granville makes me think of the possibilities for the space, not just as a gallery for traditional forms of art but as a space for performance or something. I’d love to create a film and show it on this “screen” just to see the odd passerby get sucked into watching.

I think about an old desk with piles of faded paper and an old man moving things around.Stairs – Ferrand, Toronto

The office tower beside the one that I work in got some new concrete steps in October. I stumbled upon the old old demolished steps when I was out wandering around looking for things to photograph. We have a common parking lot and it’s huge. This was in a back corner. I found this pile of old steps funny.Bentley – Dupont West of Christie, Toronto

This was taken through the window of a building in the parking lot of Grand Touring Automobiles. Situated between the car dealership and the Faema building at the corner of Dupont and Christie is this beautiful historic building that looks like it may have been a schoolhouse. I’m not sure what it actually was before the dealership co-opted it, but it certainly looks turn of the century. Grand Touring now uses it for storage. There’s nothing in it except for a desk and some advertising posters/paintings of cars. This is a view through the east window looking across through the interior space. You can see the dealership through the far window. The painting of the Bentley on the floor grabs the artificial light from the ceiling above nicely.

I like this image, but I am extremely indifferent to cars, and even more suspect of luxury cars and what they say and represent about society. They are definitely useful to get from point A to point B, but they’re so over-used and to me they embody a lot of what’s wrong with the world. Particularly; pollution, war for oil, arrogance, superiority, embarrassing aspects of masculinity, immaturity, status and power.

All of the images for the January show were shot in 2013. I hand hold a Canon 5D Mark II, with a 17-35 mm L series lens. All are shot with available light and the majority are things I pass by ever day, but for this series there are photographs of Vancouver, Montreal and Hamilton that were taken while visiting. It makes me think it would be nice to do residences in other cities and over the course of a month shoot those cities.

The digital files from the Canon full frame camera are then processed in photoshop where typically I apply a small “S’ shaped curve, increase the exposure slightly and sharpen. I’ll also take that time to remove any dust spots that may be on the camera sensor. I also find the Canon sensor slightly less vivid than actual life and saturate each image slightly to capture what I saw.

Everything is printed 36″ x 36″ at Toronto Image Works on their Bulk Printer, then mounted on Archival Gator Board at AGS here in the city and final framed by Kyle at Bau-Xi Photo.

I have never been inside the six interior locations. For these shots I very roughly clean the glass of the door or window I’m shooting through, press my lens against the glass and cover the area of the window around the lens with a large cloth and shoot. Typically these are shot using slow shutter speeds and mid range apertures and I never really move my camera off 200 ISO. The window acts like a tripod to steady the camera. In these shots the grain noise can frequently be seen in the images because the lighting tends to be very subdued, and the shutter speeds so long.

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Wandering Toronto

Wandering – January 12 – 26th, Bau-Xi Photo, 324 Dundas Street West, Toronto. Directly across from the AGO.

Artist in Attendance: January 12, 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. After that I can arrange to be at the gallery by appointment over the 2 week run. If you want to see the work prior to the opening or the exhibition dates please contact Rosie Prata or Julie Piotrowski at Bau-Xi Photo via e-mail at info@bau-xiphoto.com or by calling 416-977-0400.

The Bau-Xi Photo exhibition catalogue can be viewed by clicking here. Prices can be seen online at Bau-Xi Photo.

Descriptions and a brief explanation of how each photo happened can be found here.

Wandering is the personification of an ongoing love affair with urbanity in all its glory. With this series of images – shot in downtown Toronto – the artist continues to explore our relationship with the utilitarian by manipulating the context in which we see it and by protracting our interaction with it. Wandering: File under formalism, minimalism, found art, photography, math, OCD, hiking, humour, and colour.

If you’re interested in attending the opening there’s a Facebook event page with more info.

The following is an interview I did with Chris Shepherd about the show.

Opening – Dundas West Roncesvalles

Q. Wandering – what’s the significance of the title?
A. Wandering is what I do. I wander the city endlessly and take pictures. I visit places over and over again to do this, often returning to locations that resonate with me year after year after year. Wandering relaxes me and allows me to familiarize myself with a specific setting. It’s also an amazing way to find things. You can’t do that in a car or on a bicycle. I explore when I walk. Walking also slows things down incredibly and gives me time to think. After a while I see differently and I’m more likely to notice the subtleties of a location and hopefully I’m able to capture them in a way that means something to me. Typically this process takes a few days to happen. It’s why most of my work is focused in Toronto. When I travel anywhere else it’s hard to get into that state of familiarity to achieve the same thing. I consider myself a pedestrian first and foremost. There’s a great French noun that seems relevant– flâneur– it comes from the verb flâner meaning “to stroll”. The wiki definition of that term is fascinating. I also really like the term urban pastoral to describe the images in this series.

From a different angle Wandering reflects my recent mental state. Lately I’ve been wandering from my art practice and into middle age. Wandering describes the somewhat confounding mental shift I’ve experienced in my photographic practice. I’m constantly thinking of projects but they’re increasingly more photo-based than traditional photographs. I conceptualize but I don’t execute. Wandering is rooted in a weird atmospheric mix of indecision and uncertainty. This exhibition was a journey and was challenging to produce psychologically. In the end I allowed myself to wander away from the rigid conceptualization and overall themes that I’ve fixated on over the past five years to arrive at the body of this work.

Electrical Panel – Bohemian Embassy Queen Street

Q. Where does this infatuation with pedestrian banality originate?
A. I like terms like banality, boredom, and pedestrian. I don’t associate them with the negative that others tend to instill them with. I’m an observer, and instead of observing the spectacular or the sublime I find interest in the everyday. There are enough people looking at the extraordinary. It took years to write my tiny artistic statement and I think it’s pretty funny that when distilled to the very core that statement becomes my Twitter description; “I enjoy looking at things that other people are not that interested in”. I have to slightly qualify that by saying “I enjoy looking at things that the majority of people don’t find interesting”. Out of the billions of people in the world there’s probably a few million who see the word in a similar way and for whom my work might resonate.

Hydro Pole – Don Valley Pathway

Q. Where are the people?
A. People interest me as a vehicle for my art to be viewed and in direct relation to it and not as a subject matter for it. Besides, I’m not that good at thinking about people in the context of my aesthetic right now. Maybe that will change, but for now I’m drawn to solitude and contemplation. The potential for people. It’s hard to express yourself and your interests honestly with others around. My interest lies in the serenity and the solitude I find in things and places. I’m not anti-social but I love being by myself in the city. People think it’s impossible to find peace here — I would strongly disagree. In the summer I’m often up at 5:00 a.m. on weekends and will have finished a good three hours of walking before a lot of people wake up.

Despite the fact that there are no people in my images, their presence can’t be escaped. I’m more interested in the notion of people and how a place resonates with their presence when no one is around. It’s not about ghost, but impressions. At one point I was working on a theory that –described loosely– postulated that a place only existed in a way that I found interesting because people had visited there and would visit there again. If you look at all my work almost everything I shoot is in a stasis between human interactions. It’s waiting for something to happen either tomorrow or in twenty years time. I’m interested in that potential of place.

Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay

Q. About the square — what’s with the uniformity of the presentation and the subject?
A. My first camera was a Hawkeye Brownie that took 2 – 1/2 in square –120– film. It was B&W and I produced abysmally poor images taken on a primary school trip to African Lion Safari, I was probably about nine or ten. After that I grew up shooting 35 mm film. I’d save money and buy the most advanced consumer SLR of the day. My father did the same. As I got interested in producing work I got more advanced cameras but I always wanted to use a medium format. The 6 x 6 Hasselblad was the aspirational goal. After shooting so much 35 mm digital over the past ten years I’ve started to resent the prohibitive nature or of the 2:3 frame ratio and started began to visualize things in a frame aspect ratio of 1:1. Of course my camera shoots 2:3 ratio but as soon as I started thinking square it’s all I shot and composed in. I now constantly look at possible subjects and through the viewfinder with the intention of cropping to a square frame. I don’t think I can escape from the square file and frame thing. Now my dream is a full frame square sensor camera. I guess I could work on a Hasselblad 6×6 with a digital back but I’d prefer the comfort and familiarity of an SLR type rig. Maybe someday. That said I’m completely comfortable with my cropping scenario and my existing camera.

I’m also thinking about circular cropping abut still working this out. I think it has the potential to unlock a new world of image making for me, a world that questions the atypical presentation of art and the nature of the gallery. My theory is that it might transform the photographs into more or less sculptural works. This whole circular thing is based on the work of Kenneth Nowland or what I remember of his work. I remember him as someone who challenged and pushed against the limitations of the traditional frame.

Abacus Office – Dundas Street West

Q. These images seem a little more whimsical than Waiting and Learning. Was that intentional?
A. Completely. I’ve always appreciated humour. I really like the idea of contemporary art with a somewhat sharp sense of humour or the absurd. I think that’s why lately I enjoy work by people like Alex Kisilevich, John Sasaki, and Robyn Cummings –to name a few. I’ve also always liked the work of Tom Friedman for a long time. Hopefully my new work is funny and thoughtful without trying too hard. I’m a relatively melancholy person who loves a good laugh. I’m not really after belly laughs, but I do hope the work elicits a smile here and there. It’s relatively dark humour, but it’s still humour. Hopefully I’ve avoided irony.

Brush – Gardiner Expressway

Q. What’s your physical process.
A. I carry my camera everywhere but it doesn’t always make it out of my bag. My process is very focused on the image and composition and the work is about developing things in my head after seeing something that resonates with me. I do a lot of bus and streetcar riding but also a tremendous amount of walking and cruising around on a bicycle. I hate driving — not because of the act of driving– but because I can’t concentrate on what I see without being a bad driver. The bus is amazing because while you travel around the city you just see so much. I’ll pass the same place for days or months and then I start to think about it all the time. I’ll then make a conscious effort to revisit that location with the explicit intention of taking pictures. I go back until I’ve got what I feel is a strong piece. For some of the images in Wandering I revisited a location five or six times. Sometimes I don’t get anything I like over multiple visits and it takes years to capture what I’ve imagined is the picture. Again it’s about familiarity.

After I’ve got something I live with it. I put it up on my website and keep going back to look at it and write about it. If I grow tired of something I delete it and tend not to think of the image again. If I’m happy with an idea or image after a few weeks I work to expand on the concept.

I shoot on a Canon 5D Mark II and it’s plenty of camera for me. I use available lighting and tend not to use a tripod anymore. In photoshop I crop, curve, level, sharpen and saturate slightly to get the true colour I remember from the shoot. I find the Canon sensor is a bit understated for colour saturation but at the same time I’m careful not to overstate the colours in processing.

Shiatsu – Roncesvalles and Grafton

Q. What’s your relationship to the city?
A. I love it. I want to grow old in it and watch it change and expand. It pains me when people so blatantly show their dislike for it like our current mayor. He’s done more to destroy this city than anyone in his position has done in the past. I also think that cities in general –Toronto included– get a bum deal. After all, this city is a safe, vibrant, caring place to be. People outside the city are so ill informed about the actual nature of urbanity. I grew up in the suburbs, and a friend once captured a belief that I still hold. You live in the city or the country but why live in between? Don’t get me wrong, the city can be a drag at times, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything right now. I also mean no disrespect to the suburban, I’m just saying it’s not for me.

Seriously, the city is painted as unfriendly, cold, callous, dangerous and expensive. I’d argue these ideas are simply misconceptions. The city is arguably expensive, but I’m comfortable investing in culture than square footage any day. Our house is too big for us, but we’re also very lucky to even have a house. We couldn’t afford one in today’s market where we are. We have some furniture and we have art. We could get a bigger place in the suburbs but I wasn’t cut out to be “suburban”. I don’t need more space or more stuff.

I could go on an on, but the biggest reason I prefer the city is it’s socialist or humanist nature. Since I’ve lived in the city my sense of community and neighborliness has increased exponentially from my twenty years in the suburbs.

This Month Only – Dupont at Franklin

Q. Do you shoot film?
A. I shot film for about twenty years. As soon as digital came along I was in heaven. I’m not a photo purist. I respect technical ability in anyone, but it’s not my interest. I’m more interested in feeling that the image I want when I take it is captured. I dislike the uncertainty of film and the temperamental nature of processing. The time lag is also somewhat separating for me. I hate waiting to work an image. I also dislike darkroom work. I was never good at it and always had an aversion to the chemicals. Add to that the fact that I could never produce a final product that I was happy with when I was a kid and I never bothered to fully invest in the practice to get better. I really do just like shooting and thinking about finished images. Digital works great for me and I’m fairly competent in Photoshop with simple manipulation. I have a 4 x 5 that a friend gave me to use, and so far I’ve been thinking about it and know I’ll shoot 4 x 5 before I’m done, but right now it’s just not top of my list.

I’m also not interested in perfect clarity. I’m fine with a bit a noise, or a slight focus problem. I’ve recently come to appreciate the quote that “sharpness is a bourgeoisie concept”. I can’t claim to take that statement by Henri Cartier-Bresson completely serious though, because I’m middle class and I’m dealing in a cultural commodity. I’m also pretty anal with my images and I do like a degree of clarity.

Hose and Graffitti – Bay Street

Q. Is there a spiritual aspect to your work or an underlying philosophy?
A. Hopefully my work is about simplification and purity of vision. I like to associate it with words like; math, Zen, fixation, peace, serenity and compulsiveness. I really do love the mundane, still, image. Minimalism and formalism are definitely at my works core. In particular I’ve always been drawn to what I’ll call minimal and formalist painting like that of of Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Albers, Agnes Martin, and Sol LeWitt. There are a bunch of others, but those are the names I know the best.

In a way I’m trying to slow things down, I think the cliche “stop and to smell the roses” is great, only my roses tend to be a bit dirty and — more often than not– smell like motor oil or garbage and no one really looks at them.

RBC – Ossington and College

Q. How do you get access to some of the interior locations?
A. Usually I don’t. For this show’s fifteen images I never accessed anything that anyone couldn’t have by walking by. Even the interior shots are taken from outside those spaces through the glass. Gaining access is a real downer for me and more often than not it disappoints and frustrates me. Given that I’m also uncomfortable taking advantage of a situation or going where I’m not suppose to go it makes it difficult. I hate confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs. My earlier shows based on the subway or school systems relied on legal permissions and I didn’t want that to be an aspect of this body of work. Someday it would be awesome to be successful enough that I could get someone to do the work of getting me access to places. For now though I don’t need it.

Hoarding and Tree – West Elm East of Jefferson

Q. What inspires you?
A. Early on it would have been other image makers. The painters, the writers and to some degree photographers. I tend to see less photography now that I’m seriously producing it. I find it difficult to get passed the idea of original thought and there are so many photographers doing such good work the odds of me originating an idea executed by another photographer is rather frustrating. I’m working to realise you can’t work in a vacuum but to help me avoid those feelings of disappointment I prefer to look at painting, sculpture, performance and drawing instead of photography. At one point I would say film and literature inspired me, but lately I’ve almost completely stopped looking at movies and reading. By avoiding a lot of photography, if I do come up with something and execute it then happen to see similar work I’m OK. I’ve executed and who cares that there are similar projects out there.

I do think that the work of some amazing photographers has become part of my subconscious and without ever seeing it again it informs how I see the world. I would never be shooting what I’m shooting if I hadn’t seen or read about these artists. My list of big names would include; Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Jeff Wall, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Lyne Cohen, Edward Burtynsky, Robert Polidori, and Andreas Gursky to name a few.

Currently I’m inspired by almost anything I see.

Post Office – Millwood and Malcolm

Q. Do you have a favourite image from the series?
A. No. There are four or five of the fifteen I think about all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re my favourites. I also think about the images I didn’t include that could possibly have made the cut for January. I got input from the gallery on the final selection because I felt a bit too close to the work. I have no trouble editing down to a certain level but then I like help to figure out what someone –who’s not me– likes or doesn’t like. For this show we didn’t include a few pictures I felt were pretty good, but I agreed somewhat with someone else’s comments and I really needed to cut a few. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the images we didn’t include anymore, but I really appreciate the external opinion. I don’t necessarily get criticism on any honest level. It would be nice to hang out at a show and be a fly on the wall. If people don’t like the work they tend to clam up and not say anything. Sometimes that’s disappointing. I like talking about myself and the work. I kid myself that I’d even like to do that if someone really dislikes the images. Truth is I don’t have the thickest skin yet. I’m self conscious about my work.

Despite this though I really should say that my favourite image is Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay. This isn’t because I want it hanging in my house any more than the others, but because there’s a bit of a narrative to it. That photograph helped me break out of a fairly serious slump. It was also the image that took the most work in this series to produce because I had to track down the artist who’s work is prominently featured in the image through his Toronto gallery to get his permission to include it in my show. Sandro Martini ended up being very gracious and approved very quickly. When I look at this image I think of how nice a gesture that was. He could have been a complete dick. He seemed genuinely OK with it. It means a lot to me. If he hadn’t approved I would have never printed the image.

StorageMart – Research Road

Q. When was the work for Wandering shot?
A. The earliest image is from the beginning of 2012, but the majority of work here was shot in the summer and fall of 2012. Once I put my head down and decided to book a show I needed work to fill the walls. This forced me back to the street and back to looking. In the past I’ve created the work and then booked a show, but I was dragging my ass so badly that I seriously thought I was going to give it all up. I realized then I love being an artists and really want to continue. I didn’t want to fail because of a mental glitch. Sometimes a goal is a good way to get your ass in gear especially when it’s sort of self-inflicted. I would also never let my gallery down. They’ve been pretty amazing to me. I’m happy with this work, and it never would have happened if I didn’t really look at myself and realize I was in serious danger of fucking up an opportunity that millions of people never get. That quite simply I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be an artist. I really believe that it’s a totally privilege and not a right. I bet I get in trouble for saying that.

Log – Don Valley Pathway

Q. What’s next?
A. I have a list of projects that I’ve been compiling on my website. It started out as a notebook on my phone, but I eliminated about 90% of the ideas because I felt they were sort of lame. There are about 100 post on my site that go through a range of ideas and about fifty percent of those are involving photography. There are six or seven photography projects that I’ll definitely pursue, but I need to finish the studio in the basement first. I’m more interested lately in retreating from the streets a bit and focusing on some weirder projects that are photo based.

As for more traditional projects I’m still very interested in expanding on the Learning series of educational architectural picture. for that matter anything I’ve done already I’d like to continue to develop and shoot. That includes the subway. I’d love to get into the London underground for a month or so. I’d also like to expand on the hospital images I’ve shot and maybe get access to any other more institutional places. I’m fascinated with the older architecture somewhat ubiquitous in the public institutional world.

Q. What’s your favourite colour?
A. Orange

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