Wander January 2017

January 2017 and I’ve started to wander again. It’s been too long but life sort of gets in the way sometimes. It’s not that I haven’t had time,  I just haven’t been motivated.  I’ve decided to go back to the beginning and that means exploring the city slowly on foot and letting stuff just sort of happen.

I’ve also started to remove myself from social media. Its just counter productive for me. I’ll start to write about the things here on my website. I use to do that religiously and I miss it. If you need any info or have any questions about anything please contact me at info@chrisshepherd.net

The following were taken over a period of three days as 2017 was ushered in. Each day I wandered for a few hours with no distinct destination planned.

Below is the back of the U of T Medical Sciences Building. You can access the spot via a modest little driveway called Discovery Lane. I’m not sure if you still call this style of architecture Brutalist because it’s embellished with these vertical aesthetic elements, but it looks interesting. It’s an eight story structure and all the deeper vertical members on the left hand side of the frame hide the windows on this south facing wall—at least from this angle. I’ve done a bit of post production tilt-shift to make the image work better for me using the Photoshop Lens Correction tool.

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I’ve taken pictures of the Toronto Spiritualists Temple on College around the Mod Club for years, but never with any success or never that ever resonated with me. It’s a very modest little church like building. In truth it’s more like a cottage with a few coloured windows. This frame shows a section of the front window unit and I’m pretty sure that’s just coloured glass, or even just plastic-coated glass you’re looking at. The building must be over 50 years old. It has a distinctly 50-60s feel to it. I like the rectangles within a rectangle thing in this shot, and the border that’s created by the white window frames.

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These next two images were taken close to home, adjacent to The West Toronto Rail Path. Both were shot through the clear acrylic fences that stop people from crossing the train track areas. This is probably a good thing because the corridor is very busy now with the Go, Via and UP trains all passing through at regular intervals.

The community had wanted green-living walls to be built to separate us from tracks and noise, but the powers–that–be thought these were the best solution. They sold us acrylic barriers and assured us they were graffiti proof. They must have tested them with water colour paints because they are now favourite targets for middle class taggers. Their paint has no problem permanently adhering to the acrylic. We can live with the tags no matter how lame they are but the real sad reality is the cleaning contractor uses a cheap-ass-toxic solvent to remove the tags and it doesn’t work and ends up creating the mess you see below. The smudgy parts are where tags have been melted off with some bargain basement solvent.

Looks sort of cool on a cold grey winter’s day. These two images are no-filter, colour photographs.

We love this neighbourhood, although the 10 years of construction is a bit tiresome.
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Small note on the Wander process. I use a Canon 5Ds with a 55 mm Sigma Art lens. I shoot on aperture priority with an ISO of 200. I rarely change lenses, but when I do I have one other and that’s a Canon L series 17-35mm.

I’ve taken photographs of this Hydro Building Roof Access Ladder at Ossington and Dupont on a previous wander. On this occasion I simply positioned myself to capture the opposite angle. I was also a lot closer. I’m not sure why but these ladders are the same on almost all hydro buildings but I like them, I love the circular handles and how they stand out against the sky.

0m6a2781These pipes are across the street from G&H Furniture on Dupont. I have trouble taking pictures when I’m looking up or down. I’d rather be straight on. This is beyond my comfort zone, but the central straight vertical line is helping me to accept it.0m6a2777This is a weird little still life inside a weirder still display of another window. Located along the east side of the block the once was Honest Ed’s. Seriously—when is the last time you used the yellow pages? This forgotten gem must have been stuck in this space a long time ago. Although it’s rather specific, I have shot forgotten yellow pages before. I think that’s because the city is so big and I wander so much.

Everything about this weird window is engaging to me. It’s also the one picture I took of the Honest Ed’s block the day after it closed for good to make way for condos. I couldn’t help thinking that although it seeing the past disappear is sometimes a drag the change will be good for the Annex. The whole area has been pretty ghetto for as long as I can remember. The sad part is that this means a lot of people will be displaced. Gentrification happens and some parts of it certainly suck. As a weird aside I think there may be less interesting stuff to see when I wander because of this. Gentrification and the sanitization that accompanies it is not necessarily engaging.
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I’ve always loved these huge memorials to U of T students, faculty and alumni that were killed in the world wars. I’m assuming these are the list of the war dead. The font is amazing and the craftsmanship is truly wonderful to behold. Whenever I see these I think I want to take graphite rubbings of them on some huge pieces of paper.

0m6a2693There’s a Salvation Army Shelter for Women in the Junction. It’s across from what once was McBride Cycle but is now the almost complete DK Condos on Dundas West. It always makes me think about the relationships between men and women, because I imagine that most of the reason for these women to end up here is that men fuck them up. Maybe that’s unfair, but as I get older I really do think that men are basically irresponsible children that never grow up and that a huge portion of them cause a lot of grief and anguish to others.

I took this because the scene was simple and reminded me very much of Thomas Demand. I really love that work and because of it I see “Found Demands” everyday. 0m6a2647Crane cables form the construction area beside our house. I’m terribly sick of this construction cycle that literally began with the remediation of the land about eight years ago. But I’m also aware that it’s quite a first world problem.
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Sliced

New show just might be Sliced, Crumpled, Shredded, Folded, and Scored photographs.

The only problem I’m having is why.

Initially this process of manipulations was about the willful destruction of a photograph. This is something that feels a little sacrilegious to me and I’m sure to others. Despite the nature of the digital image the physical photograph has an inherent value to me. Not just because I sell photographs, but also because of the history of the image itself and the memories it holds. One of the reasons I’m doing this is that it feels slightly wrong and that in itself feels strangely right. I’m destroying memory, or at least reconfiguring it.

This process is also about rebirth and redefinition. By taking an existing thing I’ve done and re-inventing it I’m creating something new out of something old. Without the pretentiousness or the mythology–this is sort of like the story of the Phoenix.

Repetition is soothing. I like endlessly cutting things into strips or shredding things. I like doing this manually when I could very easily use a machine or do the manipulation in Photoshop. There’s something deliberately archaic and anachronistic about the process. These are physical objects.

I’m also thinking of making these as 1 of 1s. The physical objects/subjects are 1 of 1s. Those physical objects are also sculptures. So I’m using photography to record a temporal sculpture.  The photographs are reminders of what was created. I was going to mount each of the sliced pieces, but the more I think about it the more I like the idea of them being fleeting. I may just pile all the strips in bags.

These photographs are also paradoxical. I’m re-arranging or reconfiguring memory by manipulating the original photographs and creating temporary sculptural pieces but I’m also recording those manipulated pieces of the past in new photographs. I think that explanation will have to be re-worded to make any sense. Hopefully when I re-read this I can figure it out enough to re-write.

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The aesthetic I’m very happy with–the what and the how. The more I write, the more I answer the why somewhat but maybe not enough to balance out the power of the aesthetic creation in my own head. I keep thinking that this work somewhat arbitrary when the images I’m using have a personal history but not a relationship to the process of manipulation. It’s half-baked. Without being cliche, perhaps there’s subject matter that I can specifically shoot then manipulate that will tie the aesthetic and the why together better. In a basic sense, clocks, or calendars might work. Something that represents the passage of time or the temporal. I’ve also thought of doing this with clouds. I like how the natural, or pseudo natural works in this process, better than how the architectural or man made does.

IMG_71248I think the answer lies in creating photographs of water, sky, forest, and nature, then re-imagining those photographs by folding, shredding, scoring, slicing, and folding.

Now, can I figure it out so it works completely in my head?

 

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MaRS (on Photography)

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The new MaRS building at University and College.

We live in an age of film. An age of action and narrative. Every motion or emotion we experience can be mentally viewed from above, beside, in front or on an angle. It can be seen as a slow pan, dissolving into the next shot or scene. I think this is the common imagining of our generation, and it’s been amplified to be even more commonplace with each year since the invention of film and the availability and proliferation of the medium.

Photography—in contrast—helps me break from this mould or habitual way of seeing. Although it’s still intimately embroiled in the illusion of capturing, it’s distinct lack of duration helps to break the cycle of common seeing. Photography is still firmly rooted in time, but to me it’s inherent sentimentally is inescapable–and that’s a key characteristic of how I see.

I could take pictures of sunsets or other wonderfully complete moments of stereotypical beauty, but those things just don’t interest me. I prefer to experience those things and commit them to memory no matter how infallible and inaccurate that memory can be. I still appreciate what might be considered the picturesque, but I don’t need a record of it, and I’m not engaged to talk about it. Beautiful photographs have their own value, but to me they touch a little to close to a common consensus on what beauty is. I think that delusional in a way.

I love the everyday. I enjoy the passed over. There’s nothing more rewarding for me than passing by a very pedestrian tableaux year after year and finally seeing it with the fresh realization that “this is captivating”. That moment will never be the same again, so I give in to the sentimentality and through my photographs strive to remember how I felt when I truly saw something for the first time despite seeing it hundreds of times.

There’s nobody in my photographs, but I think they are all full of people. At the very least they are full of me looking at something. I populate every image I take. It might be interesting to take pictures in a way that removes me from a place completely. Maybe I’ll buy an intervalometer and experiment with taking pictures of the subjects that interest me from a removed location. Sort of like ‘If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there, does it really make a sound?” For now tough I’m happy to be included in the images.

Most of what I take has been seen or will be seen by thousands of people and nobody will find it fascinating enough to capture, but I hope–however presumptuously– that’s another way my image making differs from the norm. How it hopefully becomes unique.

I’m interested in places that are typically populated or were once populated at specific times when nobody is there. Despite this lack of the human, I hope my photographs are embed with people, the thought of people and how a place changes when those people not present. Hopefully everything I shoot is full of the spirit of people. Not in a mystical, or metaphysical manner, but in a logical way. People leave traces of skin, footmarks, dust, memories, and those things fill the picture plane.

Lately I’ve been more and more interested in making photographs rather than taking photographs. I’ll explore this process for a while and I have a sneaking suspicion that after thousands of hours I’ll finally figure it out. It will however still be rooted in the everyday, the common.

I don’t want to be known as a photographer. That’s not because I don’t believe in photography, or I find it limiting, or somehow wanting. It’s simply because I envision myself learning to write, paint, sculpt, act, and a myriad of other things as  I grow older, as I think about things more. That excites me. I’ll always make photographs. I would however just prefer to be known as an artist. That term seems to me a less constrained and defined term. I see myself as the jack of all trade–maybe never the master of any of them–but that diversity will help me to see. To change.

This is an essay in progress. I can’t imagine it making too much sense until I think about it a lot more.

March 13, 2014 I was thinking I might look at existing paintings, photographs or other art and try to commit those pieces to memory. Over a course of time I could then try to recreate those images by finding existing scenes that mimic the subject matter of those things. I can print these then compare the actual original and my “new” version. This came about by seeing a Jeff Wall image that I’ve somehow marked as my favourite by him years after first seeing it and how different int now appears than I’ve imagined. I changed it in my head over time until it became almost unrecognizable. Very strange. The piece in question is Clipped Branches

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Coloured Tarps

Coloured Tarps was originally conceived as a winter project.

The coloured tarps I’m talking about are typically blue however I’ve seen black, green, silver, white and orange in use at different times around the city. Lately I discovered you can get them in a few other colours like red and yellow and that I can have them custom made out of different materials. I’d like to get six or seven tarps that cover a spectrum of secondary colours.

The genesis of the idea was to wrap myself up cocoon like in these tarps and to take self-portraits while laying swaddled on the ground, sitting on a rock or in some other such pose. I’d use a remote control with the camera on a tripods or some other support. This might be hard to do without help. Managing the camera in the snow could be tricky as well. The optimal situation would be a new snow some day in a local park, super early in the morning before anyone’s disturbed the snow cover. I think I could shoot looking down from a bridge or some other such structure, but again, I think I need help to do this. Wrapping myself up even would be hard, let alone executing everything else. The camera could be attached to a long pole that could then be hoisted in the air to get a vantage point which would reduce any distortion in the perspective.

Simpler than this would be to shoot 10 ft square tarps stretched over an area of snow or supported in the air to flap in the breeze in a snow field. The resultant image could be obtained by simply creating something in illustrator or Photoshop, but that’s not the point. I see a room with 7 or 8 large square photographs that are taken of coloured tarps on fields of fresh snow from above somehow without shadow. The same could be done with circular tarps.

The closest images on the web to describe what I’m attempting are for camping. These are typically protective set ups. You can see the clean lines of these structures and although these images are taken in typical camping situations, I think you can see what I’m trying to accomplish. These actually describe a derivative of the Coloured Tarp project that I’m now stoked on as well. I can create Photoshop like holes in landscape spaces using various tarp structures.  Again, this image depicts a complex physical manipulation of the visual space to create scenarios that could easily be accomplished in Photoshop.

Each corner of the tarp could be controlled by fishing line, so the snow doesn’t get disturbed. It could also be attached by white string to a white structure of poles and hoisted in the air. Images could be taken of the formalist square or even circular tarps. A derivative of this would be to support the coloured tarps from their upper corners and let them wave in the breeze like flags. The images could be taken either, intentionally out of focus or at slow shutter speeds to blur the final images. I could also do inanimate shapes. I could find existing man-made object/structures and cover them with the coloured tarps. This could create abstract, painterly like compositions. Playing with photography and sculpture to create a homage to minimalist, formalist painting.

This is a further exploration of the painting thing. Humorous in way.  The idea of re-enacted scenarios via awkward and complicated logistics to create simple compositions that the viewer could mistake for paintings rather than photographs . It also has the obvious association with Christo’s work, but I think this is more about photography rather than sculpture.

This could be done anywhere and at anytime of day or night, in any season. The square or round tarps will look very cool wherever I can stretch them to their uniform shapes, let them flap in the breeze, shoot up at them against a white or blue sky, shoot them suspended above the surface of a lake, against a field of snow, against a wall of greenery, etc. The more I think about this the more limitless this project could be. Exciting.

 

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Learning

Learning was my most recent show at Bau-Xi Photo in November of 2011.

20120510-220121.jpg Learning focuses on educational spaces in and around the Toronto environs. Here students have either left for the day, gone for the summer or abandoned the buildings permanently. This work continues to explore the aesthetics of public institutional architecture while at the same time contemplates the artist’s scholastic history and contemporary education into the professional art world.

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