Underground

Announcement_2B

Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Feature Exhibition 

May 1st-31st, 2015
Opening Reception & Artist Talk May 2nd, 2-4p.m.
Bau-Xi Photo
324 Dundas Street West, Toronto
contact:

Julie Watt

Nell Crook

416.977.0400

info@bau-xiiphoto.com

www.bau-xiphoto.com

Bau-Xi Photo preview images for the show.

As a continuation of his acclaimed subway series that began with ‘Transitions’ in 2007 and ‘Waiting’ in 2010, Underground is an exciting revival of the subject that introduced Shepherd to the Canadian art scene. Encompassing imagery from his most recent exploration of both the Toronto and Montreal subway systems, the work is unified by the artist’s signature approach to lighting, composition and form.

Submerged from view in both Montreal and Toronto, the subways of each metropolis weave, burrow, anchor and nourish the structures and urban life aboveground. Montreal’s metro is the third busiest network in North America — behind only New York and Mexico. Toronto’s subway is a close second in size to Montreal, moving fewer people but reaching more stations than it’s Francophone sister. Underground is an exploration of both city’s subterranean networks, but rather than capturing the frenetic activity of each system, Shepherd instead turns our attention to the fleeting moments between the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures; the ignored hallways, staircases, platforms, mezzanines, tunnels and inanimate skeleton of the transit lines. Each image depicts quiet details of the everyday, resonating with a silent beauty that transforms the utilitarian spaces into painterly tableaus of contemplation. Shepherd describes his compositions as ‘”temporal blips in the consistent hustle and bustle of everyday life.” As part of an ongoing study, the images are inherently bound to the archives of each city, serving to document and re-document the chronological life-span of the spaces as they continually adapt to the changing needs of the urban-dweller.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Chris Shepherd began his artistic practice as a painter and studied art history, film and artistic practice at Ryerson, Waterloo and McMaster Universities. After moving to Toronto, he turned to photography as a means to familiarize himself with his new city. It was this process of exploration that piqued Shepherd’s interest in urban landscapes and led to a long-running fascination with the often passed-over or under-appreciated elements of metropolitan life. The serenity and reserve of Shepherd’s photographs often contrast with the locations they are depicting. Shepherd captures fleeting moments in time, whether they be a brief moment of quiet in the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures in the subway, or the fallow vacancy between tenants in commercial buildings.

Shepherd’s art has been exhibited across North America, and is included in major corporate collections in Canada including Seneca College, TD Bank and Bank of Montreal.

 

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Subway 2014

Subway 2014 is new work shot in the TTC over the turn of the new year.

The first two days of shooting were rather unproductive. I might look back and change that opinion. On the first day I took this shot of Osgoode Station platform. I love it. It captures the slightly tired and well worn station in a light that clarifies but doesn’t over romanticize the space. Part of the charm of this shot is the two colours of lighting that alternate in the fixtures above the safety line. I think the bluish, cooler fluorescents are more contemporary bulbs, the yellowish are older. The blue is also brighter and stronger. In the image below those bulbs are the portion of the frame that are slightly over exposed. The odd lighting, varied wall slats of the tunnel, weird green columns, incongruous yellow line, terrazzo tile and odd more contemporary tile filler strip all combine to unify this image for me. After all my initial disappointment I’m actually so pleased with this shot it didn’t really matter if I captured anything else.St. Andrew Station has had a redo. The awful slats that you can see in the Osgoode photograph above have been replaced in the St Andrew Station with spectacularly classic metal panels that echo the old original panels of the station. They look awesome. The only problem is they reflect the light from the platform in an irritating way that I could only fix by getting a higher vantage point for the tripod which just wasn’t going to happen. Most of my older work is punctuated by these sort of reflections, I’m not sure why they bother me so much now.Wellesley Station has always been a favourite but it’s also proven a bit hard to photograph. The lighting in the station itself is very subdued. It might not be so bad on bright sunny day, but on this visit it was hard to capture anything without the tripod. There’s something super utilitarian about the image below. It’s not really like my other images, but for now I like that it captures a station that’s been so illusive to me. The roundhouse feel of this mezzanine and bus corridor is quite spectacular.The last day of shooting on this permit was a bit more successful. Maybe because I planned to shoot three stations I’ve been to and photographed a lot over the last ten years. I see these three stations in a different way. I’m sure it looks like the same old way, but to me the shooting felt good and I’m very happy with the results. I’m not quite sure which images are my favourites, but I’ll live with them for a while and decide. Below are two shots from Keele Station.I’m not 100% in love with the photograph of the old mesh style telephone alcove. This is an original phone area. In other stations these are frequently covered over by small orange tiles and particularly shitty looking public phones. These wire cages are not super attractive but the there’s something endearing about them. One thing I particularly love about this image is the crumpled telephone directory. It’s really a photograph of a disappearing culture that has been supplanted by smart phones and the internet. Who really uses telephone directories anymore? This little alcove foreshadows a not too distant future when public phones have disappeared.

The image below is from the east end of Keele Station. It’s no longer manned by a person, or maybe it never was. This is a view of the interior of the collectors booth. The most amazing thing is the steam punk clock on the desk.High Park is now my favourite stations. I could have spent more time there, but it was also a spot where people just hang out and because of that it’s was more difficult to shoot. The first two images have a different coolness to them as they are taken with predominantly daylight that floods into the street level foyer through large banks of windows.There are a few reasons why the shot above makes me happy. There’s the oddly wonky “To Trains” signage, that’s messed up by the curve of the ceiling. Then there’s that curve of the ceiling itself. Also slightly odd is the weird handrail that angles out on the right hand side of the service panel. All of these little things make the straight on shot a little eccentric which is a word I’m becoming quite fond of now that I’m 50.

This is the same main floor foyer but to the right of the above shot. Natural light is streaming in from the right hand side of the frame which is a set of floor to ceiling windows. The area to the left of the railing is the staircase and escalator to/from the mezzanine.The ubiquitous orange title that blocks off old telephone booths and serves as the call out for the newer more contemporary pay phones. Below is the view if you were talking on the phone above and looking to your left. There’s another identical exit if you were to look to your right. This exist takes you up to Parkview Gardens on the north side of the tracks. The other would pop you out on a street between Clendenan and Quebec south of the tracks. Both exists are on the west end of the platform. From here you’d and you’d go South to Bloor Street.Below is the area just at the top of the stairs if you’d just walked up from the west end entry to the station. Of course at this end you’d have to use a Metro pass or token. There’s nobody manning the booth. This is typical of every station. One end of the station has a manned booth, the other is all automated. A shot of the wall in the mezzanine of the High Park station. To the left is the phone booth area and the magazine/crap store. The right side of the frame would take you to the entrance to the subway proper, directly behind me at this point is the ticket booth and entry point from the street level foyer.I just liked the confluence of lines below.Runnymede Has a great mezzanine. I’m not 100% sure what you call the level that’s one below street and one above track. I’m thinking it’s mezzanine or entresol. In fact now that I’ve Googled it I’m sure that’s what this area is called. All three of the following shots are from the Runnymede mezzanine.

The first shot actually has a person in it. You can see their shadow on the wall to the right of the column. They’re sitting on the bench drinking a coffee. In fact they sat there waiting for a friend for about ten minutes on this bench. Then when the friend showed up I thought I’d finally get a chance to shoot more without them, but that new arrival really needed to sit down.

I’m not quite sure what the hoarding is for here. Maybe this station is slated for upgrading. I’m not sure why that would be the case, this station seems very functional and quite spacious.I turned around 180 degrees from the shot of the bench above this is what I saw. There’s another stair/escalator combo across from this one. Both lead up to street level.A detail, straight on shot of the above of the above. I love the expression Please Hold Handrail

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Wandering Vancouver

Wandering Vancouver Edition

August 24th – September 5th, 2013

Bau-Xi Gallery

3045 Granville St  Vancouver, BC

Wandering Vancouver Edition short talk at 3:00 p.m. I’ll be there from about noon on.

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.

The Wandering Vancouver images and short blurbs explaining what I was thinking when I took each image or what the subject of each means to me.  Club Monaco – Bloor and Avenue Road

I don’t remember when Club Monaco took over this building on the South East corner of Bloor and Avenue Road but I’ve shot it for years never really getting something that resonated until now. This image is very narrative when I compare it to the rest of my work. I’ve never really thought of telling stories with what I shoot or for that matter even insinuating the thread of a possible narrative but this image is different. There’s a subtext of sexual cliche here. The empty post-coital cigarette package, the short-dressed mannequin that viewed from below through outside of the window suggest an element of exhibitionism and voyeurism and the evergreen tree that might act as some sort of blind for the smoker/observer. I imagine I took this this hours after the smoker left but their presence still resonates in discarded cigarette package.

Solo Pole – Don Valley Pathway

This is one of two images taken of decommissioned hydro poles in an area of the Don Valley Pathway. This pole was made obsolete by the metal towers in the distance and the multiple wires above. It has no lines attached to it. It’s just an absurd pole that’s been made redundant as the power grid in the area grew. There are more like this in the vicinity. This photograph shows the progress or maybe more accurately just growth of the city. There’s something steadfast about this pole. Still standing although retired and made obsolete by bigger and better towers.

To me there’s also a real romanticism to the light and colouring in the surrounding greenery. I shot this early in the morning when the shadows were long and dark. It’s pastoral despite the power grid and  the location so close to the traffic sounds of The Don Valley Parkway and Don Mills Road. This small space within the city reminds me of the country that is slowly disappearing around suburbs like Burlington and Oakville.

Yard – Townsley and Old Weston Road

I got quite a shock two seconds after I took this shot. I was concentrating on the composition and how to capture it and right after I pressed the shutter a very large and not-particularly-friendly guard dog hurled himself against the fence, barking and snapping.

It scared the crap out of me despite the fact there was no real danger. It’s funny in hindsight because you can see the sad, squashed ball in the lower portion of the frame which I now assume belonged to to the dog when he was on break.

This image has grown on me. The foreground and background work well together while still competing for the viewers attention. I’ve always been a bit interested in shooting through fences, and I’ve tried it on many outings but nothing that works as well as this composition does for me. Like many of the images I shoot this makes me think of painting. I particularly like the sporadic squares of orange in the concrete retaining wall.

Bentley – Dupont West of Christie

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 and embarrassing aspects of masculinity; immaturity, status and power.

Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay

This was taken on a pivotal day of shooting. I’d been unable to capture anything I liked for a long time. Nothing I took was striking me as interesting or printable until I took this.

This is a space inside a new condo building. The lower floors on the Grenville Street side end of the Murano building make up a glass room to be used at some unspecified date in the future as a restaurant. Inside this space the Italian fresco painter Sandro Martini has installed an ambitious, commissioned, series of abstracts panels. Some are on glass suspended from the ceiling or on a floor level glass partition walls. This shows the solitary traditional wall of the room. At the time I took this the room was bereft of everything except this fan, a table, small fire extinguisher, news paper (on the floor) and Martini’s paintings. My guess is that the fan was used to dry the paint required to join the preprinted wall panels that make up the finished installation piece.

I shot this by resting the lens ring on the exterior of the buildings glass wall/window and shooting through into the expanse of what will be the restaurant. It has a soft focus to it because I used a slow shutter speed and reasonably wide aperture.

The composition conforms to a structure that recurs frequently in my work. Here the picture plane is broken into three relatively equal horizontal strips creating an internal triptych. This compositional style attached itself to me through a series of horizon photographs I shot about six or seven hers ago on the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. in those photographs the three horizontal strips of composition were typically made up of beach, water and sky.

The colours and complexity of the fresco painting contrast with the monochromatic surroundings and simplicity of the walls and the grey of the concrete floor.

As a critic once remarked it’s a simple expository shot. I like the term expository. A big part of the point here is to simply document what I see and describe why I think it’s interesting. Lately I’ve been thinking my work relates more and more to Bernd & Hilla Becher and their obsessive documentation of the commonplace. My work could be considered fine art, journalism, cataloging or simple straightforward observation. Electrical Panel – Bohemian Embassy Queen Street

Like a few other photographs in this series I was never inside this space. I took the photograph through a window.

Small patches of my life were spent doing construction work; for income, to help build a cottage and to renovate a few homes. I’m still doing this sort of work but sporadically as I get lazier and lazier. I’ve done electrical work, plumbing, framing, flooring, roofing and concrete foundation and footing work. I can’t consider myself very good at any of it, although I can swing a hammer very confidently. It does however give me an appreciation for skilled trades. I’m also interested in the complete foreign nature of this work to lots of people. They’ve never done it and therefore never had any chance to even comprehend it. My brother is the same as me only he has taken it to the next level and is basically capable of any job no matter what the size. He’s also trained himself to be very good at it — and design in general — and all of his skill comes from trial and error. My  father was the catalyst for all this hands on type work. He built and renovated all his life and would have much happier if he’d been a cabinet maker or framer rather than an accountant.

I took this because I think the Bohemian Embassy is hideous and this is one of the only things of aesthetic interest I could salvage out of the architectural mess. Seriously, where have all the architects gone and where are the builders with vision? It’s all so transparently budget! This place is a glorified strip mall. It couldn’t be more ironically named. Maybe I’m too harsh but we seem to be extremely capable of building completely unremarkable buildings in this city. The condo craze is awesome for bringing people into the core, I’m all about density. The sad truth however is that their moving into shitty, boring buildings constructed to save as much money as possible with no regard for actual design or aesthetic. I don’t however think the labourers are to blame for what I feel about these places. This electrical panel’s immaculately organized schematic and the reserved yet capably executed drywall mudding make me smile. By far these are the best type of things about what is a remarkably unimaginative and hideous structure.This Month Only – Perth at DuPont

This is a side view of the scariest bar in my neighborhood. The signage out front reads “This Month Only” and has done for at least 10 years. The sidewalk beside the entrance usually has three or four very sketchy looking people hanging around smoking. It’s the kind of place where the bartender is about 90 without a hint of it being ironic or on purpose  I’ve never been in for a drink, but then again I never liked Labatt’s Blue.

There’s nothing aesthetically interesting about the place, or I should say that there there wasn’t until they did some “renovations” inside and piled the garbage up here beside the wall outside the bar. I couldn’t have arranged the stuff to be more perfect. The colours, textures and lines of this natural tableau still freak me out when I look at this.

Here’s a perfect example of a place I pass by hundreds of times, and on one particular day for perhaps only a few hours it’s transformed by accident into something I find extraordinarily painterly.Log – Don Valley Pathway

Log was discovered while riding my bicycle north on the Don Valley Pathway. That’s the amazing pedestrian/cycle route that follows the path of the DVP up from Lakeshore to well-passed where I took this shot just south of the Brickworks on the east side of the river. If you ever get the time and feel like discovering a very special part of the Toronto, this makes a wonderful outing. I’m so fortunate to travel on this route to work every day during the spring, summer and fall. It’s a long trip but I plan to take it every day I can in 2013 because it’s so spectacular. This route to work on my bicycle takes about 90 minutes and covers approximately 25 km. Most people commute by car within the city on journeys that often take this long.

This photograph is taken of an off ramp that serves as access to the Pathway for city workers. The asphalt  is old but in good shape. You can see this place when traveling on the subway as it moves from Castle Frank to Broadview underneath the Bloor Bridge looking out the north windows of the train.

I assume a few kids found this log, dragged it across the road and left it. It’s not really dangerous, just funny. It was such a pleasure to find. I almost wonder if the perpetrators might have been artists. If they weren’t it’s a great example of unintentional found art. Even if they were a little drunk when they created the scene I love how it works on so many levels.

First it’s a blatantly absurd tableau in a rather idyllic setting in what could be considered the heart of the city. Part of the attraction is the positively perfect sense of danger where there is no danger.

Another intriguing aspect of this is the log itself. It’s possibly the largest and most perfect piece of driftwood I’ve ever seen.Abacus Office – Dundas Street West

“Abandoned Condominium Offices” could be a complete series in itself. I’ve taken pictures for years all over the city’s downtown core and west end that features these forgotten and forlorn marketing structures waiting to be leveled so the foundations of the new structure can be built. It’s hard to imagine these interiors were once the main marketing thrust of these crazy places. In this particular room, left of the frame there’s a hole blasted through the drywall. It looks like someone just simply attacked the wall with a hammer to make a passageway between the rooms once the structure had served it’s usefulness. To me this speaks of the falsity of Condo marketing. They sell lifestyle to those who may not be fully aware of it. They’re are in the business of cool and I sometimes forget who they are trying to attract.

The abacus building is different. It will be really quite modest in size and it does interesting so much better than 90% of the other condo buildings in town. I really like this building’s plans if I’m being honest and I think the people who bought places in here will be well served with them while the building itself adds to the aesthetic of the neighbourhood without being too tall to really detract from it.

In the shot the left and forgotten, Saarinen – Knoll Tulip Table is awesome.

A few weeks after writing this completely uninformed little blurb above about the Abacus Office, The Toronto Standard has published an article on the developer Antonio Azevedo. He sounds very cool. I like the building even more now.RBC – College and Ossington

Like many of the other images I shoot this was years in the making. I’ve lived in the west end of the city now for about ten years. In that time I’ve become an avid walker, and often end up in this neighbourhood. It’s beginning to change and become a little more gentrified but there’s still a large older population here and this bank obviously serves some of them. I’ve stood on this corner to catch the Ossington bus north or the Dundas West streetcar west uncounted times. Every time it seems like it’s one of the longest waits in the city for either. It’s probably my imagination but I also think it’s the city being unaware of their changing demographic and how to service them. Anyway, I’ve stared at this building a lot over the years and when I simplified what interested me and focused on this marble wall and the period lighting fixtures I was rewarded.

StorageMart – Research Road

I wandered this area for weeks in the fall. It’s in the north east end of the city where a freakish amount of construction and development is happening on Laird Drive. There’s a ton of fairly light industrial use buildings, a lot of auto body shops, and now a plethora of new mass retail strip malls. I passed this building a bunch of time before I took some photographs. There’s something distinctly Canadian about this image in a mixed up way. There’s the direct reference to the Canadian flag in the actual structure of the composition, but there’s also something disturbingly nationalistic about self-storage.

When I grew up in the suburbs there were storage facilities like these all over the place. I also see many of these places with their stereo-typically ”notice me” colours” on the outskirts of small towns like Collingwood and Seaforth. It astounds me that so many people have so much stuff that they need to store things to make room in their house. There’s also the aspect of storing things to hide them, hoarding, or transitional space  Often these places are used when renovating, or when moving from place to place. I can’t help but think though that 90% of the stuff sorted in these places is garbage accumulated over years of acquiring. I feel sort of lucky that we save very little. It just isn’t practical with a small home. Even things I’ve got loaded in the basement right now are 90% garbage that I just can’t get rid of easily. It’s amazing how much crap we transport and store over the course of a lifetime. I think it’s sort of the mark of a spoiled society. Hoarding and Tree – West Elm East of Jefferson

In Liberty Village there’s still a lot of conversion happening. Older office and industrial buildings being gutted and reconfigured for condo usage. It’s amazing that I use to frequent this area twenty years ago when it was nothing but artist studios and industrial space. No one would think to live there except artists trying to save a buck and hang in their studios. It still flabbergasts me that a lifestyle that was born out of economic necessity became a contemporary marketing and lifestyle aspiration! This whole area now has thousands of young professionals living in what they feel is a bohemian manner but with all mod cons.

There’s a bunch of things that draw me to this image. The tree itself is desperately out of place amidst the hoarding and scaffolding of the facade renovation.  The triptych-like split of the horizontal lines made up of the turquoise, blue and turquoise strips of the construction. The sadly bent and empty bicycle post. Lastly the area on the blue tarp where some bird or group of bids has left it’s mark from sitting on the tree branch and whiling away the hours despite the construction.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 current favourite image is Club Monaco – Bloor and Avenue Road. 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. It might be a bit of a new direction.

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 2012 and this year. 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.

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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Vacancy 3

I made it down to Queen Street West on Saturday for another Vacancy shoot. I took the bike down for about 6:30 in the morning. It was so nice and quiet and I had the chance to stop in front of Convenience Gallery to check out Roula Partheniou’s show “five o’clock shadow”. I’m very glad I did. Despite the fact that it was way closer to 5:00 a.m. I’ve wanted to see this show since I saw the amazing picture that Tony Hafkenscheid took of the gallery from the street. If I can find a copy of that not taken from Facebook I’ll gladly post it. Anywho, her piece is awesome. It’s slightly scientific, but slightly whimsical. I really like it a lot. If you get a chance to check it out do so. You can walk by the gallery anytime because it’s basically an old convenience store window = accessible all the time. Lansdowne Avenue & Seaforth a block or two up from Queen.

I ended up locking the bike up in front of the crappy looking Bohemian Embassy building which is just across the street and in between The Drake and The Gladstone. I walked over to University then turned around and got half way back before hopping on a streetcar.

If there’s one thing I like about the Bohemian Embassy it’s the vacant stores. They’ve been trying to rent stuff for months, if not close to a year. It’s perfect subject matter for me. Empty, nondescript rooms in a modern boring building. I’ve shot them a couple time now.

Drywall Bohemian Embassy 2012

I love the floor of drywall dust and the straightforward lines and crosses of the mudding in the drywall shot. The following were taken in the same strip of retail attached to The Bohemian Embassy.

These 3 images are basically black & white, without being black and white. Colour images that become ostensibly black and white just because of the nature of the material being shot. I have a thing against contemporary B&W. There are a ton of photographers who use it well, but there are thousands of photographers that just think for some reason it makes their work more artistic. I’m probably being a jerk, but I figure we progressed to colour over time, why shoot in B&W? The real problem I have is that the technique and style is overused. You could tie this conversation back to Roula’s show at Convenience, although I’m sure it wasn’t her intention, five o’clock shadow could thematically touch on that colourization vs black and white film discussion and how it pertains to contemporary photography.

The following images are from King Street, east of Jarvis taken June 5th on the way to work. Again these could easily be B&W. At the very least if Vacancy becomes a show there could be a series of monochromatic shots as one element of the whole. The complete show may simply be a series of high colour shots, monochromatic shots, and drastic contrast lighting shots. It’s not rocket science.

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Vacancy

I keep coming back to these images. I’ve just decided these will make up the new Bau-Xi Photo show. I’ll shoot over the next few months and hopefully have 15 to 20 solid images for a show. I’m thinking of getting up very early tomorrow and trying to catch a new Scotia Bank on Bloor around Ossington before it opens and is completely finished. the colour of the redish orange ATMs and the blank empty walls should look pretty spectacular.

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Healing

I shot this series of images at a small rural hospital in Seaforth, Ontario. I have a very nice relative who is a Dr. there and she was nice enough to get me access. I loved it and would really like to continue this series someday but I think getting into other hospitals is going to be mind-numbingly difficult. That’s my problem in general -getting access to photograph places. The subway was super hard to negotiate. It took me years. Schools were difficult as well. Hospitals will be very hard to get into. Sometimes I think I should just grow some balls and shoot without permission, but I find I’m uncomfortable doing that and when I’m uncomfortable I don’t shoot well.

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Waiting

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Waiting was my first show at Bau-Xi Photo. It ran in the summer of 2010. I got a bit of press including this nice little piece in Eye Weekly by David Balzer.

Here’s my artist statement from way back then.

I’m interested in the potential or possibility of places and objects. His fascination is with things—not for what they are or what they’re proscribed to be—but for what they could be and how they can be seen.

In Waiting, different parts of the Toronto and New York subway systems are captured in various stages of flux. Bereft of people and purpose, these utilitarian spaces are re-imagined and assigned a different aesthetic value. Waiting transforms hectic spots into serene, contemplative sanctuaries.

Waiting itself directly refers to hanging around long enough for foot traffic and people to disappear. It also calls out the converted state of the spaces. No longer intersections of movement or places of mass congregation, the locations now wait to be refilled. Finally, waiting calls out patience and a desire to slow the normal day to day down and transform purposeful but sometimes mindless action into equally productive contemplative silence and peace.

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