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

To join an infrequent e-mail blast for chrisshepherd.net please fill this form in. It’s simple. I promise not to send stuff out very often, maybe an update every month or two pointing out new stuff or news that might be pertinent. Thanks for your interest. – Chris

 Facebook Twitter

Braille

Braille is the beginning. It’s the first work in preparation for the series called “Seeing” that I’ve been planning for over a year. I’ve decided to practice writing Uncontracted or Grade One Braille until I get reasonably fluent. Then I’ll start working on the planned large scale series. For now I’m doing a series of Braille gifts that I’m leaving all over the city. By the time I finish these in a few months I should have the ability to write without making too many errors.

For this first piece I decided on a regular 8.5 x 11 sheet of Braille with a spontaneous note on it. I wrote this using a traditional Braille slate and stylus while “Waiting” in a Hospital lounge for some stuff to get done. The text basically does little other than introduce the fact that I’m sighted and studying how to write Braille and that I ultimately plan to turn this skill into an art piece. It took me about an hour. Once I finished the piece I left it on a chair in a hospital waiting room in hopes that someone would pick it up and try and decipher it. Most likely it will end up in the trash, but that’s OK.

Here’s the piece on my lap, and below as it looked as I left it on the chair “in situ” waiting to be picked up or trashed by the cleaners.The second “Gift” piece was done on a smaller piece of paper. I wrote it while on the bus leg of my journey to work on Tuesday and it says something like, “Stranger, I think everyone suffers from some sort of blindness.” I left this on the seat of the bus.Wednesday’s message was again short. I left this one in a NOW! newspaper box. This one’s a bit weirder and maybe construed as slightly creepy. I hope not, but I think I’ll stay away from semi-poetic works. This ones translates to ” Stranger, I would talk to you for as long as I could about love if you would listen. C.S. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I just read the Braille to recall that’s what I had written. I’m definitely learning.Thursday’s's piece was rather longish but only took about 20 minutes which I’m pretty proud of. I’m getting faster every time I make one of these things and I’m looking at the cheat sheet less and less. I made this one on the subway at rush hour. Rather than deposit it on the seat and get questioned by people as I left I waited for the crowd to get off the train and left it on a bench on the platform at the Dundas West stop. If someone from the train that was arriving when I left it didn’t pick it up it probably blew into the tunnel somewhere. I think I’ll avoid doing that in future. I don’t want the TTC charging me with something, and I could see them doing so. I can leave these in the foyer of certain stations where they wont be subject to such heavy winds caused by the tunnels and trains.

Friday I did two pieces, one for a very nice co-worker who seems genuinely interested in my somewhat self indulgent projects, and another I deposited on a Dundas West station bench on the mezzanine level as shown below.

The plan for the future larger project called “Seeing” is to take existing photographic images and describe them in text. Then take that text and convert it into Braille and hand print the result using a slate I will custom fabricate to be about the size that the work described would be printed. Tehse will most likely be about 24 inches square. I’ll take pictures of these larger text filled Braille sheets and then make them into photographic prints. It sounds a bit confusing but it’s not really.

I see this work as being photography — a visual art– translated and manipulated through a a series of languages and forms then re-generated once again into a photograph. I’m interested in how the meaning will change as the medium fluctuates and the discussions and interactions it might encourage.

I’ve also made some headway and discovered an artist friendly laser cutting place that’s actually pretty convenient. I need them to cut the individual, page-sized slates I have and create the super large custom slate. This place is around College around Dufferin. I’ll stop in next week with my six individual page-size slates and get them to cut them so I can create a giant 24″ x 24″ slate that I can put a big piece of paper into.

Practice is going well and I really enjoy writing Braille. Once I’ve executed 10 or so large scale works I can take a course and learn Contracted, or Grade 2 Braille. It’s a little more common in the published Braille world but a lot more involved to learn and read. I can see Braille being a very large part of my upcoming work. It’s such a wonderful and cool form of communication.

 

 Facebook Twitter

Blindness

Create an elaborate light-proof set. Populate it with sighted people and get them to perform tasks in that darkness. Every now and then shoot with the flash, the light willgive them glimpses of what they are doing and allow them to organize but also capture each subjects relief for a brief glimpse of the sighted world.

A variation or an adjunct to tis concept is to set up portrait lighting on a given subject. Turn out all light and allow the subject and photographer to acclimatize to complete darkness and then shoot a photograph that focuses on their dilated pupils. In a way this would result in the temporarily blind taking a picture of a temporarily blind subject.

Film the whole thing as well and use the combination of both for the exhibition.

 Facebook Twitter

Photographers

Contact friend photographers and see if they’d be willing to let me take macro shots of their eyes, or one eye. The idea to create a show of these images in super large size, show the differences and title them with the name of the subject.

Eyes are the window to the soul, as well their the photographers tools, more so than the camera. it’s just a box with a hole in it. Without the photographers vision there can be no good photographs.It could also be viewed as a play on the structure of camera lenses. The eye is a natural lens that glassware and technology are always trying to emulate.

 Facebook Twitter