Home > Design, Design + International, Design Festivals, Event, Exhibition > Contact: Toronto Photography Festival 2006

Contact: Toronto Photography Festival 2006

Edward Burtynsky, Bao Steel # 8, Shanghai, China, 2005
via Oakland University

I had started a discussion about photography some time ago at Modenet that was somewhat interrupted by travel to Toronto. I guess you would say that my position was somewhere in line with the common argument that photography is not an art form. It is a medium that has blurred the edges right from the onset, then what doesn’t these days anyway? When is painting, photography sculpture or any other medium art and when is it not? When is the image I capture on my digital camera art and someone else’s not art?

Well to spare you the arguments that have been going through my head I’ll give you the essence of what I think it comes down to – intention when taking the image and what you do with it post production.

Not so complex however there are those like Sebastian Smee who object to manipulations of photographic images and their overabundance as a dilution of the form. This argument is applicable in some cases and not in others. We could say the same of painters, sculptors and installation artists. Perhaps you can safely say it is art when the purpose of the image is taken out of it’s ordinariness and/or when its ordinariness is the purpose of the image – basically when it is intervened by the artist.

Smee sees museums are

becoming increasingly reluctant to pin much hope on photography’s capacity to keep people enthralled. Apart from the Henson retrospective in Sydney and Melbourne in 2004-05, no great photography exhibitions have been mounted in Australia’s main public galleries in years. Overseas, it’s much the same story.

Contact begs to differ. I was confronted by Canada’s most extensive photography festival to help me consolidate my thoughts. I saw some of the most artistic and extraordinarily ordinary images that confronted with their exposure and psychological depth, contrasted by some of the most extraordinary images that simply confronted and awed. I saw some of the work of famous black and white photographers such as Andre Kertez – I was astounded by the beauty and surprise in his cityscapes, to some American photo realists who I can’t name at the moment. It was amazing to see the reflected dreams and fantasies of a ‘free’ American world evidenced in the eyes of the destitute and dejected during the great depression.

Islanders/ sambo / Chingis
Anastasia Khoroshilova

An exhibition of note was that of Anastasia Khoroshilova @ Corkin Shopland Gallery, a photographer who sees herself as part of the international scene not as an emigrant but as part of the global community. She belongs to a new generation of post-diaspora artists. Her series Islanders documents the inaccessible aspects of Russia, a village, military town, an orphanage and a dance academy. Sambo 70 documents young wrestlers posing in the gym. These are complex social and psychological studies in large scale.

Un Ă©tat des lieux / Bruno Rosier
Rapides du Niagara / 1952-2002
Via Contact

Bruno Rosier, exhibitited @ Alliance Francaise, found twenty-five prints dated from 1937 to 1953 in a flea market, showing the same person posing alone in front of famous landmarks all over the world. This discovery was the starting point for a photographic odyssey that was also intended as an exploration of self-representation and the artistic process. In order to re-create the same shots half a century later he dressed and posed in the same way as the original photographs. These images were an extremely powerful way of interrupting the idea of the individual.

Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, Tethering the Sky, 2004, photogravure
via Oakland University

Last but not least imaging a shattering earth, MOCCA, was based on a liberal theme meant to foster awareness of the biological, social, and cultural conditions that influence our world and shape our environment.

The show brings together 56 works by 12 North American artists whose work bear witness to an increasing sense of urgency revealing a pattern of monolithic degradation. Artists include Edward Burtynsky, John Ganis, Peter Goin, Emmet Gowin, David T. Hanson, Jonathan Long, David Maisel, David McMillan, Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, John Pfahl, and Mark Ruwedel.

The Works look beyond borders and boundaries and geographical isolation to remind us of the impact of all our industrial practices, corporate priorities and governmental policies. The images represent the earth as deeply scared by human intervention and in great need of healing.

Well there you have some of the most potent photographic exhibitions I have seen the longest time. I hope Sebastian Smee will take note and realise that perhaps we should have a festival of this nature to showcase what we can bring to photography other than the few established well known protagonists of the art.

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