December 31, 1994

1994 Year in Review


8"x10" film
One aspect of my photographic work that is under-represented on this site is my portrait photos. I haven't posted many for the simple reason that portraits seldom work beyond the immediate circle of friends of the subject...a photo of a stranger is simply that - an image of someone you do not know. I do love portraiture however, and continue to add to this body of work.
4"x5" film
Unlike my portraits, my Nude work has almost the opposite element; the anonymity of the model encourages the viewer to consider the universality of the body, and in some cases, even the mutability of gender. My early studio nudes avoided faces simply because my models were not comfortable with their identity being known. As my work grew though, I realized that if a Nude contained a face, it was a photo of a person, whereas, if it contained an anonymous model, it became an image about the body, not individuality. I often create nude portraits of my figure models, but seldom show these works, as they function in a very different way from the main body of my work with the figure.
4"x5" film
It is almost the reverse process with my images of the fortifications around Halifax. Generally speaking, my fort images are about specific sites, about the flow of history and time over the creations of man. Occasionally though, I do make a anonymous image, which speaks more about the aesthetics of time than the specifics of a location. This reversal of technique puzzled me for a long while, until 1994, when I started thinking about the ruins as individuals, with their own characters and flavours. In that context, the lack of "universal" images of the forts made sense. With my figure work, it is important for me to maintain a discussion about the general, while with the forts, I am discussing specifics of location and history.
8"x10" film
The summer of 1994 was very strong in regards to my figure work, having a unique opportunity built into it. A_, a friend from Scotland, was visiting for three weeks, and was basically to function as a live-in model for that entire period. While the weather didn't co-operate all the time during her visit, I did have the opportunity to work very intensely over a short period of time with a single model, something I hadn't previously had the opportunity to do.
35mm film
The work I produced with A_ was exceptional for several reasons. One, it was produced over a fairly short time period, which lead to a very strong rapport between her and I, giving more comfort to the second and subsequent session than is usually present. Two, A_ was more interested in modelling for me than for herself; her reason for modelling was because she wanted to help me with my art, as opposed to wanted nudes of herself. This subtly changed the interaction between us, and more experiments and risk were tried than usual. A_'s patience allowed me to use the 8x10 camera (though she did fall asleep once), and produce a surprising amount of images in a two week period.
8"x10" film
I think, in some ways, the most surprising results of the work I did with A_ was the fact that though she was keen to model, and was very interested in seeing the contact prints from the sessions, she didn't ask for a single print. She was very pleased with the work, and that I had images I really liked, but simply didn't want copies for herself. It was a very different experience from all my previous models, who were interested in both helping me with my work, and in receiving prints for their own.
4"x5" film
When I started back at the Art College in the fall, one of my first photo session was in the studio with S_, a model I'd worked with earlier in the summer. She, like A_, was modelling more to propel my work than out of personal interest. We'd never worked together in the studio, and the session was a real success. By this point I was pretty much intuitive in the studio, using light rather than struggling with it, and as a result of the conscious breakthrough of the previous year with the idea of Mortalities, I even had a clue as to why I was making the images. The fact that studio work still remained hollow and less meaningful to me was insurmountable, but the quality of the images was closer to what I sought than anything else to date.
8"x10" film
In the fall of 1994, as part of my final photo course at the Art College, I took a documentary photo course. I saw it as an opportunity to finalize the format and content of the work I'd been producing on the Fortress Halifax. The timing of the course coincided perfectly with some conservation/restoration work that Parks Canada was doing on Fort Charlotte, located on George's Island in Halifax Harbour.
8"x10" film
In some ways, the Fort Charlotte Project was an ideal situation, as I had the time and energy to dedicate to documenting the site, and an environment which permitted me the freedom to experiment with form and content without any preconceived ideas of what is "right". I was in pure heaven for the weeks that I photographed on the island, both because it was an incredible subject, and because it represented a period of uninterrupted work, something that occurs only on rare occasions.
4"x5" film
The major accomplishment of the Fort Charlotte Project wasn't so much the strength of the images, though those more than met my expectations but rather the final layout, and the multi-layering which I hit upon as a presentation technique. By using copies made from the original Royal Engineer's plans in juxtaposition with my contemporary photographs, I made a link between the pre-historical intent of the site and its post-historical outcome (pre-historical because the plans show the intent before the realization, and post-historical because the photos are after the site has ceased to have its original meaning). In the final piece there was no reference to the actual purpose of the fort, though it was implicit within the architecture. I addressed the site as a purely aesthetic space, and permitted the viewer to draw their own conclusions about the site's place in history.
Reproductions of original plans, 4"x5" and 8"x10" film
The final project consisted of seven interwoven panels. Produced before my initiation into the world of Digital imaging, the final prints represented a pinnacle in my darkroom work to date, printed with multiple negatives on single sheets of paper, each print requiring between 6 and 9 separate printings, each with a different mask. Today, if I was to put together this project, I'd assemble it in Photoshop and have far more control over the registration and layout. As it is though, the final project was a major step forward, both in design, and simply as a technical achievement.

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