The Eh List of Canadians at 2012 CONTACT Photography Festival

Larry Towell Village elder and daughter

© Larry Towell/Magnum Photos

The 16th annual CONTACT Photography Festival officially launches tonight in Toronto. The festival has grown into the largest photography event in the world, and this year more than 1000 local, national and international artists will exhibit their work in venues across the city. A lot of great photographers from around the world will be showing off their work, but since this is a site for Canadian photographers I wanted to highlight a few of the great exhibits by some our outstanding local talent.

Larry Towell & Donovan Wylie: Afghanistan
One of my own home grown heros is Larry Towell, and his work will be showcased together with that of Donovan Wylie. Towell and Wylie are both members of Magnum Photos, one of the most prestigious photographic agencies in the world. Their exhibit features images from Afghanistan, however, the two photographers explore the consequences of the conflict from very different perspectives. Towell’s black and white photographs reveal the devastating effects of war on the citizens, soldiers, and landscapes of Afghanistan. Donovan Wylie’s colour photographs document watchtowers and operating bases built by the Canadian military for surveillance and defense of the surrounding terrain.

Larry Towell & Donovan Wylie: Afghanistan
May 5–July 8
Opening May 4, 6–8:30pm
Institute for Contemporary Culture, Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen’s Park
Toronto M5S 2C6
Mon–Thu, 10–5:30pm
Fri, 10–8:30pm
Sat–Sun, 10–5:30pm

Lynne Cohen: Nothing Is Hidden

Lynne Cohen

© Lynne Cohen

Lynne Cohen is an American-Canadian photographer who has lived and worked in Canada since 1973, initially in Ottawa, and in Montreal since 2005. With the exception of a handful of architectural exteriors dating from the early 1970s, Cohen’s art has largely been confined to investigating the interiors of domestic, industrial, leisure, and educational institutions. Her cool, deliberate, beautiful, and intriguing images, precisely executed, and infused with uninflected light, reveal a great deal about the scope and limitations of our abilities to control chaos and make sense of the external world. They confront the contradictions and ambiguities of this often ludicrous and sometimes poignant visual drama that unfolds behind closed doors.

Lynne Cohen: Nothing Is Hidden
May 3–June 30
Design Exchange
234 Bay St
Toronto M5K 1B2
Mon–Fri, 10–5pm
Sun–Sun, 12–5pm

Johan Hallberg-Campbell: Coastal

Johan Hallberg-Campbell

© Johan Hallberg-Campbell

Raised in the Highlands of Scotland, Johan Hallberg-Campbell is a freelance photographer, living and working between Toronto and the UK since immigrating to Canada in 2007. A photographer with an enduring interest in the idea of “place,” Campbell tells the stories of the outport communities on the south-west coast of Newfoundland through still and moving images. Capturing the people and landscape, he creates a valuable document of a fading way of life.

Johan Hallberg-Campbell: Coastal
April 21–July 15
Opening April 20, 6–10pm
Harbourfront Centre
235 Queens Quay W
Toronto M5J 2G8
Mon–Sun, 10–9pm

Deborah Samuel: ELEGY

Deborah Samuel Barred Owl

© Deborah Samuel


Deborah Samuel is a Canadian photographer currently living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Samuel’s exhibit ELEGY is a project borne out of loss and anger. Loss came with the passing of loved ones; anger, in the wake of the environmental degradation caused by the 2010 BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. After she was prevented from photographing oil-slicked birds in Louisiana, Samuel took an intimate tack, placing the skeletons of avians and other animals on a flatbed scanner. The resulting series of images capture a meditative and haunting portrait of natural fragility, a narrative of survival and death that speaks to the struggles faced by all living creatures. Depicting the beauty of the natural form and the complexity of the structures that sustain life on our planet, the exhibition features a selection of 33 photographs, including ten commissioned by the ROM using specimens from their collection.

Deborah Samuel: ELEGY
March 29–July 2
Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen’s Park Cres
Toronto M5S 2C6
Mon–Thu, 10–5:30pm
Fri, 10–8:30pm
Sat–Sun, 10–5:30pm

Jon Rafman: The Nine Eyes of Google Street View

Jon Rafman

© Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman is a visual artist who lives and works in Montreal. Rafman’s ongoing series The Nine Eyes of Google Street View is the product of painstaking research that compiles a fascinating array of incidental moments captured by Google’s Street View cameras. When Rafman reframes an image sourced from the Google site, he reintroduces the human gaze into the picture and reasserts the importance of the individual. Often featuring people (their faces blurred for legal reasons) the artist catalogue’s everyday dramas that would otherwise probably never be seen beyond their specific location. Rafman aligns himself with the historical role of the artist to capture the moral dimension in ambiguous contexts.

Jon Rafman: The Nine Eyes of Google Street View
May 3–June 2
Opening May 3, 6–9pm
Angell Gallery
12 Ossington Ave
Toronto M6J 2Y7
Wed–Sat, 12–5pm

The shows above are from the Contact Primary or Featured Exhibitions, but there are lots of other notable exhibitions from great Canadian photographers. Here’s a few that other readers have let me know about. If you have any shows to recommend, please post a comment here, or on our facebook page, and I’ll add them to this list.

Per Kristiansen has two shows: Piles at Mjölk in the Junction and Skulls at Cava Restaurant. The Piles series continues with the theme of repetition, capturing and bringing to the forefront the uniqueness of seemingly similar subjects, while the Skulls series is a special project created for acclaimed chef Chris McDonald’s tapas restaurant, Cava. The challenge was to utilize the chef’s collection of pig skulls to create a photo series focusing on Cava’s extensive charcuterie menu and Iberian-based cuisine. Kristiansen combines high-contrast lighting and decorative arrangements to create modern vanitas that celebrate the source of a delicious food, and remind the viewer of the animal’s ultimate sacrifice.

Samantha Allen’s exhibition The Craigslist Project is at the ARTiculations: Earl Selkirk Gallery. It asks the question “what happens when you deliver great art to an unsuspecting public?”, and features a diverse collection of photographic work presented as a series of postings on the online classifieds platform. View the ads, read actual responses, and discover how compelling images and alluring text can evoke unexpected emotions and reactions.