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What has digital done
to the arts photographer?


COURTESY ANGELA GRAUERHOLZ, ART 45, OLGA KOPER GALLERY
Angela Grauerholz. Luftfeuchtigkeitsmesser, 2011. Grauerholz was the 2015 winner of the Scotiabank Photobgraphy Award.

What should we anticipate down the road regarding photography? Will we be shooting 3-D images from our smartphones? Will we be able to stimulate senses other than vision, say, by embedding smells into our photos? And will we succumbing further to image overload?

For photographers Pascale Grandmaison, Suzy Lake and Jayce Salloum, who have honed their craft over decades, the role of technology in the future of this art form provides both an exciting opportunity and a cause for concern.

The three are the shortlisted finalists for the Scotiabank Photography Award, which honours the photographic achievement of mid-to-late-career contemporary artists. Each year, the Scotiabank Photography Award-winning artist receives a prize of $50,000, a book overview of their oeuvre, published and distributed worldwide by esteemed German imprint Steidl Verlag AG, and a solo exhibition at the Ryerson Image Centre during the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. These renowned artists – who use images to explore politics, culture and social issues and challenge audiences with their interpretations of these issues – reminisce about starting out, share what they do when they’re not working, and dish on the role of digital in photography.

Pascale Grandmaison

COURTESY SCOTIABANK CONTACT FESTIVAL
Half of the Darkness, 2010

The art of Pascal Grandmaison, a native of Laval, Que., who now resides in Montreal, has been featured in solo shows across the country. His video work has also been shown internationally on several occasions, including presentations at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Palais de Tokyo and Centre Pompidou in Paris, and at the Edinburgh Art Festival. In 2015 he was a recipient of The Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award.

What do you look at and listen to for inspiration?

Last month, I was working on the storyboard of a new video installation and I had in my head the Blue triptych by Miró that is part of the Pompidou Centre’s collection in Paris. But it’s hard to point to specific people or things. For me, it’s the flow of interaction we have with different kinds of art, the mix of mental and physical space, every form of expression used. It’s a chain of time. Sometimes we remember a painting, but at the same time we are mentally evolving with a song or a cinematic image.


La vie abstraite, 2015

Is there a particular city or environment that you particularly love to shoot in, whether for work or personal purposes?

When I have an idea or I’m working on a certain concept, sometimes I shoot everything around me just to provoke something. I enjoy shooting in cities where the light is very strong; Marseille and Lisboa are some of them.

When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?

I never feel that I have a work to do. My creations are part of my life, so I spend my time doing all kinds of things but at the same time having in perspective how it reacts to the work. I have a garden with more than 200 species. I like to see all that variation, how everything appears in a different way. It gives me some perspective on how form relates to time.

Fake Imagery of the World Upside Down, 2009

How do you see photography changing in the next five to 10 years?

I think we are close to having a kind of “image meltdown.” I think people need fewer images, but images with more meaning. Sometimes we ask: What would you take with you if you were stranded on an island? I think we can think in that direction and ask: What images will I take with me if I have just a few choices?

Suzy Lake

COURTESY SCOTIABANK CONTACT FESTIVAL
Forever Young, 2000
(JELLY BEAN PHOTOGRAPHY)

Originally from Detroit, Suzy Lake has called Toronto home for almost 40 years. Her work explores the politics of gender, the body and identity. Among her career highlights: In 2007 she was one of 120 women artists featured in a show organized at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles – WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, which travelled across North America. And in 2014 the Art Gallery of Ontario presented a full-career retrospective of her work. Ms. Lake also taught for 40 years – in Montreal, Toronto and in Guelph, where she was head of the photo department at the University of Guelph.

Do you remember when you decided to pursue photography as a career?

I never “decided” – it was something I’ve always done. I drew or painted since I was very young. I had classical training at Wayne State University [in Detroit]. Photography was not considered a fine art in those days, so I was self-taught several years later. There was a deliberate decision to switch away from traditional media to performance, video and photography around 1970, though I often include drawing, painting and traditional media or sensibilities into my photographic work for expressive qualities. Photography’s representation tended to avoid issues of “illustration,” even when I was staging a metaphor.

The Extended Goodbye #2, 2008-09

What excites you most about photography today?

I love analogue photographic practice, so I switched to digital kicking and screaming. However, it is exciting to find out what a digital camera or digital facilities can do that is different than analogue. These qualities offer the opportunity to represent something with a different inflection.

What do you think is the most challenging thing about photography today?

I think the most challenging thing today is a believability or trust in the image now that amateurs know how to touch up or correct their images. One loses the awe of the decisive moment and technical skill of the photographer, even though we know there was still a bias in documentary work. This may seem peculiar coming from a staged photographer, but I do believe I am “lying to tell the truth” about an idea, despite it not being a document or narrative of a specific situation.

On Stage details, 1972-74

When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?

I enjoy working in the garden, and I have two beautiful grandchildren who I love to play with. It is important to spend social time with close friends and family.

Jayce Salloum

COURTESY SCOTIABANK CONTACT FESTIVAL
Marefat school assembly, 2008

Jayce Salloum is now based in Vancouver, but before settling there, he lived in San Francisco, Banff, Toronto, San Diego, Beirut and New York. His work, which, along with photography, includes curating exhibitions, conducting workshops and facilitating cultural projects, has taken him to Austria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, China, Aotearoa in New Zealand, Australia, the former Yugoslavia, Galápagos Islands and other places throughout the Americas. His work is rooted in connections with place and the people who inhabit that place. Mr. Salloum received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2014.

Do you remember when you decided to pursue photography as a career?

It was something that evolved early on. I started making art when I was a teenager in high school; I had a little studio in the back of the garage. I would do mostly drawing, painting and installations. I didn’t know they were installations at that time; I would just collect things and work on arranging them. Photography was something I did as a way of documenting life.

animate, 2012

Do you travel just for work or for leisure as well?

I used to travel just for work until I got married. Now when I travel with my wife, I’m still working but not as fixated on just that – there is more down time hanging out and being together. Consequently, she appears in a lot of my pictures, as a figure in the landscape, relating to the position of the subject, the cultures and the history of landscape photography. For me, this type of photography is a quotidian art, it’s a daily routine. I carry my camera with me wherever I go. It’s a diaristic form of note taking and finding my place in the world

What do you think is the most challenging thing about photography today?

Photography today has become thoroughly democratized in the way people might have imagined when portable cameras were invented back in the 1900s and heavily marketed after World War II. Now with digital devices in everyone’s hands and screens glued to their faces, a plethora of images is being made – for the most part, “selfies.” It’s become so pervasive, everyone’s engaged with photography within this culture of narcissism – it’s a reflection of gleaming surfaces capturing the instance but missing the moment.

Furniture store, 1983

How do you see photography changing in the next five to 10 years?

Technical innovations will continue with digital photography. I think 3-D imaging will become popularized, maybe even 4-D, and the virtual will become even closer to the real yet remain an artificial distraction, keeping us feeling secure in a techno-bubble. People’s understanding of how images make meaning won’t get any deeper, but we will become more deeply secure (for better or worse) in the comfort of images that surround and suppress us.

The 2016 Scotiabank Photography Award winner will be announced on May 3, 2016, at the Ryerson Image Centre. Watch live on the @Scotiabank Facebook Page at 7PM EST.


This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department, in consultation with Scotiabank. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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