CONTACT PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL OVERVIEW

 ***Warning…lost blog post…but how could it NOT BE when you attend the WORLD’S LARGEST photography festival???!!!***

Yep, supposedly CONTACT, is the world’s largest photography festival.  Gotta say, how can you argue with 20 exhibitions in major museums and galleries, 17 site specific installations in urban spaces, 40 selected exhibitions in galleries around the city AND 110 exhibitions in venues throughout the community.  That’s 187 unique photographic experiences (not including opening parties, receptions, artist talks, panels discussions, etc) to be had during the 2017 Soctiabank CONTACT Photography festival held this past May in Toronto, Ontario.  And via Great Meadows Foundation, I was granted the opportunity to travel to Toronto and spend nine days taking in this amazing festival!

 #thankyougreatmeadowsfoundation

An early highlight in the trip was meeting Shelley Niro (in red), winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Photography Award, and CONTACT Artistic Director Bonnie Rubenstein during Niro’s talk at her site-specific public installation at Fort York.

 

The theme of this years CONTACT was recognition of Canada’s 150 anniversary, so the works exhibited were largely by Canadian photographers and largely works about Canadian people, places and things…with an emphasis on the beauty of the Canadian landscape.  As this was my first trip to Canada, it was a great way to learn about the country’s history through the evolution of the photographic medium as work spanned from early tintypes, through the Kodachrome era and finally with contemporary interpretations of the digital image.

 

From Dana Claxton series Road Trip.

It was wonderful to see major representation by Canada’s indigenous community and see both the past and present from their perspectives.  Like the United States, Canada had a highly contentious colonial history and I was impressed to see so many artists address the subject in thought provoking ways.  Dana Claxton (above) questions how histories are represented and for whom by layering found images of middle class Canadian outdoor holidays with beadwork patterns from the Lakota tribe who formally inhabited those landscapes.

 

Installation image of Coastal by Johan Hallberg-Campbell

 

One of the most visible trends I witnessed throughout the festival was the use of large-scale images printed onto vinyl.  The vinyl adheres to a variety of surfaces and can be installed anywhere from interior gallery walls to natural elements or even sides of buildings.  This really interested me as I continue seeking ways to work larger.

 

Lori Blondeau @ Ryerson University

 

One on my key interests of the CONTACT festival was the incorporation of photography as public art.  Public art and environmental installations are huge in the world of art these days, but I feel like it is mostly of a sculptural, 3-dimensional nature and I couldn’t wait to see what a photographic festival would showcase.  Seeing work on billboards, subway platforms and even positioned onto the large scale rocks as featured in Lori Blondeau’s work, inspired me to think creatively about transforming environments with photographic imagery.

 

 

A unique aspect of a Great Meadows Foundation grant is the encouragement for applicants to make connections with professional colleagues in conjunction with their proposal destination.  My good friend Paul Paletti of the Louisville Photo Biennial was kind enough to to connect me with Bob Carnie, photographer, printer and owner of Alternative Photo Services  and Connections Gallery in Toronto.

 

Bob Carnie, owner of Alternative Photo Services, Carissa Ainslie, Production Coordinator of Connections Gallery, and myself at the opening reception of their traveling exhibition ‘Alternative Photo Revolution’.

 

Bob and Connections Gallery Production Coordinator, Carissa Ainsle planned a full day of not only viewing prominent exhibitions featured at the CONTACT photo festival, but also introducing me to key players of Toronto’s photographic art world.  Highlights included a private studio tour of Matthew Plexman (pictured below) and meeting with Sarah Burtscher, Gallery Director at Stephen Bulger Gallery.

 

Taking in the devastating beautiful work of Matthew Plexman’s Clear Cut Series.

 

But nothing topped meeting with Brian St. Denis, the Festival Coordinator of CONTACT!!  Because of my involvement with helping to organize the upcoming 2017 Louisville Photo Biennial, I was excited to meet with Brian, who was very generous with his time.  He clued me into some key elements of how a team of 5 successfully pull off this major photo festival EVERY year.  He was also kind enough to explain how an individual, such as myself, could go about finding space and showing their work as an Open Exhibition of CONTACT, which is what attracted me in the first place.  I love that an artist can participate in the festival without being represented by a gallery or included in a museum show.  The Open Exhibitions can be featured in gallery spaces, but also cafes, shops, restaurants, etc and the bulk of the exhibitions at CONTACT fall into this category.

 

contact
Meeting with Brian St.Denis, Festival Coordinator of CONTACT.

 

Needless to say, I had an amazing time taking it all in!  The festival itself was spread throughout the large city of Toronto which enabled me to take in the vast and different neighborhoods that make up the artistic fabric culture of this amazing city.   I made a lot of great connections and was inspired on a number of levels.  I will definitely be processing this for years to come!

Stay tuned for the next post…INSPIRED AT CONTACT!

~jz

 #thankyougreatmeadowsfoundation