Through the photographer’s lens

For someone who has travelled to Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland this summer in a quest to learn about the visual medium, I found it quite ironic to hear that there was a photography exhibit being held right here in my own backyard.

Having been to many photography exhibits in the past I am quite accustomed to the regular layout, lighting and ambience found at such shows.

My visit to the Waterloo Community Arts Center (WCAC) was a welcoming whiff of change from the usual exhibit structure. It was nothing like what I had experienced in the past.

At a first glance, the place looks like a makeshift gallery – dingy, noisy and in a forlorn state of affairs with images strewn around in a somehow organized mess.

It is said that the presentation of an image is as important as the message it conveys, so I tried to look beyond the immediate setting surrounding the image.

This exhibit strays from the usual convention of a themed showing. The display is a tiny whirlpool of images portraying a variety of themes including pets, flowers, huts, nature and moments in life.

One picture that appealed to me for its simple yet compelling composition was Jack MacAulay’s “Cornfield North of Erb Rd.” In this black-and-white image, the snow-covered cornfield and the wilted corn stalks take over the landscape and prove excellent contrast.

MacAulay’s work truly caught my attention for its simple composition of patterns found in nature, which was portrayed through intricately woven black-and-white shapes.

I had the chance to sit down and chat with Robin Andrade, one of the photographers being showcased at the exhibit. Her passion lies in photographing pets.

When asked what appealed most to her about photography, she replied, “I just really like to capture a feeling or image of a feeling on film.”

Andrade prefers to shoot close-ups, with little space around the image.

My talk with her provided me with another insight when Andrade revealed that MacAuley was actually her art teacher.

While Andrade and MacAuley’s works reveal differences in composition styles and points of interest, there was a unifying factor that was apparent – the two shared a love of art between two generations that brought teacher and student together once again.

Lauren Judge, general manager of WCAC, calls the exhibit a “grassroots gallery” where artists from the community are able to come together.

Judge also revealed some of the challenges one can encounter when hosting a photography exhibit.

One of the reasons there was a separate showcase with only photographs was that many believed photography didn’t have a place in other art shows.

“Initially the gallery committee was skeptical about putting on a photography exhibit,” she said.

“Because of the advances in photography editing and digital re-mastering it is hard to draw a line and say what is acceptable.”

There are some film purists who believe that film photography is the only true form. They believe that those who have switched to digital and now possess editing capabilities are no longer producing original photographs but graphic illustrations.

Due to such changes in the field of photography it has become difficult for galleries to define the boundaries between a photograph and a graphic illustration.

This uncertainty, however, did not deter WCAC from hosting their first annual photography exhibit.

Judge explains that they created the space for photographers to showcase their work in July, when the gallery is less busy.

“We wanted to provide an outlet for the photographers and not just shut photography out completely.”