Category Archives: Canada

Stan Douglas Named the Recipient of ICP’s Infinity Award for Art

Stan Douglas has been named the recipient of the prestigious Infinity Award for Art by the International Center of Photography. Tonight, he will be presented the award at a ceremony in New York City. Douglas works in various media including video, installation and photography. Here, Lightbox visits highlights of three projects from the artist’s prolific photographic endeavors.

What is real? What is unreal? In a world where reality and history can be recreated and manipulated to appear authentic in a photograph, it is imperative that we ask these questions. We, as a society inundated with visual culture, are trained to ponder the truth and meaning behind what we see—but what if a photograph was created to question reality? To question history? Stan Douglas creates images that catalyze critical analysis and force their viewers to revisit the scenes they depict. Douglas, in creating new images of scenes in history, ponders the truth within the medium of photography and the sociological issues that lie in the passages and stories illustrated in his photographs.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Douglas approaches each image with epic, Hollywood-level production—tapping into his history as a maker of films and video. Demanding the most active viewer who questions, challenges and investigates all that he or she sees, each image is created to excruciating detail.

Linda Chinfen; Courtesy the artist

A production photograph depicting the lighting and building of the set of Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, 2008.

Courtesy the artist

A 3-dimentional rendering Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, 2008.

In producing Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, 2008 (slide #4), Douglas built a set to recreate a scene of the actual intersection in Vancouver. The placement of the actors in the image was pre-envisioned in three-dimensional renderings to anticipate the actual photograph. Not one detail was left unnoticed—down to the products in the dressings of the windows and the scraps of paper that lie on the streets. The mural-sized image, which was composited from 50 different images from the same shoot, is one of four in his series Crowds & Riots. All the images in the series are large scale tableaux depicting vignettes from Vancouver’s history—reflecting on matters of the police, class and social order.

Gjon Mili / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

Multiple exposure stroboscopic shot of actress and dancer Betty Bruce doing a routine for Broadway show High Kickers

In his series, Midcentury Studio, Douglas took on the identity of a photojournalist working between 1945 to 1951 (a selection of this work is represented by slides #6 – #9 in the gallery above). Inspired by imagery from this time, Douglas created images that discuss the decisive moment in photography—as Henri Cartier-Bresson explained, the exact moment that the photographer makes the photograph by firing the shutter of the camera—that very moment which is creative. Unfolding on Cartier-Bresson’s expression, Douglas constructed and carefully created these scenes to capture this experience and illustrate the scrupulous amount of information and action that lies in each frame of a photograph. In Dancer II, 1950, 2010, Douglas created an image similar to one from our own archive shot by famed photographer Gjon Mili for LIFE Magazine.

In Douglas’s most recent series, Disco Angola, most recently shown at David Zwirner Gallery in New York City in April, he once again approaches the identity of a photojournalist. This time, he is one who travels between New York City and Angola in the 1970s. Each image in the series utilizes the nature of body language as insight into the historical moment—from the pensive waiting of the Portugese colonialist awaiting evcuation (Exodus, 1975, 2012), to the interracial-intercultural array of dancing people (Club Versailles, 1974, 2012), to the group of rebel fighters performing capoeira, the Brazilian martial art that originated in Angola (Capoeira, 1974, 2012). Disco, a source of escapism for New Yorkers from the nearly bankrupt city at the time, traces its roots to Africa. Connecting these two seemingly disparate places, separated by thousands of miles of ocean and cultural-political borders, Douglas traces subtle parallels between New York’s struggles and the emerging Angolan liberation fight for independence from Portugal—one which would ultimately lead to a decades-long civil war.

Douglas’s series Midcentury Studio is currently on view at Victoria Miro Gallery in London through May 26, 2012. More information about the Infinity Awards can be found here.

Two Photographers’ Mission to Retrace a Lost Liberia

Jeff and Andrew Topham were five and three, respectively, when their father’s job moved them from the Yukon, Canada to just outside of Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, in 1976, four years before a military coup and two subsequent civil wars would devastate the West African nation. The boys lived in what they remember as paradise: endless beaches, thick jungles and countless adventures with their pet chimp named Evelyn. Their father, John, documented this time with thousands of photographs, inspiring a love for photography and filmmaking in both brothers.

In May 2010, the Tophams—now photographers themselves—returned to Monrovia to see what had become of their childhood home. “Our original idea was to revisit and re-shoot the influential and iconic photos of our childhood,” says Jeff Topham. What began as a personal exploration of their youth turned into a documentary film project titled Liberia 77 after the Tophams realized that many of the citizens they encountered did not own any photographs. “I was really interested in the connection between photography and memory,” Topham says. “How much my dad’s photographs influence my memory and what was actually real.”

Although they had seen images of the trouble Liberia had experienced in the last 20 years, the Tophams’ understanding changed after hearing stories of the fighting from citizens who had known their family. “You can read about those stories, but when you are actually sitting with someone and they are telling you first hand, it seems to hit a lot harder,” Topham says. “I think the emotional impact was definitely bigger than the physical.”

Exchem ID

John Topham’s Exchem ID. Many Liberians got rid of of their work ID cards to stay alive during the civil war.

The most staggering realization, which became the central focus of Liberia 77, was the absence of pictures. “The fact that nobody we encountered had any photographs, to me, was remarkable,” Topham says. During the civil wars, the possession of photographs—even on job identification cards—meant a person had money, a fact that could cause one to lose his or her life. Many people would get rid of them just to survive. “People hadn’t seen photos of Liberia from before the wars,” Topham says. “We had this stack of photographs from my dad that we were using as reference, and they almost became this stack of historical documents.”

During one part of Liberia 77,  Liberian photojournalist Sando Moore asks, “If you don’t know where you came from, how can you know where you are going?” That poignant questions speaks to the heart of the Tophams’ film: to give Liberian citizens a connection to their past in order to grow and reconstruct their future. “The fact that the country was destroyed over time, but was also built over time—I think to give people just a sense of history and of time passing is important,” Topham says.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was inaugurated for a second term today, also spoke briefly for the documentary. “I wish those who have photographs of our national existence find a way to keep them because at some point we will need to establish, re-activate our museum,” she says. “The only thing that could capture for the young people Liberia’s road from independence to where we are today would be if we could gather good photographs that rarely depict that. I hope those of you who are skilled in this and those of you who have all these years been able to keep these photographs, make sure you able us to copy them so we have our children know their own country.”

Since leaving Liberia at the end of last spring, and on the plea from President Sirleaf, the brothers have done just that. They’ve been collecting photographs from around the world  to help create a photographic archive for the people of Liberia at the National Museum in Monrovia. The Tophams have collected nearly 700 photographs to date, and they are looking for funding to return to Monrovia this fall to stage an exhibit and hand the pictures of peace over to the museum.

Liberia 77 has been shown on Canadian television and film festivals around the world. Read more about the project here. If interested in donating pre-war photographs of Liberia, click here. To learn more about the Tophams’ Indie Go-Go Fund Raising Platform, click here

Photographer #413: Andrew B. Myers

Andrew B. Myers, 1987, is a young Canadian photographer based in Toronto. He has a very distinct photographic style. His work is aesthetic, using carefully placed objects on simple color backgrounds which creates a large area of negative space. Due to the use of negative space the images gain an awkward flatness. His photographs are well composed, graphic and stylish. The sunlit shadows, washed out colors as well as the objects used refer back to the 1970’s and 1980’s with a modern twist. Andrew’s photographs contain elements of nostalgia and pop culture. The following images come from the portfolio’s 2011 PT.1, 2010 PT.1 and 2009.


Website: www.andrewbmyers.com

Photographer #410: Christopher Anderson

Christopher Anderson, 1970, Canada/USA, is an all rounded photographer who is well-known for his documentary / photo-journalistic work. He has traveled extensively to conflict zones throughout the world as Israel, Afghanistan and Haiti. He photographed these conflicts from a personal point of view. In 2009 he released the book Capitolio, a cinematic journey into Caracas, Venezuela. “He notates the country’s current incongruities, where the violent and the sensual intermingle chaotically.” (Magnum Photos) A recent body of work is called Son. He photographed his wife, his son and his father who was ill with cancer. Due to the birth of his son and several other happenings Christopher has decided to step away from war photography. Son is a very intimate and emotional project, touching themes as the cycle of life. It is a project that defines the real reasons for our existence and our drive as human beings. Christopher joined Magnum Photos in 2005 and became a full member in 2010. He has worked on commercial fashion shoots and had portrait sessions with people as Lady Gaga, Lance Armstrong and Al Pacino. The following images come from his book projects Son and Capitolio and from his story on Bethlehem.

Website: www.christopherandersonphoto.com

 (Video 2008)

Photographer #357: Larry Louie

Larry Louie, 1961, Canada, is a socially engaged documentary photographer who leads a dual career. He runs a optometry clinic in Edmonton where he actively works as an optometrist. Photography had been a serious hobby, but in 2005 he started showing his images and traveling the world. Since then he has been to countries as Tanzania, Tibet, Bangladesh and Turkey. Since 2008 he found a way to combine the photography with his work in eyecare. He worked together with Seva Canada, an organization whose mission is the elimination of preventable and treatable blindness around the world. In his series entitled In the Underbelly of Kathmandu, Larry focused on the simmering crisis currently happening in the Kathmandu Valley. It is quickly becoming the slum central of Nepal with raw sewage and air pollution as a result. Larry won numerous awards including the IPA Lucie Award and the National Geographic Photo Essay award. The following images come from the series Touched by Seva, A Working Day in Dhaka, Bangladesh and In the Underbelly of Kathmandu.


Website: www.larrylouie.com

Photographer #312: Scott Conarroe

Scott Conarroe, 1974, Canada, is a landscape photographer with a distinct eye. He received a BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 2001 and an MFA the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2005. His images of the sea or the railroad tracks in Northern America contain a subtle criticism on how humans interact with their environment. By Rail is the result of an eight month trip in his Chevy Van, often making long exposure photographs on a 4×5″ large format camera. His series At Leisure contains images of recreational spaces in built environments that seem unfitting, out of order or just weird. Scott has also created series in Ontario, Halifax and Beijing among other places. He has exhibited in Canada, several places in the US and abroad. Scott is one of the PDN’s 30 emerging photographers of 2010. The following images come from the series By Sea, By Rail and London.


Website: www.scottconarroe.com

Photographer #300: Lyle Owerko

Lyle Owerko, 1968, Canada, is a portrait and documentary photographer working and living in New York. He studied at the Pratt Institute in NYC. He was the photographer who shot the cover of Time in 2001 of the twin towers on fire on September 11. The happenings he witnessed on September 11th, 2001 have been published as a monograph called And No Birds Sang. The Boombox Project has been released as a book in 2010 for which he has photographed a large amount of vintage boomboxes, taking us back to the 80’s. Lyle has traveled extensively for his photography resulting in various projects on the African continent. He works with Human Rights groups documenting cultural groups hoping to contribute to the betterment of the human condition. Owerko also concentrates on film making and commercial work. The following images come from the series The Boombox Project, Radio Simba and The Samburu.

Website: www.owerko.com