it started with windows…

…I couldn’t stop searching for the right one. Of course it was all about the perfect angle and a great juxtaposition of graphics. Then I realized they were few and far between and to practice the art of window reflections was inconsistent to say the least.

This just happened the other day after picking up morning croissants and made me realize how much has changed since my window days.

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(Another way to achieve this kind of image is to collage single images together with photoshop. But I am not technically savvy enough to spend hours making these collages.)

My life changed the day I was digging, through the menu of my Nikon, and I spotted it. “Multiple Exposure”.  I couldn’t believe it. I had discovered a way to construct my own photo collages using the subject matter of my design.  I didn’t have to wait for these 3 dimensional stories to appear. They were mine now, to write.

For me they add a complexity to the visual story bringing greater depth to the image. The challenge of composing through trial and error, which is a way of seeking through seeing, is thrilling.

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Architecture is more than building materials and form. It is touched by time, the environment and by us. It is in a constant feedback loop, creating and recreating context, atmosphere and space.

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These images were created using my smartphone. I can now play with these ideas while I am on the go. It allows me to test ideas and practice compositions without have to bring my big camera. I decided to start another instagram account that will only be my phone double exposures. @jo_dbl_expo is my new idea park for these tests. They don’t always work but sometimes geometry just seems to play right into the lens….

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Storytelling

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what started it all

This is the original cibachrome print of house boats in Paris, taken by father in the early 60’s, that hung in his home office my whole life. The clarity, sharpness, and depth of colour, stuck with me. It was the first photograph that took me somewhere. And I wanted to go there.

I do have the story in my past, of always having a camera in hand, from a very young age. Yes, photography is a part of how I see the world. But I think more importantly, this image impressed upon me the stories that architecture tells. I have had many discussions about the stories that faces tell, that humans tell with their pain, distress, joy, euphoria – and why not focus on capturing these stories? I am simply a human that is endlessly moved by architecture. It has mystery, sadness, fear, chaos, spirituality and breath taking beauty. It can cause us to lose our minds and it can care for us.

This image is my root. My centre. My beginning. Not only because of the man who took it, but the simple story it tells. I brought it home from Calgary and now it hangs in my bedroom in France. It is a bit of my father watching over me and a reminder of how important beginnings are.

Past Due

In February of this year, I presented a new series of architectural double exposures at the Artist Project in Toronto. This new work was shot in Avignon, Uzes, Anduze, Nimes and Arles – France.

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This was a really hard show to put together. I constructed and shot the work in November and December, after I found out that my father was going to die from pancreatic cancer. I pushed forward, planning to attend the show in February as my father was adamant that I plan on attending. I returned to Canada in January to care for him. While we were in the hospice I was editing files, making postcards and putting together the final choices for printing. He was able to see my proofs and it brought him right back to the places we had seen together just months earlier.

He passed away January 27, 2016. With the show on wheels, driving itself, we had his funeral, buried him, packed up his house and I was on a plane to Toronto February 15th. One of my oldest friends in the world helped me hang the show and there I was on February 18th.

Standing in front of the streets I had taken him to in October. It was exciting to be surrounded by images of my new home but emotional at the same time. I could recall our conversations and know that they were some of the last conversations we would have about architecture. It was our bond. Architecture. Our place to completely know wonder.

As I write that, I know how deep this loss will be. No one else felt that with me. To share something like that with someone so close is to be complete. Now there is a part of me missing. A call that no one will answer.

And so, because of all of that, life has been upside down lately.

And like most things on my plate, this post is past due.

Here. This is what I feel. A Photography Exhibition at the Gladstone


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Please join me for the public open hours at the Gladstone Ballroom, 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, June 4th and 5th from 12 – 5 pm


Toronto’s west-end community has one of the highest concentrations of people suffering from mental illness in Canada.

St. Joseph’s Health Centre is the place that many of these men, women and children turn to in distress. The Mental Health Emergency Services Unit (MHESU) in our Emergency Department is often their introduction to the outstanding mental health services at St. Joe’s.  An expansion and renovation are needed for this area to make it a more secure, calming and comforting space.  With the help of the community, St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation is initiating a campaign to renovate this space. To raise awareness of this project and to bring the patient perspective into the design of the new space, photographer and former healthcare architectural designer Joanna Johnston is opening the doors to new ideas of how physical space can encourage healing through this exhibit.

Excerpt from the Artist Statement:

“We all physically react to architecture. We see. Or we don’t. We hear. We hear too much. We feel temperature.  Too cold or too hot. We smell bad things. Not enough good. Windows, doors, walls, floors, ceilings, lights, furniture, heating, cooling. With these considerations in mind, I began the project by listening to former and current patients about what they felt when they were in the unit. After these conversations, I took my camera into the unit to try and document what I had heard.

After establishing how the unit had made them feel, I asked my patient volunteers a critical question – where do you feel your best? Can you show me where you feel most grounded? What is that place like? Each place was different. Some were rooms, some furniture, some outside. What seemed to be common was the ability of each person to clearly articulate the way in which that place provided an internal equilibrium of spirit. A restfulness. A peace. My final step was to bring these places back into the hospital, and photograph them together.”

This exhibit is the result of that work.  There are 14 contrasting photographs that show the ‘calm’, ‘comforting’ space (unique to each person) hanging in the MHESU in particular locations. Each image was printed on foam core and then brought back into the unit to be photographed while the unit was fully operational.

Beside each contrasting photograph there is a written ‘story’ that explains the ‘picture in the picture’. Joanna based these short stories on her notes and recollections from meeting with each patient. Without naming our volunteers they offer some insight into why each person chose the place they chose, and some recollections of their time in the unit. Below are a few examples of the work that will be on display as well as the accompanying story.

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She didn’t hesitate. 

My bed.”

I built it myself. It is the place I feel most safe. I have my blankets and sheets; it is warm and soft and clean.”

It reminded me of a nest. Tucked into a corner of her room it was a place from which to contemplate the world. The flannel pillow cases and micro fibre sheets looked soft. It was a bed to be warm in. Her flowers on the underside of her comforter were a vibrant display in the otherwise neutral space.

She was direct. As she spoke about her experience in the unit, she kept referring to needing to find a place to put her back up against, to create a space for herself, away from others. 

Corners are good. I know now the good spot to go. I take extra sheets from the linen cart to keep warm. I couldn’t seem to get warm enough.

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Beyond the glass door of her terrace door, the patio furniture sat empty in the cold air.
In the summer, there is a splash pad that has a water feature. I sit out there and listen to the sound of water and it makes me feel calm. I spend a lot of time out there just listening to the water.” It was November, we decided to wait until spring to photograph her place.When I returned 6 months later, we sat out on the patio furniture. Sun streamed down onto where we sat and the young leaves of the birch tree nearby were iridescent green. It was lush and private there. We could sit amid the greenery, protected by stacked stone that cast textured shadows along the retaining wall. The sounds of children floated over the air from the park beyond her terrace.

When I was there, (in the MESU) the windows didn’t open, there was no fresh air, I couldn’t trust the environment. When you are uncomfortable it is hard to tell your story, sort your feelings out in a coherent way for someone else to understand.

Seeing this place I understood why.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking in the Highline Park, New York City.

...she was exquisite...
…she was exquisite…

This series was taken in New York, at the High Line Park using multiple exposures in camera.

The park offers a new look at the city. Suspended above streets and construction sites, it lifts you but does not completely hide you away. It is a cultivated garden, rich with texture, shape and color. As it drives through the built fabric of the city, you invited to meander and stop, watch and listen. There are nooks and crannies for locals on their lunch breaks and vistas for visitor selfies. It has an openness, allowing for the possibility of invention and yet a clear mandate, it is a garden park, an escape in the city.

The great contrasts of the Highline are like New York itself. Wander along any street and you will find, the crazy / the sane, the quiet / the loud, the elegant/ the profane, the humble / the boisterous. Double exposures allow that visual story of contrast but also serve to puzzle the eye a little. They make you search for both images and then give in to the new image. The Highline allows you to ‘see’ the city but as you watch it, there is also the physical presence of the garden one feels, the plants – their movement and shape in opposition to the hardscape that contains it.

See my complete series here. (UPDATE –  Here’s what the show looked like.)

p.s. Some of the Highline pieces will be with me at the Toronto Artist Project in February.

 

 

Interactive Art in Children’s Hospitals – just for children?

The Morgan Stanley Clinical Building at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London has been employing some very innovative ways to engage families, children and staff through art projects in their building. I previously posted on the Lullaby Factory from Studioweave and now there are a few more to look at.

I would like to highlight one in particular.  It is interactive wallpaper and light installation by Jason Bruges Studio.  It is called Nature Trail. Click to watch a video by Jason Bruges Studio that explains the design and process of installation.

Delightfully appealing to any age, this is beautiful idea that does not rely on a Disneyesque interpretation of ‘forest’ and ‘woodland creature’.  The lit up, moving evocations of animals appear like magic among the digital and fantastical forest.  It invites inquiry, play, discussion and delight.  All factors for a successful art installation for everyone to enjoy.

Find out more on other creative projects living at the Morgan Stanley Clinical Building here.