FE­MALE PHO­TOG­RA­PHERS BRING NEW VIEWS INTO FO­CUS

Wave of fem­i­nism cre­ates ‘a safe space’ for ex­hibit of women’s im­ages, says co-cu­ra­tor

Calgary Herald - - YOU - ERIC VOLMERS

In Diana Thor­n­ey­croft’s play­ful and slightly un­set­tling piece Lucy (the lizard hunter), a strange hy­brid crea­ture sits atop a three-headed hound clutch­ing lizards in her hand.

In Ha­ley Eyre’s I Don’t Want to Clean, a woman in high heels and furs clutches a duster in a laun­dro­mat.

In a pho­to­graph by Heather Saitz, a pink-coloured bail-bonds busi­ness called Kiss is pho­tographed amid a strik­ing blue sky.

Lori An­drews’ col­lec­tion of work shows the artist dressed as Won­der Woman against var­i­ous back­drops.

It’s an eclec­tic group of im­ages that, at first glance, don’t seem to have much of a the­matic thread.

“All the group is very dif­fer­ent, but they are grouped into themes, which when hung in the gallery ev­ery­thing is go­ing to look very co­he­sive,” says Saitz, a Cal­gary pho­tog­ra­pher and co-cu­ra­tor of The Fe­male Lens, a group ex­hi­bi­tion at the Chris­tine Klassen Gallery that opens Satur­day as part of Ex­po­sure: Al­berta’s Pho­tog­ra­phy Fes­ti­val.

We’ve had over 1,000 people who have re­sponded to the event on Face­book, which is in­sane .... There’s a lot of in­ter­est.

“We ac­tu­ally talked about this when we were de­cid­ing which work from which artist to show. It was, ‘Pick the artist first and de­cide what work to show af­ter,’ be­cause we wanted cer­tain people to be in­volved. But I think it would have been very bor­ing if ev­ery sin­gle sub­ject mat­ter and ev­ery sin­gle piece was roughly the same. So this way, we’re rep­re­sent­ing some dif­fer­ent but very com­mon themes in the art world and pho­to­graphic art world es­pe­cially, but it’s done in a very co­he­sive man­ner.”

Still, the most binding thread is sim­ply that the artists are all fe­male. It had been six years since Saitz, an On­tario-born com­mer­cial and fine-arts pho­tog­ra­pher and art di­rec­tor, show­cased at Ex­po­sure. In the sum­mer, she be­gan think­ing about the sort of show she wanted to pitch to or­ga­niz­ers.

“I thought maybe I should show with some­one else, maybe I should ap­proach one of my col­leagues or some­one whose work I re­ally ad­mire and do a col­lab­o­ra­tive thing,”

Saitz says. “Then I started brain­storm­ing and a lot of the people whose work I re­ally ad­mire are women. They are people like El­yse Bou­vier and Lori An­drews and Julya Ha­jnoczky.

“That’s where the wheels got turn­ing, when I re­al­ized how many great women pho­tog­ra­phers in the city I was in­spired by. It was im­por­tant for me to find a gallery to show it in that was also fe­male run. So that’s why I ap­proached the Chris­tine Klassen Gallery and even be­fore I was fin­ished talk­ing, they were like, ‘Ab­so­lutely, yes.’ ”

Saitz stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy at Sheri­dan Col­lege and com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­sign at Seneca Col­lege at York Univer­sity in Toronto be­fore mov­ing to Cal­gary 16 years ago. Since then, she has es­tab­lished her­self as a go-to pho­tog­ra­pher, with her work ap­pear­ing in pub­li­ca­tions such as WestJet Mag­a­zine and the Cal­gary Her­ald’s de­funct Swerve Mag­a­zine.

The Fe­male Lens fea­tures eight other artists, bring­ing a wide va­ri­ety of styles and tones to the ex­hibit. It runs the gamut, from the mys­ti­cal, darkly comic work of es­tab­lished Win­nipeg artist Thor­n­ey­croft to the ex­plo­ration of how “food in­ter­sects with cul­tural iden­ti­ties” in ru­ral Al­berta by emerg­ing pho­tog­ra­pher El­yse Bou­vier, to Cal­gary trans artist Vivek Shraya’s se­ries of vin­tage-look­ing self-por­traits re-cre­at­ing old pho­to­graphs of her mother and Saitz’s own retro-style film-stock pho­tog­ra­phy. The work can be satir­i­cal, poignant, thought-pro­vok­ing and timely.

“We’ve had over 1,000 people who have re­sponded to the event on Face­book, which is in­sane,” Saitz says.

“It’s an art open­ing, and I never imag­ined the re­sponse would be this big. Re­gard­less of the gen­der side of things, I think it’s bring­ing to the fore­front some­thing that needs to be talked about .... The fourth wave of fem­i­nism and the #MeToo move­ment has re­ally cre­ated a safe space where we’re able to do this, and there’s a lot of in­ter­est in it.”

Still, she is re­luc­tant to say that the in­ter­est is solely based on the “resur­gence of the F-word.”

“Ul­ti­mately, at the end of the day, this is just a col­lec­tion of re­ally great work,” says Saitz.

Ha­ley Eyre’s I Don’t Want to Clean, is part of the ex­hibit Fe­male Lens.

Diana Thor­n­ey­croft’s Lucy (the lizard hunter) is one of the more play­ful yet un­set­tling pho­to­graphs.

Royal Cafe, an im­age by El­yse Bou­vier, an emerg­ing pho­tog­ra­pher in ru­ral Al­berta, is part of the ex­hibit Fe­male Lens at Ex­po­sure: Al­berta’s Pho­tog­ra­phy Fes­ti­val.

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