In: Mark Walton

Mark Walton and Bart Gazzola – Spotlight
November 22, 2021

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The Polaroid Book : Selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography
January 5, 2023

The Polaroid Book : Selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography
Edited by Steve Crist, Essay by Barbara Hitchcock
Taschen 2005

As a photographer, and especially as one who has shot a lot of instant film, I could wax poetic about the wonders of the Polaroid film process; that it was invented in 1947 by Edwin Land and his Polaroid Corporation; that he formed a partnership with Ansel Adams to explore the artistic capabilities of the medium in 1948; that Land and the Corporation made hundreds of cameras and film available to artists around the world on the condition that they gave some of their images to Polaroid’s collection of photos. I could tell you that it was THE photographic medium of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and that creating a photo was indeed as easy as “Push, pull!”. However, there are so many writers and photographers out there who have extolled the virtues of the process over the last 75 years that I can’t possibly say anything new.

The Polaroid Book : Selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography tells the story in 254 photographs by 203 artists. The photos include black and white documentary and landscape images taken with the cumbersome early models of the Polaroid line of cameras to incredibly immersive large format color images made by celebrated artists and fashion photographers. The creativity in these polaroids is boundless. From Adams to Warhol with a little Close and Hockney in between, Polaroids were a tool used by well (and lesser) known artists to create stunning pieces of work. Chuck Close’s Self-portrait (seen below) stands out; a mosaic made up of 9 separate images to create a large, somewhat disjointed selfie in Close’s trademark (and usually painted) style.

Perusing this book will lead you to want to try capturing this photo-magic yourself, which you can do by using Fujifilm’s Instax line of film and cameras. Anecdotal evidence points to these colourful, well designed cameras acting as lures to teens everywhere to further explore the possibility available to them in analog photography as a creative outlet. It is one of the reasons that film sales are quickly growing again after years of domination of the market by digital photography.

The Polaroid Book is available from numerous online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.

~ Mark Walton

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Joyce Crago | City Hall Art Gallery | Ottawa
October 6, 2022

“Not long after she’d lost her sister Hazel, I ran into Joyce, and we decided to go for lunch. We settled ourselves on stylish chairs, surrounded by hushed chitchat. At mention of Hazel, Joyce crumpled, as though the loss was physically crushing in on her. In that room of mannerly interaction, tears poured freely down her face.

Joyce Crago transmuted her uncontrollable private grief into an act of profound communication. She created this work without allowing any of the power and shock of that raw and overwhelming pain to be lost in the beauty of these pieces. They don’t only express that pain, they articulate it. In viewing, we share in it, and understand.

Crago is a master of composition, and her specialty is arranging what’s been discarded in the wake of major events. Salvaged, staged, and photographed, spent objects become in her hands visually gratifying forms, and the significance with which they are imbued is revealed, laid bare.”

– Exhibition booklet excerpt by Ruth Dick

Joyce Crago is a multi-media Canadian artist with a background in textiles and law. Her creative pursuits are initialized by a compulsion to ask questions about subjects such as death, aging, mortality, and cultural trauma. She attempts to bring order to these subjects under circumstances that are not propitious.

She was the recipient of the 2021 Project X, Photography Award. In 2020, her work appeared in a featured exhibition at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and won the Grand Prize at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s RMG Fridays: Focused.

Her works were recently exhibited at the Ottawa Art Gallery and have also been shown nationally and internationally. They are held in the City of Ottawa Art Collection as well as many private collections.

Joyce Crago gratefully acknowledges the support of the Ontario Arts Council.

~ Mark Walton

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Gun Play | Jill Freedman
August 8, 2022

Jill Freedman is a name you should know in the world of photography… but more than likely don’t. With a career that spanned 40 years, 7 (and counting) books and pieces acquired by major galleries, Freedman’s work connects deeply with her subjects in a manner unlike most documentary photographers.

From the very beginning, Jill was IN. She didn’t go to take photos of Resurrection City in Washington in 1968; she LIVED in the camp with the protesters for the duration of that campaign. She travelled with the circus for several months in the early 70’s to get her incredible photos of life under and around the big top. She embedded herself in the firehouses and police precincts of NYC and came out with work so beautiful and intimate that her two books on the subjects (Firehouse and Street Cops) were snapped up by first responders when they were re-released in the early 2000’s.

When Pulitzer Prize winner Studs Terkel wrote his oral history Working in 1974, Jill Freedman was who he interviewed when talking about photographers. From the first time I saw her work, I knew that there was an extreme tension in how she approached it. “Sometimes it’s hard to get started, ’cause I’m always aware of invading privacy. If there’s someone who doesn’t want me to take their picture, I don’t. When should you shoot and when shouldn’t you? I’ve gotten pictures of cops beating people. Now they didn’t want their pictures taken. (Laughs.) That’s a different thing.”[i] Freedman walked a very thin line between rooting for the underdog yet respecting authority.

You can find out more about Jill Freedman at http://www.jillfreedman.com/. Resurrection City, 1968 was recently re-published and can be found for purchase at your favorite bookstore or online. Firehouse and Street Cops are no longer in print, but used copies can be found online.

[i] Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Terkel   Text © 1972, 1974 by Studs Terkel –  The New Press, New York, 2004, Pg. 153-154

~ Mark Walton

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Different Water
June 22, 2022

Different Water A Discussion on Art featuring work by Chrystal Gray and Mayra Perez Whiskey Bottle by Mayra Perez, Mask and... Read More
The Chain Links
June 20, 2022

Faki Kuano | Sarah Cheon | Ashley Guenette The Chain Links × × curated. by The COVERT Collective is pleased to... Read More
Walker Evans – James R. Mellow
May 19, 2022

Walker Evans
James R. Mellow
Basic Books; Revised ed. edition (Oct. 11 2001)

Walker Evans is one of the most famous American documentary photographers of the past 100 years and his images will stand for another hundred at least. While every serious photographer is familiar with his work (the best known of which was shot during the 1930’s for the U.S. Farm Security Administration as per the examples below), there have been relatively few books that discuss Evans as a man. James R. Mellow captures his complexities in this eminently readable biography, published in 2001.

What makes particularly interesting reading is Evan’s evolution as an artist, from failed student in the Mid-West US, to failed writer in Paris, to acclaimed photographer on his return to New York in the late 20’s and early 30’s. The book quotes extensively from his letters and other writings. One can almost hear him speaking… I imagine his voice to be a low pitched, slow drawl; a mix of Henry Fonda, Peter Coyote and Alan Rickman (minus the accent).

Evans comes across as dour and fatalistic, yet strangely still likeable. Much of his writing describes his unhappiness with things as they are, whether it be his annoyance with his mother, his dissatisfaction with the quality of the prints made from his negatives or his despondence about his romantic relationships. Many of his friendships with other famous artists are discussed, including Ben Shahn, Steven Crane and Hanns Skolle.

The book offers details about the trips Evans made to do his photography and specifically the trips he made with author James Agee as they worked on the seminal Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Evans plays the role of aesthete opposite Agee’s sensualist, the collision of which resulted in a book acclaimed for its intimacy and realism… a strong documentary account of the lives of sharecroppers and their families in the American South during the Great Depression.

It is sad but somehow inevitable that Evans ends his days as somewhat of an alcoholic / academic recluse. Mellow’s reliance on Evans’ own words leave you feeling as if you really knew him, that you cared about him, but weren’t overly close to the actual man behind the photographs, because of his determination to keep people at bay.

Walker Evans by James R. Mellow is available from numerous online retailers.

~ Mark Walton

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Ana Žanić – One Breath – Femme Folks Fest Repost
March 15, 2022

The first time you see Ana Žanić’s watercolor and pencil artwork is like taking a sharp blow to the limbic system. Every one of your senses screams “I know this” but cannot figure out what “this” is or why it knows it. They take on the form of something both organic and subliminal, communicating to us of the past (back to pre-history) and our deeply troubled emotional state we find ourselves in through the pandemic.

Her colour palettes are very natural and gently reassuring… mother earth will take us back into her bosom and help us heal. The meticulous marks speak of long journeys past, and reach out to our future selves to remind us that we have struggled before and have overcome those obstacles… we can do it again.

I reached out to Ana and asked her a few questions.

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Stéphany Gagnon – Cinéma / Cinema – Femme Folks Fest
March 15, 2022

Stéphany Gagnon | Cinema

I am of an age where I remember receiving a copy of the Canadian Children’s Annual every year for christmas from my parents. I recently purchased a used copy of the 1976 version, the original lost long ago during a past relocation between cities. These books contained what were among the first artworks that I ever inteacted with… in 1975 with a cover by William Kurelek, in 1976 by Lynn Frank (Lynn Johnston of For Better or For Worse fame), in 1977 by Toller Cranston and in 1978 by Ken Danby. These were not lightweight artists. Each were on their way to becoming, or already were, prominent Canadian artists.

Leafing through, I was pleasantly surprised at the memories that were brought back by the illustrations in the book… I remembered every one of those images very clearly. Not only the images, but memories of the rooms, emotions and peoples that are forever tied to those images sprang my mind. It was an like instant recall machine.

The illustraions and paintings of Montreal’s Stéphany Gagnon seem to me to have a similar magic to them. Gagnon’s work is deeply personal, with great attention to detail. It can be ethereally dreamy, but also lucid dreamy, as shown by Cinéma (above) and Lemonade Stand (below). Both seem to tug at places in your brain, looking for memories to associate with them. They are in some sense, lost art, looking for a home.

You can view (and purchase) more of Stéphany’s work on her Instgram page @stephanylitchi.

~ Mark Walton

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Karolina Kuras – Romance, Flight and Fluidity – Femme Folks Fest
March 14, 2022

Karolina Kuras Romance, Flight & Fluidity by Mark Walton ~ Karolina Kuras The COVERT Collective is pleased to be participating in Femme... Read More