Last year, I had the privilege of working with some of BC’s top emerging artists starting their professional careers in photography and media arts. Their approaches were diverse, thoughtful, and – yes – experimental! I want to introduce you to a couple of them. Ramey Newell and Krystle Coughlin were working with similar ideas that you’re now taking on: thinking about their images on multiple levels; disrupting straightforward pictures; and using unique qualities of photography to make us think about the world in different, more critical ways.

Slide004-edited-smallRamey Newell, A fine sheet of water, 2018, inkjet print

RAMEY NEWELL

If you’ve taken any biology, you might’ve heard of agar. Agar is a substance in which bacteria thrive. Scientists study “bacteria cultures” in dishes of agar, in order to develop antibiotics. Ramey Newell decided to take pinhole photographs of different landscapes, spreading agar on top of the photos and allowing bacteria native to those landscapes to grow on top of the images. She scanned these images huge so that we can see the bacteria cultures growing on the photograph.

The result? It’s incredible how these tiny bacteria seem to resemble the landscapes they were collected from! Ramey’s photos literally put landscape photography under the microscope, reminding us that there’s so much more to a scenic vista than the easily visible landmarks; the macro world only exists because of all the tiny building blocks of life holding them up. Ramey’s work is breathtaking, but it also contains an important environmental message.

 

LindPrize2018_highres_30Krystle Couglin, tth’í’ yáw nan (thread beads land) (detail), 2018, inkjet prints

KRYSTLE COUGHLIN

The areas around East Vancouver where Krystle Coughlin grew up can be seen in the photographs of Jeff Wall, one of Canada’s most famous living photographers. Jeff Wall’s photos often have high production values, with props and costumes, background actors, and – occasionally – special effects. The perfected, cinematic images don’t quite reflect Krystle’s experience as an Indigenous woman growing up in these neighbourhoods.

Krystle photographed many of the sites captured in Jeff Wall’s works, but blurred them out. Instead, the focus of her images is on the beads in the foreground, referencing the First Nations’ practice of recording knowledge of the local landscape using beads. In Krystle’s work, however, the strings are broken: a reference to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as to the ongoing struggle to recover and preserve Indigenous knowledge.

Ramey and Krystle have created such strong work because they also deeply care about the issues they’re addressing. So as you work on your own projects, ask yourself: why do your images matter to you, and what message are you trying to impart to your viewers?

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