Her Fears / Her Dreams (statement)

My series of photographs titled Her Fears / Her Dreams (2015) presents stereographic images based on historical views of western Canada and the photographic archives of William Notman.

Stereo cards were a popular form of home entertainment that were collected and popularized predominantly by the middle class during the late nineteenth century. These images of other places and other people created a view of the world predictable and attainable through the camera. My cards look like authentic cards however they serve instead to playfully interrupt and distort both the narrative structure and optical illusion. The gallery visitor may view each card in the set with an antique viewer although some cards reveal a shift in location, presence, gaze or gesture of the subject within the image. How one perceives the images with the stereo viewer may depend on one’s depth perception, one’s interpretation of the images and how one negotiates the technology of the viewer. There is no set sequence in which the cards are viewed, rather the gallery visitor determines the order of the cards allowing for multiple narratives and interpretations. In addition to taking the photographs, I perform the role of the female subject who appears in them. Many of the stereo cards intentionally present a shift from left to right and as a result, the three dimensional effect is disrupted by the appearance and disappearance of the female subject within the image. Sometimes she appears alone in the scene and at times in multiple locations simultaneously. The titles Her Fears and Her Dreams suggest a single protagonist within a sequence of images, although the viewer may decide that there are multiple characters. Her presence or absence is intended to both activate and disrupt the narrative sequence and the perception of space/location.

The series of images engages with iconic imagery of the Canadian winter landscape. The work is intended to draw the viewer into a playful consideration of the landscape as it pertains to more complex ideas about tourism, the environment, national identity and ‘wilderness’. The body of work is based on the archive of William Notman who owned and operated one of the largest photographic studios in Canada during the nineteenth century, housed at The McCord Museum in Montreal, Quebec. Notman created composite winter scenes as well as some of the earliest landscape photographs and stereoscopic views of eastern and western Canada.

I chose to photograph the winter landscape as way to re narrate the work of the photographer William Notman and also consider a shifting view of northern landscapes as simultaneously romantic and foreboding. The winter landscape conjures both the sublime and a sense of sadness for loss due to climate change. With this work I hope the engage the viewer in an interactive and intimate experience of photographs of the Canadian landscape re narrated through the contemporary imagination.

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