Art! Vancouver 2018 – Ignite Your Voice! Keynote Panel

It was a real pleasure to participate in the keynote panel discussion at this year’s Art! Vancouver commecial art fair at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Canada Place the weekend of April 21. 

Huge thanks to the whole event organization team, not only for inviting me, but also for putting on such an amazing Fair that is a wonderful addition to the Lower Mainland’s arts calendar. Also thanks to my co-panelists Ola Volo and Andrew Tavukciyan for contributing to the discussion!

One of the major themes that came out for me during the discussion was the value of consistent work and preparation, honing one’s artistic craft.

In the spirit of this, below are my answers to the pre-written questions for the panel, which I’m not ashamed to say I was up writing until 4AM the night before:

1.  Can you describe your artistic practice - style, medium, influences?

A: I’m a photographer, best known for my photo-based work interrogating how societies express themselves through their built environments, and how that expression, once manifested, persists and changes through time.

2.  Theme focus: ​In the context of art - how do you choose to express yourself, and what does ‘ignite your voice’ mean to you?

A: With photography, you are usually starting with something that’s in front of you. But you can choose what you are in front of. And you choose what to notice within that scene. There’s really a world of choice just within timing and framing of the shot. That’s why photography – amateur or so-called professional – is always more about the photographer than the subject. Or put another way, the photographer is the subject.

3.  Have you got a favourite piece of your work (art/photo) that you feel best

captures who you are as a creative? If so - how does it convey this?

A: Since I’ve had such a close relationship with the arts over time, starting with music at age 3, I have a particular affinity for taking photos of artists. At work or at rest.

But I was fascinated with Simon Schama’s book ‘Landscape and Memory” as a kid; how the built environment is affected by, and affects, changes in people and society, a lot of my photographs from the last decade are about that.

4.  We are lucky enough to have lots of wonderful art organisations and initiatives here in British Columbia - are there any in particular that have helped you to ignite your voice and perhaps reach a wider audience?

A: Well currently, I’m Co-Chair of ArtsScene Vancouver: a national organization, part of Business for the Arts, that aims to make meaningful connections between young professionals & the arts. Additionally, I’m on the board of the Vancouver Art Book Fair, which happens every October; at the moment we’re quite excited about the next edition, which will take place at Emily Carr University. Past and present, I have also had some great relationships with local publications including SAD Magazine and Discorder. Support local independent publishing!!

5.  How do you think creativity improves people’s lives? Describe a time when you saw art drive positive change.

Although I am not extensively involved with them, The One Project, which leverages photography to combat clinical depression, looks like an admirable initiative. For myself, I came to photography having gotten seriously blocked creating in my first medium, music; as someone who can’t not be creative, finding a different medium of expression has been literally life-saving.

6.  Can you give any examples of how creativity has increased your own

confidence - or perhaps the confidence of others? How important is the role of the artist in helping others interpret, understand and make sense of the world?

A: We’re all artists now. Photography in particular is a way of crystallizing what we like (and don’t like) about our world. “I like this [click], I don’t like that [click]”. Let me show you.

7.  Theme focus: ​Who is an artist that you’d want to recognize that uses art to drive societal change/ push boundaries?

A: Here are a few that come to mind: Roger Ballen is a modern master of the surreal; Paul Kwiatkowski’s ‘And Every Day Was Overcast’ is a watershed moment in photo books; Martin Parr’s history of photo books opened the door for everybody this century; Ren Hang – a fresh and playful way of seeing the body – too bad he’s dead; Vivianne Sassen has amazing use of colour, in both commercial and fine art work; and Petra Collins – from Toronto, part of a newer generation of women using film to show a new female gaze.

8.  What advice would you give to others hoping to express themselves via their art?

A: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need a lighting bolt of inspiration to get started. Just start, and the ideas will flow more quickly the more you do.

9.  Have you made connections or learned from other types of creative

expression? (for example: film, music, fashion, theatre). How have you made creative connections a part of your process?

A: Oh for sure! Huge crossover for me between music and photography. Once the initial information is captured, I find the editing process on computer quite similar. And there are elements of improvisation / being in the moment that are common to both.

10.  What was your A-ha moment, or have you had it yet? How did you know you had achieved something with your work and creativity?

A: I’m always excited about the work I’m about to do. So even talking about Vancouver Then—Now, which I shot last summer and fall, feels like really old news even though it’s just part of Capture now.

The absolutely most rewarding thing is when someone comes up and tells me I’ve inspired them, or they’ve learned something from one of the arts related  events I’ve organized.

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