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Photo credit - DPA+PSA+DIN Collective, 2010.
Craig Richards, photography curator at the Whyte Museum.
Craig Richards, photography curator at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, began thinking about a photography festival in 2004.
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Fred Herzog, "Robson Street," 1957, ink-jet print, 18.1” x 11.6” Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.
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Copyright John Cohen; Courtesy J. Parker Stephenson, Photography
"Bob Dylan at my loft, Third Avenue, New York City"
John Cohen, "Bob Dylan at my loft, Third Avenue, New York City," 1962, gelatin silver print, 11" x 14"
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Estzer Burghardt, "Guest," 2012, archival ink jet print, 24” x 36”.
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"Au Vieux Fanal"
Heather Saitz, "Au Vieux Fanal," 2012, large-format giclée print, 24" x 16" .
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"Castle River # 4 (Old Man River series)"
Arthur Nishimura, "Castle River # 4 (Old Man River series)," 1987, selenium-toned silver gelatin print from retouched negative, 18” x 14”.
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"Bob, The Conversation, (The Pass Portrait Project series)"
Arthur Nishimura, "Bob, The Conversation, (The Pass Portrait Project series)," 2003, selenium-toned silver gelatin print, 18” x 14”.
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Exposure organizers Peter Duthie, right, and Wes Lafortune.
Exposure organizers Peter Duthie, right, and Wes Lafortune.
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2006 Canmore participants
2006 Canmore participants (L-R): Ali Churchill, Parker Bloom, teacher Rob VanderLee, Tristen Allen, Tamara MacKay-Temesy, Katie Begg, Clare Higgs and Taylor Sato. Credit: Craig Richards.
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Edward Burtynsky discusses his work.
Edward Burtynsky discusses his work with youth participating in "Through the Lens" in 2009.
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"My mother Lainey Holloway and my sister Karly"
Christa Holloway, "My mother Lainey Holloway and my sister Karly," 1999.
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Julia Hutchings, "Positively negative," 2002.
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Parker Bloom, "Photo grahien," 2007.
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Kelsey Brill Funk, "Smile," 2005.
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"My cousins Salomon and Miranda Chiniquay"
Romell Chiniquay, "My cousins Salomon and Miranda Chiniquay," 1999.
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Ginny White, "Sunshine Meadows," 2010.
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"Beauty in motion"
Tate Thornton, "Beauty in motion," 2009.
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"Through the Lens" book cover
"Through the Lens" book cover.
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"La Porte: Barn Interior"
Dianne Bos, "La Porte: Barn Interior," 2012, C-Print, 40" x 40".
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"La Porte: Ladders"
Dianne Bos, "La Porte: Ladders," 2012, ed/15 C-Print, 30” x 30”
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"La Porte: Broken Wall"
Dianne Bos, "La Porte: Broken Wall," 2012, ed/15 C-Print, 30” x 30”.
Venues in Calgary, Banff and Canmore show a surprising range of photo-based art each February. In its ninth year, the Exposure festival continues to draw new audiences — sometimes in unorthodox ways.
By Monique Westra
Devoted to the art of photography, Exposure is a month-long festival that bursts onto the cultural scene of Calgary, Canmore and Banff each February. Photography is everywhere – in the streets and in the galleries; it is displayed, discussed and celebrated. By any measure, Exposure is an extraordinary success, attracting a growing number of viewers and participants. The ninth annual festival boasts more than 50 venues, up from eight in 2005, its inaugural year. But numbers tell only part of the story. The festival’s most resonant effect is less quantifiable – intangible and experiential, it is felt rather than measured. But if you chat with people about Exposure, expect to hear adjectives such as exciting, great, amazing and fun. It seems Exposure generates buzz as a cultural catalyst, propelling a collective creative surge that results in a dazzling array of photography exhibits and events.
Organizers say Exposure is now the largest photography festival in Western Canada and is comparable only to Contact, the giant event in Toronto. But there is an important difference – Exposure brings together rural and urban communities in a cultural celebration held in venues that run the gamut from the Glenbow Museum to a hair salon in Banff. And Exposure is surprisingly inclusive, this year welcoming everyone from teenaged photographers in the Bow Valley to John Cohen, a music legend from New York who photographed fellow musicians Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Muddy Waters.
Despite its ambitious reach, Exposure is a small umbrella organization with only one part-time employee, Wes Lafortune. A congenial and effective strategist and organizer, he coordinates the festival with direction from a working board led by Peter Duthie, former owner of the Folio Gallery. Together they have attracted sponsorship in the form of partners who supply goods and services, and have garnered indispensable financial support from government and granting agencies.
The festival’s genesis can be traced to 1998 when Craig Richards, photography curator at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, decided to expand a one-time, short-term project with local high school students. With the museum’s support, Richards created Through the Lens, a mentorship program that introduces photography to students from Canmore, Morley and Banff. Their four-month collaboration culminates each February with a student exhibition in the museum. Opening night has become a much-anticipated community event that attracts hundreds of people.
Richards is known for his energy, contagious enthusiasm and generous spirit. His brilliant epiphany was to marry technical skills with self-worth, identity and hope. He invited famous photographers like Mary Ellen Mark, Phil Borges, Ed Burtynsky and Sylvia Plachy to speak to students and to display their work in an adjacent gallery. They also gave public lectures, inspiring people of all ages by demonstrating the potential of the art form.
Richards began thinking about a photography festival in 2004. His ideas took fuller form after a sushi-fuelled conversation with Calgary photographer Dianne Bos. “The timing was right,” says Richards. “The next logical step was to go beyond Banff and Canmore to include Calgary because Calgary is a major centre . . . a festival was a continuation of what I was doing up here, but on a bigger level.” Appropriately, this year’s 15th anniversary of Through the Lens includes an exhibition at the Whyte Museum featuring past and present participants. As well, the museum is publishing a book that highlights 15 outstanding alumni, many of whom have pursued successful careers in photography.
Two years ago, Richards ceded the board’s chair to Duthie, who has proven to be an indefatigable and creative leader. Duthie is greatly respected in the Alberta photography community for his role at Folio, the first commercial exhibition space in Western Canada devoted to fine art photography. Calgary photographer Arthur Nishimura says Folio, which operated from 1983 to 1995, was more than an exhibition space. “It was a crossroads, a newsroom, a sanctuary, a workshop, a classroom, a large-scale photography experiment. And it was a powerful two-way conduit of photographic sensibilities from Alberta through Folio to the world, and from the world through Folio to Alberta.” In many ways, this same description could be applied to Exposure, which emphasizes the importance of building communities, fostering creativity and raising awareness about photography.
This year’s festival has a diverse and impressive repertoire.The Glenbow features an exhibition by world-famous Vancouver photographer Fred Herzog, with work drawn from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. The recently reopened Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary will present a retrospective of Nishimura’s 40-year career. Meanwhile, on the artist-run circuit, the AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art offers Contemporary Cowboy, a provocative look at maverick cowboy paraphernalia and tropes associated with stereotypical notions of the West. And at the Satellite Gallery of the Untitled Arts Society, award-winning Calgary photographer Heather Saitz looks at the mid-century motel in Rooms for Tourists, a suite of images shot over two years in five provinces.
Commercial galleries are also on board. Herringer Kiss is presenting evocative photographs by Eszter Burghardt, a Canadian-Hungarian artist based in Vancouver who won the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Festival in 2010. In Banff, the beautiful black-and-white landscapes of Tom Willock are on view at the Willock & Sax Gallery. Other notable exhibitions include a group show of Alberta photographers at the Esker Foundation; a cross-border exhibition that juxtaposes photographers from Alberta and Arizona at St. Mary’s College; and, at the U of C’s Taylor Family Digital Library, Icons of Modernist Architecture in Canada, featuring 50 archival photographs.
Exposure is known for unexpected pop-up displays and events in non-conventional spaces. “When Exposure is around, beaming out its signal, people start to think that it could be kind of fun,” says Duthie. For instance, Peter Poole turns over his Juniper Hotel for a sometimes-raucous evening of artist presentations at the festival launch in Banff. This year, the hotel is also hosting an exhibition about the border between North Korea and South Korea. “It’s the kind of thing that normally would never come to the area,” says Duthie. “Exposure creates this opportunity for people to create potential.”
Other unconventional venues are Exposure initiatives. They include two Light Rail Transit stations in Calgary, where a large-scale mural is mounted on a huge metal door by 3M Trimline, a striking example of a private-public partnership. The project foregrounds global issues with a philanthropic underpinning. This year, the featured photographer is Robert Semeniuk, known internationally for his work on poverty, addiction and displacement. Another initiative sponsored by local businesses is the 2013 Vistek Emerging Photographer Showcase. Photographs by 10 artists under the age of 30 are chosen by the public in an online vote and prominently displayed on electronic billboards provided by Pattison Outdoor, dramatically boosting the festival’s audience.
This year, Exposure is also broadening its cross-disciplinary appeal with a Friday-evening photography film series at the Glenbow and a talk, exhibition and performance by Cohen, still active at 80. Founder of the New Lost City Ramblers, an influential string band, Cohen was immersed in the folk scene of the 1950s and 1960s and has presented his photographs and films worldwide at museums, galleries and film festivals. In Calgary, the National Music Centre is displaying a selection of remarkably candid shots of Cohen’s legendary musical friends. As Duthie likes to say, Exposure is “thickening the broth.”