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Spring 2010 Cover
Spring 2010 Cover
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"St. Mark’s Domes With Venice Background"
Joshua Jensen-Nagle, "St. Mark’s Domes With Venice Background," pigment print, Diasec mounted, 2009, 41" X 43".
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"Cherokee Trail #2"
John Folsom, "Cherokee Trail #2," archival pigment print on board with oil and wax, 2009, 48" X 48".
The old/new aesthetic of photographers Joshua Jensen-Nagle and John Folsom.
BY: Jill Sawyer
Among a handful of photographers showing at Calgary’s Newzones Gallery during the Exposure 2010 Calgary Banff Photography Festival, two are creating work that sparks a strong memory of another place and time.
Toronto-based photographer Joshua Jensen-Nagle is probably best known for a series of photographs based on vintage postcards. The American Vacations series takes viewers into a world of bright swimsuits, turquoise seawater, beach umbrellas, and mod motor inns. In some, the beaches are whited out with accelerated fading. In others, the scene darkens as if the paper has aged.
More recently, Jensen-Nagle has taken his camera to Europe, photographing popular scenes in Madrid, Paris, and Venice, capturing a quality in these much-photographed views — the Louvre, St. Mark’s Square — that looks like it was shot decades ago. “One thing I try to achieve is a painterly aspect in my work,” he says. “I understand photography in that way.”
A series of grand European rooms puts the viewer behind the eye of the traveler. The images are blurred, as if seen in a dream or memory, or simply shot quickly as the artist passed through on wider travels. But shot on Polaroid 600 film, the photographs take on a rich permanency.
“There’s a strong sense of reflection and nostalgia in my work,” Jensen-Nagle says. “The past has always inspired me. I like my work to appear as a dream or a memory, rather than a documentary.”
He’ll often shoot a series and then leave it for six months to let ideas filter in, leading him to experimental techniques that just seem to “go” with the scenes he’s shot. A trip to Newfoundland last year has resulted in his newest work, which will be included in the Exposure show. These landscapes, treated with dyed water for what Jensen-Nagle calls a “psychedelic folk Canadiana” effect, are another departure from earlier work. Though it was partially inspired by the quiet and grandeur of that island, it’s more about a place in the artist’s head, than a physical place that anyone can visit.
Another Newzones artist with a well-developed sense of place, Atlanta-based artist John Folsom shows how landscapes we’ve become accustomed to can be transformed with a fresh eye.
After completing a series of treated landscapes of the American Midwest, Folsom began showing at Newzones. Visiting the gallery in Calgary, he ended up in Banff, where he encountered one of the most heavily documented places in North America. The work he produced there is remarkable — scenes familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Canadian Rockies, cunningly disguised with a gothic sheen.
As an artist, Folsom has a similar working style to Jensen-Nagle. After visiting a place and photographing it, he likes to take the time to let inspiration filter through in how he’ll present that place to viewers. Popular Rocky Mountain tourist spots like the Plain of Six Glaciers and the Bow River, take on a fairy-tale, illustrative quality with Folsom’s post-production technique.
His current technique came to him when he reluctantly started shooting in digital. He prints off each photograph — often captured with liberal amounts of soft focus and filtration — in gridded panels, and then lays each panel together on a hard substrate. He then starts layering on and subtracting washes of oil paint until he gets the effect he wants, then seals it with wax. “My work is really a fusion of painting and photography,” he says.
Folsom admires the rich, painterly documentary style of Alfred Stieglitz, and after creating series of work with a sepia patina, he’s started to add more colour in, layering the photographs with light shades of blue and umber, for a hand-tinted quality. The antique aspect of his work has led viewers to assume that he’s just painting over existing antique photographs. “I have to tell people that, yes, these are my photographs.”