Need something to do this weekend? Vv Magazine’s West Coast Editor Alexandra Gill finds Steve McQueen and more at the Capture Photography Festival…
Would you sell your Christian Louboutins on eBay for the sake of art? Not just any piece of art to hang above your sofa, but public art in the form of a festival?
Kim Spencer-Nairn has poured her passion, her shoes, even her house (which she plans to rent through Airbnb this summer) into Vancouver’s Capture Photography Festival, of which she is founder and executive director.
Now in its second year, the month-long festival (running throughout April, with some events continuing into May) encompasses 67 exhibits and events as diverse and multifaceted as the lens-based medium itself – from public installations along the Canada Line to a series of photo-based films being shown in theatres and broadcast on the Knowledge Network.
“We celebrate everything here in Vancouver,” says Spencer-Nairn, a full-time volunteer and chartered accountant by trade, who previously worked in film production until she got tired of “helping people make bad movies.”
“No disrespect to the 300 other festivals, but I couldn’t believe that the one thing we’re actually known for internationally was not being properly celebrated.”
She is referring, of course, to the “Vancouver School” of photo-conceptualism, a contemporary group of photo-based artists that includes Vikky Alexander, Roy Arden, Stan Douglas, Ken Lum, Jeff Wall, and Ian Wallace.
“We have this incredible history of internationally regarded stars,” she continues. “This is a badge that Vancouver can wear very proudly and should be celebrated.”
In deference to that distinguished heritage, Capture is no rinky-dink affair. Presented by the TD Bank Group, the highly-polished event operates at a serious level, one that is particularly impressive for such a young festival, receiving less than 2 per cent of its budget from public funding. (Thus the need to sell off shoes.)
Take for example Images That Speak, the festival’s main exhibit at the Satellite Gallery. Co-produced by the festival and Presentation House Gallery and curated by the widely respected Christopher Eamon, it includes a rarely shown work by the acclaimed English artist and feature filmmaker Steve McQueen. The piece, 7th November (2001), is a single-slide installation and channels the artist’s storytelling talent (crowned last year with an Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave) through a projected close-cut image of a black man’s shaved and scarred head, accompanied by a chilling first-person audio account of a violent incident involving the police, a fired gun, and a tragic outcome.
“I don’t know if people realize how lucky we are to have a Steve McQueen,” says Spencer-Nairn. “It’s well worth checking out.”
And much more where that came from. Reaching far beyond photoconceptualism, the Capture Photography Festival celebrates the diversity of this exploding art form in wide array.
Opening on April 16 at the MAKE Gallery, Fred Schiffer: Lives in Photos showcases the unseen works of the late locally-renowned portraitist, which documents Vancouver’s dramatic transition from small town to surging metropolis.
Tomorrow, Greg Girard’s Richmond/Kowloon opens at the Richmond Art Gallery; a must-see exhibit that juxtaposes the social and physical transformation of Hong Kong’s now-demolished Kowloon Walled City and the burgeoning migrant community in Richmond, BC.
Next week, Cinematheque presents two landmark films from the 1960s: Wavelength by Canadian master Michael Snow; and Blow-up, the first English-language film by Michelangelo Antonioni.
One of the most impressive public installations, by Jessica Eaton, is a gloriously vibrant abstract plastered across the windows of the iconic modernist BC Hydro Dal Grauer Substation on Burrard Street. The fuzzy collage of geometric cubes — bright pops of primary colour – are actually created inside the camera on a sheet of film using colour separation filters.
Every work in the festival is a gem. Spencer-Naird wouldn’t have had it any other way. Although Toronto’s CONTACT Photography Festival may be much bigger and far more established, the Capture Photography Festival has the potential to grow into the more serious of the two.
While CONTACT tries to be the largest in the world with open exhibitions (anyone can showcase their work in any old café through the open call to participate), Capture is juried.
“If someone came from out of town with no knowledge of the festival and just went to one exhibition, would that show be a good representation of the festival?” she says, explaining her rationale.
“Oh, was that a dig on CONTACT? Sorry.”
Perhaps more of a skewering with a perfectly pointy Louboutin heel.
What exhibits will you be checking out during Vancouver’s Capture Photography Festival? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @ViewTheVibe.