They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and some photographs really do speak for themselves. In Alana Riley’s case, her work reflects her passion and dedication, recently winning the 2010 Pierre-Ayot award for her piece “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Grey,” a single-channel, single-shot video loop of a bird’s eye view.
Montreal’s art scene has seen its ups and downs, but it is still home to a diverse range of artists; video artist and photographer Riley is one of them. The Pierre-Ayot award, created in 1996, recognizes and supports young Montreal-based visual artists. It is a joint collaboration between the Ville de MontrÃ©al and the Association des galeries d’art contemporain.
Riley’s focus is portraiture. She says she finds most of her inspiration while on long monotonous road trips and, surprisingly, in donut shops. That being said, there seems to always be a common theme – people. “I most enjoy photographing people in their home or work environment,” said Riley. “I like to see the small details and traces of their everyday.” Having graduated from Concordia in 2003 with a BFA in studio arts and photography, Riley credits the deparment for influencing “my productive process by directing me towards a more conceptual approach to the creation of images.”
Riley has photographed countless individuals, including some well-known Canadians. Jeanne Beker, one of Canada’s best known TV personalities, as well as Debbie Travis, another television personality and interior design guru, can both be seen on Riley’s online portfolio. The members of Arcade Fire are also amongst Riley’s subjects.
Riley’s work has not only gotten attention from Montrealers, but from across the globe. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows in Canada, Shanghai, Ireland, and the United States. She has been featured in Macleans and the New York Times. She was also chosen as a finalist of the Emerging Photographers of Canada 2010, awarded by the Magenta Foundation. Despite these achievements, she shows no sign of slowing down. “I’m working on some new projects for a solo show in the spring, and hopefully a residency in Germany next year,” she said.
In addition to focusing on her art, Riley also worked on the November Amnesty International Exhibit. Riley and 12 other artists contributed their work in order to support Montreal’s art scene, while also raising awareness. “I was glad that I could contribute to it and hopefully help raise some funds for such a good cause,” said Riley. All funds raised that evening were split equally between the artists and Amnesty International. This was the second time that this type of collaboration took place in Montreal.
Riley believes that “Montreal has a strong community of artists,” and feels fortunate to have worked with all of those that she has met here. The professional photographer still loves film, but she also uses more contemporary equipment, often opting for the Canon 5D digital camera. Even though she has seen her fair share of success, the seasoned photographer continues to live by a rather simple motto: challenge yourself. Once it gets too easy, move on.
You can check out more of Alana’s work at www.alanariley.com.