Ana Jovmir’s photography series What’s the Problem explores the sparks before the fire
Rooted at the birth of every social change is a realization or recognition, of oneself or the world, that pushes one to act. Ana Jovmir—a Romanian photographer based out of Montreal—explores these itches that spark social action with her series of portraits titled What’s the Problem. Jovmir has worked as a commercial photographer since 2010 and this series marks her first solo art show. The portraits will be displayed on the walls of Théâtre Sainte-Catherine until March 13 as part of the sixth edition of Studio Beluga’s Art-Up! exhibition series.
“I explained [my project] to people and simply asked them to tell me about some of the things that infuriated them, things they’d want to change whether in themselves or their environment as they stepped in front of the lens and just went with it from there,” said Jovmir.
Each portrait is displayed alongside a quote from the subject. These quotes address issues that are important to each particular individual and cover themes such as inequality, oppression and religion.
The levels of performance that each subject enacts for the lens has an intentionality that presents them and their views at an amplified level, rather than mystifying them as subjects. “It’s almost like they document a moment of perfect stage direction, where Ana asked them to just be themselves, and they do this exaggerated, human, utterly sincere performance of themselves, and she captures it,” said Lucie Lederhendler, the curator for Studio Beluga who recruited Jovmir for the space.
These portraits are catalysts disguised as succinct, beautiful images. They celebrate the positive, potential force of frustration and briefly highlight important issues and injustices. Yet, the bulk of the series’ potential lies with the audience and whether or not they concretely engage with the introspection inspired by the discontent of the subjects. This series scratches the surface by merely being the first step—exploring aspects of yourself or your environment that itch at your conscience or ethics. After this, inaction is the passive enabling of problems that you are no longer ignorant to.
We now live in a world of social media activism where pressing the ‘like’ button substitutes rallying and pressing the ‘share’ button substitutes protesting. It feels good, digitally or otherwise, to stand with others in the recognition that things need to change. With that being said, Jovmir’s work requires conscious consumption in order to be wary of the pacifying effect of the environment of safe, shared disgruntlement. Lukewarm resistance and collective denouncements can stir the feeling of illusionary participation. Resonant agreements on social issues—especially in environments that don’t demand action—can have a pacifying effect that often leads to a lack of concrete change.
Jovmir’s work does not attempt to achieve social action as an entity, but rather highlights areas that it may stem from in her friends and acquaintances. The value of What’s the Problem is in its attempt to start a conversation around these important issues and its celebration of the potential force behind being angry about them. “It is important to take time to think about … the things that push us to make changes around us. I believe that anger or resentment towards situations, other people or ourselves is a very influencing force in shaping our world,” said Jovmir. “I’m hoping [this series] inspires people to act on the things that they care about in a positive way.”
The images were shot with an attempt to present subjects as they are and incite a personal rapport between subject and viewer. They were shot with natural lighting and were not digitally manipulated, which showcases Jovmir’s technical skills as an artist to produce an aesthetically enticing, honest image. Thanks to Jovmir the walls of Théâtre Sainte-Catherine now offer you expertly executed photography and lie ready to inspire thought on what makes you angry enough to actively try to improve your world.
What’s the Problem will be displayed at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine (264 Ste. Catherine St. E.) until March 13.