Consumerism and the environment in conversation with Maya Bergeron
Issues of consumption and ideas of challenging societal structures and norms are central focuses of local artist Maya Bergeron’s photography practice. Bergeron, who grew up in multiple places around Canada, but is now based in Montreal, is a self-taught photographer. In addition to using her passion for colours, travel and plants as subjects for her practice, Bergeron’s photography is also concerned with issues of human rights, women’s rights, and environmental exploitation and justice—influenced by her studies of Environment and International Development at McGill University. Using photography as a medium to challenge and explore these focuses, she incorporates a dialogue centred around contemporary life, consumption, and capitalism into her work.
Bergeron is currently showing her photography in the Hive Solidarity Co-op, as part of a group exhibition. While You’re Out Getting Wasted shares photographs from Southeast Asia, China, Latin America and North America. Bergeron has been working on this project for several years, as she has travelled to a number of countries and locations, documenting the visual results of consumerism and capitalism in various cultures. She hopes her practice will encourage viewers to consider these subjects further, and work to promote change.
How did you get introduced to your art practice?
MB: I have always loved to travel and have done a lot of solo travelling and volunteer exchanges. When [I was] younger, around 12 and 13 years old, I started to love photography and would take photos of plants, leaves, and flowers—especially on my father’s farm on the Sunshine Coast. As I grew older, and through travelling, photography became very important as a way to capture moments. This was especially prominent, as I travelled alone and met so many people and saw so many places. Then I became drawn to more political and controversial topics, especially related to travelling itself. I am especially interested in issues like women’s rights, environmental issues, tourism, consumption, religion and exploitation. When I’m home, I photograph much less—which is something I’m working on.
What influences and inspires you?
MB: I’m really inspired by photojournalism and the kind of photography that tells stories about real people and their experiences. I want photos to make people think, question themselves, see the world differently, and change their habits. I’m inspired everyday by photographers around the world and I always want to see more places, either in person, or through other photographers’ work and storytelling. Photojournalists, documentary photographers and street photographers are those that inspire me most. One of my favourite photographers is [American photojournalist] Steve McCurry.
What mediums and themes are present within your art?
MB: Right now I shoot with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, but before I used Nikon D3000, which was really old, kind of bulky and indiscrete for travel photography. I like styles of photography such as documentary, macro and street photography. Present themes in my work would be things in relation [to] bright colours and details, especially plants and flowers. However, I also love to show differences and similarities between cultures, juxtaposing North America with other [places]. Political themes are often present alongside others—for example, I have a project centred around plants in religious locations, and my current project in The Hive Co-op is related to the issue of waste and our consumer society. I’m also currently working on a project looking at the impact of tourism on women in different parts of Asia.
In future works and projects, is there anything you are hoping to navigate or challenge?
MB: I’m hoping to have the opportunity to continue to meet interesting people that have stories to tell. I would also love to get more involved in the Montreal community and do photo stories on important issues here in the city, or in other parts of the province. I hope to tackle contemporary issues and create social change.
Bergeron’s series, While You’re Out Getting Wasted, is currently on display alongside Alex Hill’s abstract paintings in the Hive Solidarity Co-op, on Concordia’s downtown campus. You can also view Bergeron’s work at mayabergeron.wixsite.com.