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Interview Music

Behind the Lens: Photographers and Live Music

A glimpse into two university students and photographers’ experience shooting live performances and participating in music culture.

To delve deeper into the relationship between photography and live music events, Concordia alum Sydney Gastaldo and third-year student in professional music at Toronto Metropolitan University, alongside third-year photography student Jordan Markle at Dawson College, proudly share their respective journey taking professional photos of live concerts. 

Being in charge of capturing a moment in time, especially in an atmosphere as lively and busy as a live music event—both visually and sonically—is no easy task. When asked about photographers’ aim in capturing the energy and emotion of a performance in any venue, Markle said that he really tries to focus on capturing the emotion and energy of live music in Montreal, no matter its scale: “Each picture is carefully constructed in a way that channels the energy and atmosphere of the event, giving viewers a sneak peek into what it was like to actually be there.” 

As for Sydney Gastaldo, she personally always tends to come back to the concept of movement and DIY approach in photography since she doesn’t like photos that look staged. “Some of this happens in post/editing but some of this experiment can happen in the moment through experimenting with aperture, angles, exposure etc,” Gastaldo shared. She also noted how some of the best photos she’s taken have come from in-between moments like while the show is being set up, the singer is talking to the crowd between songs, or when the stage is being set up for the next track or right at the end of the act. “It can be a great way to capture authenticity from an artist as they tend to be less “on” during those moments,” she said. 

There can also be a process of preparation that happens before the action of a show which can impact how the approach of photographing will unpack. “I start preparing by taking a deep dive into the artist’s discography meaning I’m listening to them all day before the show,” Jordan Markle stated. By doing this, he can understand the emotion and feeling of what the artist is trying to portray to their audience on a deeper level and then capture that energy authentically. 

Logistic preparation is also crucial. In regards to this, Gastaldo always ensures she has enough storage on her camera or enough film, as well as charged batteries and a prepared kit. Moreover, she makes sure to back up anything from past shoots and to develop all her older films beforehand. Checking out the weather if it’s an outdoor show is also part of her routine. 

Challenges can be encountered when documenting the ephemeral nature of live performances. Markle shared how a venue might only allow photographers access to the photo pit for the first three songs. If this is the case, Markle avoids taking the same type of photos for all three songs to offer more variety in the shorter amount of time that is offered to him. To essentially counter this problem, he experiments with different techniques and employs varied shooting methods, sometimes using long exposures or action freeze frames. 

As for Concordia Alum Sydney Gastaldo’s biggest challenge, the lighting for underground or DIY/indie shows can be quite unpredictable. “It can be really hard to capture the in-person feel of a show when it’s happening in low lighting or with flashing light / over-saturated set design,” she said. Matching the pace of any movements on stage is also something to navigate, but these challenges, Gastado said, are just “trial and error.”

A visual artist, in this case, a photographer, retains a certain role in preserving and celebrating music culture since it acts as the bridge between the performing artist and fans, the internet, tabloids, etc. When asking Sydney Gastaldo and Jordan Markle how they see their work contributing to this broader cultural narrative, they provided similar opinions. 

Markle seeks that his work tell someone’s story and preserve memorable moments for years to come. “I see it as a means of capturing the intersection of music, art, and human experience […] whether it’s through documenting live performances, capturing intimate moments backstage, I want my photos to tell stories,” he said.

Gastaldo shared how for her, photography in the realm of live music cements these seemingly small moments that can often feel big for those attending. Moreover, her work focuses on underground and more obscure kinds of music or smaller bands/artists existing in the local scene. “A lot of them split apart and/or don’t end up making a living out of their craft and all that is left of their work is people’s memories and photographs/videos. But regardless of how successful they may be in a broader sense, the impact that their music had on their fans and the community and the beauty of their live performances still means something and I think capturing that and cementing it in history can be beautiful,“ Gastaldo proudly answered. 


From utilizing a small-budget camera or owning professional high-grade equipment, from capturing a small local stage to a large national music festival, live music photographers, like Sydney Gastaldo and Jordan Markle, make sure to remain intentional with their craft. They deliver the most authentic representation of the evening through passionate intentions for the art and story behind each frame. 

Categories
Opinions

Ethical dilemmas of “both sides” journalism

Should journalists always strive for neutrality?

The Society of Professional Journalists states in its Code of Ethics that journalists should make sure to report information that is accurate, fair, and ethical. To do so, one of the traditional methods can be to seek both sides of a story to cover each point of view equally. However, despite being efficient in certain cases, 55 per cent of American journalists believe that this method has limitations that may not always make it the best approach to follow, according to recent Pew Research Center data.

This reflection started to make full sense to me after I encountered my first ethical challenge as a newcomer in journalism. As part of two distinct photojournalism projects, I coincidentally ended up photographing two individuals involved in a juridical conflict. The way I learned about this situation was when the first person I worked with attempted to influence me to support their side after I posted the photos I took of the second person. 

I learned that the first person who was trying to involve me in this situation was being accused by the other party of infractions that were at the opposite of my values, such as harassment. Consequently, I started to feel torn up by the following dilemma: Should I publish both projects, potentially giving equal weight to conflicting perspectives, or should I cease collaboration with the individual whose values diverge from mine? This dilemma led me to confront the tension between maintaining journalistic objectivity, and whether or not it should be a prerequisite for truth-seeking and upholding personal values.

According to a PBS Standards article, one issue with reporting both sides is that it can lead to the creation of false equivalences. This term refers to when a person portrays two sides of an argument as equivalent even when one relies on factual evidence and the other does not. For instance, despite the consensus among a majority of scientists that human activity impacts climate change, some individuals still attempt to balance this research with arguments from climate change skeptics.

Ironically, doing “both-sided” journalism can also lead to the creation of biases in the newsrooms, by questioning the ability of some journalists to cover topics about their own communities. Journalists from marginalized communities are often not considered able to share opinions about a controversial topic they might have an intimate knowledge of. 

In an interview, Dr. Crittenden gave the example of a Black journalist who hadn’t been allowed to cover an issue related to racism, because of a tweet she had posted about the topic—something that her editor perceived as a bias.

In other cases, newsrooms can view journalists from underrepresented groups as token “resource persons” who should exclusively cover topics about their communities, which sometimes pushes reporters into sensitive situations when it comes to covering “both sides.”

In an article, journalist and president of the board of directors for NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists Ken Miguel qualified an interview he had to conduct with a lawmaker opposed to same-sex marriage. This experience, apart from affecting his mental health, pushed Miguel to question the fairness of reporting the arguments of this lawmaker, which sometimes contradicted statements made by the medical community in debates such as gender-affirming care for trans youth. Instead, Ken Miguel suggests focusing on the importance of grounding reports in facts, rather than automatically giving too much credit to the opposing point of view.

These ethical questions led me to think of a more nuanced approach that prioritizes accuracy while reporting the news, with emphasis on contextualizing each piece of information and being transparent. It also encourages a diversity of storytelling by including more underrepresented groups in the newsrooms. There isn’t a universal solution to make journalism more ethical, but the work methods and conditions of the people making the news is a good place to start. People shouldn’t be forced to cover what they don’t feel comfortable reporting about. 

Coming back to my initial photojournalistic ethical dilemma, I decided to stop working on the project that included that first person who was pushing me to take their side while they were being accused of harassment by the other person I had published the photos of. After torturing myself for days with the dilemma, I concluded that it was the best option.

 I realized that it wouldn’t have felt right to keep working on these two projects and remain neutral and objective when it was challenging my ethics so much. I believe that it would’ve not only negatively impacted my work, but also my mental health, which probably wouldn’t have led to the newsworthy project of the year. This is why: I don’t want to do “both-sides” journalism (at least, not always).

Categories
Arts Arts and Culture Student Life

Poetry Spotlight: Steven Gao

Born in Jinan, China, and now living in a small town on the west tip of the Montreal island, Steven draws inspiration from his roots and his observation of the world.

He writes his poetry in English, sometimes in Chinese. Gao currently studies history at Concordia University in history. He participated in Twigs & Leaves (a poetry reading event, now defunct) and continues to be a regular participant in another poetry/arts event, Kafé Poe. In his free time, Steven enjoys learning history and doing scale models, as well as photography.

Photo by Steven Gao

Yet Another Morning… Lost?

The sky is crooked, not like if it were smudged by clouds.

But I feel something’s off.

I see the reflection of the lake, reminding me of blinking fish scales.

At what scale?

– I don’t know.

But they flicker randomly.

Should you trust me with a pinch of salt?

My measuring is off, so is the sky, yet the light is on.

Confused indeed.

Is it another day of hallucination?

Or mental condensation?

I still see ripples dancing.

I hear the morning piano go off key.

I smell the burnt coffee.

I feel the floor quaking.

Not again,

Everything goes off the charts!

Or am I trembling?

Ah! I forgot to adjust my lenses…

Photo by Steven Gao
Photo by Steven Gao
Categories
Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit Student Life

How a bike becomes home

A group of artists who cycled Canada from coast-to-coast displayed their photographs at the Woodnote.

ViaVélo was a temporary photography exhibition organized by Concordia student Sampson McFerrin and Luke Welton at the Woodnote Solidarity Cooperative between Sept. 15 and 17. The Concordian shared a friendly conversation with McFerrin regarding his experience organizing the show, the works on display, the team’s curatorial choices and the idea behind the exhibition. 

McFerrin’s parents are both avid cyclists, therefore he and his brothers grew up cycling and exploring the world on their bikes. He spoke of the inherently healthy and unique lifestyle that comes with regular cycling. The activity became an inseparable part of his identity—as an adult he began to seek out opportunities to explore different parts of the world through cycling and build a community to share his passion with. 

McFerrin is a Print Media major at Concordia University with a minor in Business—a combination that gave him the tools to successfully organize ViaVélo. The exhibition presented a collection of memories from his coast-to-coast journey across Canada. Photography and documentation captivated him during his earlier travels and these creative tools served as inspiration for the trip and offered him means to capture it.

 The gallery consisted of two rooms that displayed a collection of photographs and paintings by McFerrin and Welton. The photos encapsulate the experience of the two artists and a few others, who cycled from Victoria, British Columbia, all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland, spanning 10 provinces and over 11,000 km. They started their journey during the summer of 2020  before they were interrupted by the pandemic’s restrictions and finished their adventure in 2023. 

Photograph from the ViaVélo collection. Courtesy of Sampson McFerrin.

By displaying the photos of their trip, the artists aimed to represent their journey and introduce different ways of seeing Canada. Through storytelling and captured memories of friendships, community and their lifestyle on the road, the exhibition proposes a new perception of the Canadian experience.

Viewers were met with photos of all 10 Canadian provinces, which McFerrin noted really capture the essence of the specific place and time it was taken. The presence of McFerrin’s bike in the gallery space, loaded with all the necessities for the trip, adds to the vivid memory of their life on the road. “The bike became the home that you take care of, and it takes care of you,” McFerrin said.

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Uncategorized

Master your Photo Skills with the Concordian

Photography is as easy as one, two, three!

Are you ready to switch out the average camera on the phone in your pocket for a more professional camera? The team at the Concordian put together a simple guide to help our fellow photojournalists out with some advice based on journalistic situations you would find yourself in.

To start things off, before you even start fiddling with your camera settings, set your camera to Manual mode. This will give you full control of the camera versus other default settings where the camera might automatically adjust settings based on the situation.

Understanding the basics of your camera – 

Now that your camera is in Manual mode, you have to understand the interaction between light and the camera, also known as the exposure triangle. The exposure triangle balances three elements: your shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. 

Think of shutter speed as curtains for a window. Your shutter is the curtains that close inside the camera when you press the button to take the picture. It essentially opens and closes the shutter to either slow down or freeze movement. 

Imagine you open and shut the curtains at 1/500 of a second. Not a lot of light can get in during the short time it was open, right? You maybe get one brief glance out your window due to how fast the curtains shut, but not the whole scene. However, if the curtains closed at 1/30 a second, think of how much more you could see. The longer the shutter stays open, the more information the camera takes in. Longer shutter speeds can lead to motion blur, while faster shutter speeds freeze motion.  

Up next is your ISO, which is essentially light sensitivity. This concept goes back to the film days—each film had its own level and amount of light it was able to process. Think of it as a scale of light with 100 being a full sunny day and 3200 being nighttime. You can use this as wiggle room on your shutter speed or aperture. 

One more thing to keep in mind is higher ISO also comes with a bit more noise, or grain, and the camera would work harder to capture the scene.

The final component of the exposure triangle is the aperture. A camera is basically a hole that opens, lets light in, and then captures it in its simplest form. The aperture allows you to decide the size of that hole—it can either be wide open and let lots of information in, or tiny and only let a little bit in. This determines how much of your image will be in focus. 

Let’s say you just want to capture the foreground—whatever element is closest to your camera. You would use a smaller aperture of around F/2.8. For something like landscapes, where you would want everything in focus, we would suggest a wider aperture of F/14. 

Different journalistic situations –

As long as these three elements balance, you can conquer a lot of the photojournalistic scenarios you’d find yourself in. Are you on the news beat? In a lot of situations, you’ll be taking portraits of your subjects for a visual. In these types of situations we would suggest:

  • Shutter Speed: 1/100 or faster
  • Aperture: F/1.8 – F/5.6
  • ISO: 100-400
  • Focus: Auto (AF)
  • Focus Type: Continuous/Servo
  • White Balance: AWB
  • Drive Mode: Single Shot

Student leading the climate protest in downtown Montreal on September 23, 2022. Photo by Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN.

Do you like to capture the action of athletes on the field during a game? We would suggest the following settings for sports photography:

  • Shutter Speed: 1/500 at a minimum to ensure the movement is captured
  • Aperture: F/2.8 – F/5.6
  • ISO: 400
  • Focus: Auto (AF)
  • Focus Type: Continuous/Servo
  • White Balance: AWB
  • Drive Mode: Continuous/Burst 

Photo by Catherine Reynolds / The Concordian

Maybe you prefer to photograph the emotion and excitement of a concert. This can be a little trickier with all the crazy lighting typical to shows. One important thing to remember is that red light is the hardest to photograph in. Here are some settings that we would suggest to elevate your concert experience:  

  • Shutter Speed: 1/250 or faster (pro tip: try lower for some artsy motion blur) 
  • Aperture: F/1.8 – F/4 ( preferably as low as it can go!)
  • ISO: 1600 – 3200
  • Focus: Auto (AF) as well as spot-metering 
  • Focus Type: Continuous/Servo
  • White Balance: AWB
  • Drive Mode: Continuous/Burst

Photo by Catherine Reynolds / The Concordian

Long story short, this little guide does not cover every situation you’ll be faced with. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for you and we hope above all that this is a good start for your photography adventure!

Categories
Arts and Culture Exhibit

Concordia Fine Arts Student Exhibits at the AGO

Queer Cameroonian-Belgian artist and Concordia Studio Arts BFA student Mallory Lowe Mpoka is currently exhibiting at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto as part of a group exhibition titled Re-Mixing African Photography: Kelani Abass, Mallory Low Mpoka and Abraham Oghobase. The exhibition is situated in the inner gallery space of the Department of the Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora. Established in 2020, the department seeks to redress the representation of both historic and contemporary African art through their programming and exhibitions. 

Three artists draw from Western and Central African traditions of studio portraiture in order to critically examine the history of photography within broader conversations of the African diaspora. Mpoka’s work makes use of a variety of materials such as archival family photos and natural pigments in order to explore themes of home, heritage, belonging and connection. 

The Self-Portrait Project (2020) is a pair of black and white photographs that feature two staged self-portraits of Mpoka standing with one leg resting on a stool. In both images, Mpoka holds a framed vintage photograph of her father close to her body—a gesture that speaks to her connection with her Bamileke heritage. The family portrait signifies the distance between past and present, where the commemoration of heritage is rooted in a sense of loss. 

 Her dynamic posture is both nonchalant and assertive. She engages the viewer and invites them into the image, but she does not directly return their gaze, for her eyes are obscured by dark sunglasses or the brim of a hat. Her stance creates an impactful exchange of looks between the subject and the audience. She offers a glimpse into her identity, but keeps a protective distance from the viewer. The portraits maintain that there is always a measure of opacity in agency; the artist reserves the right to carefully choose what she reveals.

Mallory Lowe Mpoka. The Self-Portrait Project I, 2020. Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper, Overall: 48.3 × 55.9 cm. Courtesy of the artist. © Mallory Lowe Mpoka.
Mallory Lowe Mpoka. The Self-Portrait Project II, 2020. Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper, Overall: 48.3 × 55.9 cm. Courtesy of the artist. © Mallory Lowe Mpoka

Mpoka’s series What Lives Within Us is an experimental multimedia project that expands on this notion of memory and heritage by blending material and image. The series brings together found photographs from Mpoka’s family archives and craft techniques such as natural dye processes, collage and embroidery. Mpoka reworks the photographs using materials from her family’s sewing workshop in Douala, Cameroon. The threads she uses were hand-dyed with pigments from Cameroon’s highland soil. By sewing the thread directly onto the surface, she obscures and thus protects the identity of the subjects. This action is another assertion of privacy as she negotiates her sense of belonging.

Mallory Lowe Mpoka, What Lives Within Us, Gallery 249. The Art Gallery of Ontario, Photo by Emma Bell

Re-Mixing African Photography will be on view until January 7, 2024. Admission is free of charge for all Indigenous peoples, AGO members, Annual Passholders and visitors aged 25 and under.

Categories
Arts

Public Intimacy—discovering the margin between the public and the private

The interactive piece kicks off the reopening of the Museum of Jewish Montreal

There is a line drawn between public and private spheres. In our lives, everyone has a limit as to what is kept personal and what we want to display to the public. As of Oct.13, art enthusiasts have the chance to explore this idea through the creation of Berlin artists Sophia Hirsch and Johannes Mundinger titled Public Intimacy, showcased at the Museum of Jewish Montreal until Jan. 22. 

The installation is composed of a plethora of curtains hung from a tall metal framework. Curtains of different materials, densities, and colors, are meant for the public to wander through and reflect upon. It’s a maze, and it provides the chance to close each participant off from the rest of the public, allowing them as much intimacy as they desire. 

“The curtains are second hand, they all come from a regional context that has a history with the Holocaust, the contemporary rise of neo-fascism,” said Stokvis-Hauer. “I don’t think that the exhibition is only about that, either. There are a million different things that public privacy can be associated with, it’s such a broad topic.”

The installation’s walls are occupied by immense photographs of mysterious residential windows, accompanied by existential and thought-provoking questions. 

The curtains were found around the Berlin area in historic places. Some were found in abandoned buildings previously occupied by German Democratic Republic government officials, some belonged to Mundingers’ grandmother, and others were found on the street. 

In 2019, the two artists were called in by the Museum of Jewish Montreal to present a project on-site. However, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down any works in progress, and the Museum of Jewish Montreal was shut down. 

This is the first exhibition since the museum’s reopening and the first Montreal-based project for the artist tandem. In this new space, the artists found even more room for freedom of discovery.

There certainly is an element of the exhibition that harkens to the past and present and leans towards elements of “Jewishness,” according to the museum’s artistic director Alyssa Stokvis-Hauer.  Themes of racism, xenophobia, and possibly other matters relevant to a broader community than the Jewish. 

“We aren’t Jewish ourselves, but we have history with the culture,” said Mundinger. The artist had been invited to participate in an exhibition at the Galicia Jewish museum located in Kraków in Poland. Hirsch had gone as far as spending three years with a concentration camp survivor to create his biography in the form of a graphic novel. The work is not yet published through an official company.

In terms of an exhibit, the museum’s staff team saw Public Intimacy as a connection of interest to the Jewish community in Montreal. For the team, there’s a wide range of interesting questions that are relevant to the Jewish community, and further relevant to other communities. 

“What’s so great about Johannes and Sophia’s work is that it asks infinite questions,” added Stokvis-Hauer. “It invites everyone to think about where the line is between public and private on the macro and micro scales.” This piece, she emphasized, is meditative.

If you want your brain and heartstrings tugged on, all while experiencing the essence of a homely yet conflicted culture, you should visit the installation in the Mile End before it closes on Jan. 22. You can read more about the event on the Museum’s website.

Categories
Arts

we move, just shifting: exploring slowness through photography

An invitation to discover subtleties in everyday moments

Brandon Brookbank’s new exhibition, we move, just shifting, is being presented in the second room of Centre CLARK until Feb. 12. A series of photos of different sizes complemented with small objects and clothes fill the space. The artworks are part of the Master’s research-creation project Brookbank is completing at Concordia University.

we move, just shifting features photographs of food, body parts, and objects. The art pieces are placed in the luminous room so that visitors have the chance to appreciate each of them one at a time. The varied frame sizes leave spaces of white wall between each work, creating room for reflection. There are photos on the walls, objects on the floor, and a colourful column in the centre of the space.

The closest piece to the entrance, We move, is a still life presenting a glass with yogurt traces in it. Blurred fingers are at the foreground of the image, playing with the viewer’s perspective. Placed beside it, just shifting features the same concept with the out of focus presence of a foot in the forefront. Wishbones stand on top of the wood frame of the second photograph. These small objects return throughout the exhibits.

Brookbank described his show as a “poetic exploration of narrative, of connection.” The artist started working on this series in April 2020 during the first lockdown. The situation affected his studies and his creative process. The resulting photographs build on the explorations of the artist’s connections with others. Brookbank also looked at the traces left on objects over time, such as old clothing.

Slowing down

Brookbank focused on slowness for this project. This concept manifested in the artist’s creative process for we move, just shifting series, by way of taking more time to create each of the photographs. This gave him the opportunity to discover and capture subtle movements and moments.

Reflections on time also come into play in the artist’s thoughts regarding relationships. In previous artistic explorations, Brookbank looked at the fast pace of digital connections. For this exhibition, these connections are slowed down.

“There is an expedited way that we interact with each other, so I’m trying to think about it in a way of slowing down and a way of looking at the subtle gestures and the subtle moments that are happening in my own relationships,” explained Brookbank.

Sculptural objects

While photography is the basis of Brookbank’s practice, sculpture is also an important part of his work. Therefore, different objects were integrated in the show throughout the creative process. For the artist, they are related to the idea of translation and transformation. The twist ties that are placed in the space, on the frames of some photographs, as well as in the pictures, speak to this idea. Shaped in different ways, these little objects can also be seen in very, very, very, much. This intimate photograph, one of the largest ones of the exhibit, shows the side of a neck with three twist ties placed on it.

Brookbank used a similar principle when showcasing Sorry, heels. A round piece of glass stained with red liquid and accompanied by two brown socks and dried figs are the subjects of this still life. In front of the photograph, on the floor of the gallery, the viewer can see these same socks and figs.

Clothing pieces make up an important part of the show. Brookbank created a column of t-shirts composed of old garments the artist collected from his friends. “It is trying to bring various bodies into the space,” he explained.

Subtleties

Two opposing themes can be observed in the exhibit: touch and intangibility. The notion of touch can be seen in the manipulation of the twist ties, the cream that is rubbed on the skin in one of the pictures, or the irregular surface of Along, which was altered by the artist using paper and rope.

Intangibility comes into play in the artist’s reflections and is particularly depicted in A Room, a central piece of the show. Placed on an elevated wood frame on the floor, the photograph shows the sun with a purple background. For Brookbank, the sun “feel[s] grand and subtle,” since “we don’t really understand it, but we do deeply understand it.”

“There is a subtlety in all of my work, there is nothing extravagant,” said Brookbank. This attention in capturing precious small moments and gestures is present throughout the exhibition. we move, just shifting is an experience where attentive viewers will always discover new details. Brookbank’s poetic exhibition offers an intimate look at the beauty of ordinary moments.

we move, just shifting will be presented at Centre CLARK, located at 5455 De Gaspé Ave, until Feb.12.

 

Photos courtesy Paul Litherland and Brandon Brookbank

 

Categories
Arts

#Printisnotdead

Four Montreal-based creators share the impact of COVID-19 on their analog media practice

The hashtag #printisnotdead on Instagram has accumulated over 395 thousand posts as of April 2021. Not too bad for a medium that has been accused of irrelevance for the entirety of Gen Z’s existence.

Yet, it still manages to stick around. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of physical touch, with some feeling negatively impacted by the lack of it. Print, or analog media, is often more labour intensive, hands-on, and time-consuming than digital equivalents, usually yielding less predictable results.

So… why would anyone painstakingly hand print a poster when you could design it in Photoshop, and have it printed in a matter of hours? Has the pandemic had any effect on print? What even is paper art?

Four Montreal-based creators who have adapted, reworked, or dove head-first into an analog practice during the lockdown explain the connection to The Concordian. 


Caitlin Yardley / Disposable Film 

Caitlin Yardley, a Journalism graduate, is experienced in digital media production. For a recent birthday, she was gifted a disposable camera to experiment with.

Like many ‘90s kids, she used a one-use film camera as a child, explaining that her family has albums upon albums of old photographs. But it wasn’t until the lockdown that she fell for film.

“I really want to preserve every moment now,” said Yardley. “I love the permanence of getting my film developed and holding onto a photo, or when I hand a photo to a friend I’ve had printed it feels really special. So that’s been what has led me to continue with the medium.”

Because of the pandemic, some of Yardley’s friends have moved away and she sees less of the ones that are around, naturally. She explained that the experience has led her to cherish the time she spends with loved ones even more and that film photography is an enjoyable way of making the moments “concrete.”

“I always lose the photos on my phone, or even on my [digital] camera, I’ll upload them somewhere and forget about it,” explained Yardley. “But I’ve been printing off these photos and sticking them on my wall.”

Something that Yardley likes about disposable film cameras is how accessible they make photography, especially compared to high-tech DSLR cameras or finicky 35mm film, which require the user to have experience and skills the former doesn’t.

“With some analog film it’s different, but if you just have a disposable camera anyone can get a super cool photo,” said Yardley. “If I’ve had a bit too much to drink I can snap a photo and as long as the flash is on I know it’s going to be good.”

Yardley explained that disposable cameras are very user friendly, requiring only two controls to function, meaning it’s also easy and quick to instruct others interested in learning about the medium. “As long as your finger isn’t over the lens that’s all that matters,” she said.

“With digital, you can take 100 photos to make sure you get the right one. With film, you have one moment realistically, maybe two, to line up the perfect shot and that’s it,” said Yardley. “You don’t know what you captured, you don’t know if it was just your fingerprint. Three weeks later when you hand the film in and it gets developed — then you know … It’s just not an experience you get with digital.”

Yardley explained that this is exactly what makes disposable film unsuitable as a tool for fast-paced, precise photojournalism required at a protest, but that she will continue to make sure she has a disposable camera ready for capturing special events creatively.

She encourages anyone interested but hesitant of the medium to try it out.

“Pick up a disposable camera and if you do have the pleasure of being around people you love, go out and try to shoot something,” said Yardley. “It’s going to be beautiful no matter what.”


@gorelickart  / Linocut Printmaking 

@gorelickart* is a Montreal-based artist, in her first year of Studio Arts at Concordia University. At the start of the pandemic, the multi-disciplinary creative found themself living in a small studio, shared with a now-ex partner and a cat. Painting, also a part of  their artistic work, proved a good way to collect cat hair in a small space.

They took a printmaking course at Concordia during the fall term and started to learn more about the many distinct forms that fall under the umbrella term of printmaking.

“I didn’t use to draw or do any realistic work, but in printmaking, I’ve started to explore that with linocut and intaglio,” they explained.

Compared to linocut printmaking, which developed in the 19th century, intaglio is a grandmother, originating in the 15th century. Intaglio could be described as chemical engraving — the design is etched onto the plate and then acid is poured over it. Intaglio and linocut are on opposite ends of the printmaking spectrum because the former is an example of incision printing, where the design is essentially inside the plate. Linocut and woodcut, require the artist to carve away everything but the design, making it stand out from the cut-away parts in an almost 3-dimensional manner. They are examples of relief printing.

She was initially drawn to lino, which is short for linoleum, the same material also used as flooring, to create a @gorelickart 2020 stamp for her paintings.

“I bought a 4 by 6-inch piece of rubber, and obviously my stamp was tiny so I just started experimenting more with that,” said @gorelickart.

YouTube videos and a can-do attitude proved helpful.

“I just got the tools and started doing it. I was just carving on my couch, with the block in my hand. So whenever I would miss or [the block] would slide a bit I would stab myself and be like ‘Ahh!’ As I was presenting my piece someone in my class was like ‘You know you’re meant to use this thing to keep the block in place … That would have been good to know, but I guess that’s part of the process of teaching yourself.”

Like many analog methods, linocut printmaking involves several labour intensive steps. Carving a block and printing it are two separate tasks, and @gorelickart prefers the former. They use intaglio inks, which can be hard to clean up and stain easily. She chose a composition of a fish created earlier in the year as one of her favourites, as it is one of the pieces she has cared enough about to go through the process of printing and not just carving.

“I really love carving, I find it’s such a relaxing process. I can do it very absentmindedly, almost like knitting,” she said. “I just sit on the couch, [carving] my block and watch TV and it’s really relaxing. Versus printing that’s more technical, and I’m more stressed about not getting ink everywhere.” They use intaglio inks which can be hard to clean up.

@gorelickart explained they live alone and don’t see friends often with respect to the pandemic regulations. Tactile parts of their artistic practice, such as carving, working with stained glass, and clay have proved deeply helpful in terms of dealing with the difficulties that can lead to.

@gorelickart was inspired by another artist on Instagram using small scraps to make recycled stamps. It prompted them to start reusing their wine corks and linoleum scraps to make custom stamp-sized designs.

“When I was doing bigger blocks I would have so much waste from my carvings and I was like ‘Oh my God I need to do something with this’ … So I just started making tiny little carvings and putting them on the corks. They’re so cute and I love them, but now I have so many I’m like, ‘What do I do with these?!’”

In the future — commissioned stamps, or ones with letter grades for teachers are a possibility but, “Right now I’m just making them for fun when I have extras,” they said. “Printmaking is a pretty low-waste art form compared to painting but it’s important to use everything. Before I was just throwing my wine caps out, so I was like this is pretty perfect.”


Silvana Toma / Papermaking 

Some might assume the term “paper arts” means art drawn or painted on a piece of paper. Not Silvana Toma, a lifelong paper collector who likes to leave journals and notepads empty, finding them prettier that way.

Toma visited Japan a couple of times and was fascinated by the process of washi papermaking, a thin yet super-strong paper handmade locally, using ancient methods.

“Even though I enjoy both, I’m more drawn to analog [than digital]. It’s so tactile and hands-on that it helps me disconnect from the world for a little while and only focus on what I am doing in the present moment. Because of this, it’s been super beneficial to my mental health too. It’s also as close to a form of meditation as it gets since I can never sit still for too long,” explained Toma.

She turned her affection for stationary into concrete action, launching NoteStorii, a handmade paper shop, in early 2021.

“In some aspects, lockdown helped since I probably wouldn’t have launched so soon if I wasn’t forced to stay in the house and actually work on this. In general, there’s no easy part about starting a business, especially when you’re a one [person] show,” said Toma, detailing the specific challenges the pandemic has imposed on her fledgling business. The physical store closures made it difficult to source materials, the increased use of Canada Post caused shipping delays and on top of everything, lost packages “didn’t help.”

Papermaking is a highly tactile art, requiring multiple technical steps to get to the final product. A benefit to small-batch paper is that it has a significantly lower eco-footprint than coated, commercially produced paper.

Scraps can be recycled into new paper, but it’s important to understand what its texture is before committing to making it into sheets. This wasn’t always possible with online shopping, sometimes leading to unusable supplies, paired with high shipping costs for Toma.

“I think I’m not the only one who’s been living through the lens of social media pre-pandemic, always plugged in, always going somewhere and checking items off of my endless to-do list. The lockdown forced us to face who we really are beneath the filter we put up for the world, and we either weren’t ready for the reveal, or we didn’t like what we saw. It can cause a lot of anxiety and unrest you know — realizing you don’t really know yourself? I think analog mediums help us tap into a creative side that we’ve perhaps forgotten about; we can take time to think clearly, instead of frantically searching for answers even though we’re too distracted to ask the right questions,” she continued.

“At first I saw papermaking as something only professionals with huge studio spaces could do. I’ve learned that a small workspace doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process. It’s also an inexpensive hobby. You don’t need fancy equipment, big machinery or grade A pulp to start off. I began with a kitchen blender and still use the same one, recycled newspaper and a DIY frame from the dollar store. With a bit of patience and willpower it’s a rewarding process,” she said.

“My favourite part is peeling off the dried sheet and stacking them for the final press. The peeling sound and motion feel incredibly satisfying, and so is seeing the final product,” continued Toma. Making paper is physically intense and messy —  but it’s a labour of love for the creative entrepreneur.

“I remind myself that cleaning up means I get to come in to a fresh start tomorrow.”


Le Lin / Book Arts + Print Media 

Le Lin is a prolific presence in the print world. In their final year of Graphic Design at Concordia University, Lin has shown art books in several exhibitions, produced multiple zines, and co-founded the Queer Print Club (QPC) two years ago — to name just a few of their analog accomplishments. However, he’s also seen aspects of his communal practice, like participating in Expozine, or a print swap the QPC co-organized with Yiara Magazine, become impossible due to the pandemic.

Lin has approached book arts from multiple angles, studying binding and conservation methods that the average person has likely never heard of, seeing a book as a unique 3D artistic creation, as opposed to just a vehicle for other people’s words and images. The distinction is important.

“I always design for print … I use very specific papers. I really care about the transparency and the papers and the materiality of the book itself … A lot of my books you can fold stuff out or it’s bound in a particular way,” he explained.

Lin combines their skills as an artist and graphic designer to create art books. A set two, handmade by Lin, were recently displayed in Dear Family: twenty years ago was just yesterday, at the Pierre-François Ouellette gallery, from March 17 to April 3, as a part of the annual Art Matters festival.

“When [people] open [one of my books] and see that I’ve done the whole cover, embossed the cover, and screen printed most of the transparent pages and then digitally printed all of the other pages and sewed stuff in and they’re like ‘Woah you can do that!?’ and I’m like yeah, you can do anything!”

Lin is in Design, but they have made the effort to pursue printmaking classes throughout their undergrad career, emailing teachers tirelessly to get into the courses needed to further their practice.

“This year shifted a lot. I really wanted to take papermaking and 400-level screen [printing] classes and other hands-on classes like bronze casting but because of COVID, I can’t go in, so I’ve been taking more coding and web design classes. I have made three zines this year but they’re not printed by me,” said Lin.

“One of the projects I’m working on is making a web platform for zines, so you can upload PDFs and it turns into flipbooks online, so it’s kind of bridging that gap. I haven’t partaken in much printing at home but it’s more like translating my practice onto an online skillset,” he continued.

The site features zines by Lin, as well as some that others have uploaded. Taken from the word “magazine,” what makes a zine distinct from traditional media is that they’re self-published and have a long history related to activism or the dissemination of information that is helpful to marginalized communities. They’re known for their blend of educational, personal, artistic, and affordable content.

“I like making things that are accessible … With my work I try to make it super precise. If you can read it, you can understand it.”


 

*Identity has been withheld for safety/privacy reasons.

 

Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

The ethics of altering your photos

Are you part of the problem?

It’s no secret that it’s easier than ever to alter your photos. No need to know your way around Photoshop or Lightroom anymore; with a simple slider, you can adjust your photo’s saturation, contrast, brightness, or even completely change how you look. Whatever it is you’re insecure about — your skin, teeth, stomach, or butt — you can easily fix it without going under the knife thanks to apps like Facetune. Even celebrities and influencers do it, with the Kardashian-Jenner clan particularly guilty of editing fails.

Collectively we seem to agree that it isn’t okay for celebrities and influencers to edit how they look in photos and pretend they look that way naturally. This is because social media has been shown to have a negative effect on body image, particularly for young women. If we agree that it’s wrong for celebrities and influencers to do it, then is it wrong for anyone to edit their appearance in photos?

After all, most of us aren’t famous. So, for example, if you follow 100 people and 10 are celebrities or influencers, then isn’t it more harmful to see the other 90 people’s edited photos? Aren’t we more likely to compare ourselves to our friends and peers than to Victoria’s Secret Models or NFL athletes? I want to know: is it unethical for you and I, “regular people,” to alter how we look in photos?

Geneviève Laforce, a Concordia student with over 35,000 followers on Instagram, and over 200,000 TikTok followers, told me she has mixed feelings about photo editing.

“I feel as though the most important thing is to be transparent with it. Like, if you actually do do it, don’t just do it and then not acknowledge it. For example, if I edit my skin, then I say I edit my skin, I will actively tell people,” she said.

“I definitely think that diving into social media at such a young age really did affect the way that I saw my body and see my body now,” says Amanda Wan, a Concordia student and content creator. “I understand that people want themselves to look a certain way. But on the other side, if they’re an influencer or celebrity, they’re lying to their audience because they’re saying ‘this is what I look like’ when in reality, they don’t.”

Wan says we should hold celebrities accountable for how they can affect followers through photos which portray perfection. These photos can be particularly harmful to the body image of younger people who follow them. In Canada, between 12 to 30 per cent of girls and nine to 25 per cent of boys aged 10 to 14 report dieting to lose weight.

Laforce mentioned the role that capitalism plays in creating a cycle of insecurity and impossible beauty standards.

“I think that we’ve created a problem for ourselves, but it’s like a cog in the 21st-century machine. We’re caught up in it, you can’t really get out of it. I think that it’s a problem that’s deep-rooted into society. And it’s gonna take some time to dismantle. But for now, it’s an issue that we’ve created,” Laforce said.

Today’s marketing is focused on making you insecure about how you look, so you need makeup, clothing, teeth whitening, plastic surgery, a gym membership, or laser hair removal. Insecure about your life so you need a car, a house, a puppy, kids, a big wedding, a trip to the Bahamas, a university degree. Capitalism depends on your insecurity and desire for more.

To help solve this problem, Wan suggests that platforms like YouTube feature more diverse creators. Laforce suggests that Instagram start telling you if an image has been altered, “Because although you may not pay attention to it, acknowledge it, your subconscious does if it sees that.”

However, what if altering how you look in pictures actually hurts your own self-image more than it hurts anyone else?

“You need to kind of know your truth,” Laforce said. “Why do I feel the need to alter this photo of myself? Is it to please the societal regard? Why is it going to, in turn, make you feel better about yourself?”

There are no easy answers; navigating social media is complicated. So I don’t think you should be too harsh on others or yourself. This minimizes larger systemic problems which create this rampant insecurity and desire for perfection. This implies that the individual or even the internet is at fault, which creates guilt and doesn’t lead to real solutions.

The truth is that people were insecure about their bodies before the internet, which has only allowed people to perform perfection for a wider audience. So what I’m saying is: do whatever makes you happy, let’s be more open and transparent about curated perfection, and let’s work on challenging the corporations which profit off insecurity.

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Interview with Pulitzer Prize and Emmy award-winning photojournalist Barbara Davidson

Barbara Davidson is a Concordia alumni, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Emmy award-winning photojournalist, and a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship. Davidson did an online panel on Wednesday, Oct. 14, where she talked about her life story, how she became a renowned photojournalist, and her time at Concordia.

Davidson was born and raised in Montreal and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and Film Studies. While she studied at Concordia, she worked at The Link newspaper as a photographer.

Since graduating from Concordia, Davidson has traveled to over 50 countries, working at newspapers like the Washington Times and the Los Angeles Times. Her most current work before COVID was traveling across the United States taking portraits of gunshot survivors.

“I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate with a university degree,” said Davidson in an interview with The Concordian. She explained that for CEGEP she went to night school, as she had to work during the day, and needed to improve her high school grades for university admission.

When asked if she saw financial standing as a barrier to photography, Davidson said that people go into photojournalism believing it to be an easy profession — similar to modeling. But the steep learning curve and the extraordinary effort that goes into it can turn people off.

“If it is something you are passionate about, you make it work,” said Davidson, who explained that during her university years she would save her money and borrow equipment so she could continue photography. “You make it happen, that is what success is all about, I had to work hard.”

Davidson said what she most enjoyed while she worked at The Link was the sense of comradery; a sense of family and purpose. She was attracted to the feeling of engagement with the community in Montreal.

Davidson said her time at The Link was “an incredibly inspiring learning time in my life.”

“There has to be a hungry curiosity, a hungry curiosity leads to all kinds of opportunity,” she said, emphasizing that curiosity can lead a person in a new direction. “Be mindful and honest with yourself, if you listen to that inner voice about what you are curious about, then that can lead you.”

Davidson said her biggest regret in university was not taking advantage of her professors’ expertise. She explained that professors are not just there to give grades, but also to help guide you on your way. She said that university is a rare time where you have access to these resources.

“There are so many [mistakes], I have fallen flat on my face more times than I care to share,” said Davidson, who continued to elaborate on a particular incident when she was working at the Missouri Photo Workshop, doing an article about two single mothers raising their kids together.

Davidson explained that she got caught up in the sensationalism of reporting on how the mothers were going to parties and living their lives, and failed to report on the good parenting the mothers were also doing.

“I did not show a well-rounded picture, and that failure has guided me my entire career moving forward after that,” Davidson said.

“As a human, as a journalist, I failed to look for the true humanity in them,” she said. “Always look for the humanity in people, regardless of the circumstances that they are currently in.”

Davidson said the best advice she can give to students is not to think of themselves alone, that there are people out there to help guide, shape, and inform students.

“You just have the bravery to reach out, and you will succeed,” said Davidson.

The panel was open to the public, but the majority who attended were Concordia students or alumni. Those reached out too said the panel was informative and inspirational.

“Even if it’s not the path [students] are interested in taking, they can get a sense of what lengths they can go to in their own dreams and with their own goals,” said Kendra Kabasele, a Concordia alumni journalist and photographer who attended Davidson’s panel.

“[Students] may even be triggered to pursue an avenue they hadn’t ever thought of before. That’s what’s important about panels like these; the awakening of what has yet to be awakened,” said Kabasele.

“It gave me hope and perspective as I began my career, hoping to work as a photographer and visual journalist,” said Matilda Cerone, a Journalism student at Concordia who also attended the panel. “I am reassured that it is okay that I am where I am and that things don’t need to happen right away for me to embark on an eventful and exciting experience.”

Cerone explained that while she enjoyed the panel, she felt that Davidson did not properly address the questions on white privilege and the white gaze in photojournalism.

“I too desire to take pictures that have a social impact, but I do not want to engage in white saviourism and I am very aware that when a white person photographs non-white people there is a toxic power dynamic,” Cerone said.

During the panel Davidson stated that she understands the privilege she has and has seen editors bypass photographers of colour. She stated that this needs to stop, as diversity creates more interesting and rich media.

Categories
Arts

Spotlight on Tyra Maria Trono

Tyra Maria Trono, 3rd year Photography

Tyra Maria Trono is a filipina artist based in Montreal. Her work deals with personal themes such as individual identity and her direct social communities. It’s connected in a system of meaning that deals with the idea of the revival of childhood and the continual discovery of personal identity which encompasses the notion of her culture heritage. Themes of nostalgia, autobiography, and identity are often explored in her photography.

Tyra Maria Trono is currently a third-year photography student at Concordia University. She has previously exhibited work at several galleries around Montreal, most notably Le Livart (3980 St Denis) in 2018. She has also co-curated the first edition of Festival du Nouveau Cinema: Spotlight on Concordia University Fine Arts.

In 2017, she founded a photo collective called “For the Sake of Analog” alongside Edson Niebla Rogil and John Mendoza. Their mandate is to exhibit the richness and diversity represented by emerging POC artists through the medium of analog photography. Last year, the collective was part of the programming for the Mural Festival. Currently, they are working on their first photo book coming out in April 2020.

 

Outside her artistic practice, Trono has photographed for projects and events for Boiler Room, Moonshine, Lez Spread The Word, Éklectik Média, The Woman Power and Never Was Your Average.

Trono is also involved with the Filipino Organization of Concordia Students. After a hiatus of over 10 years, the club returned in 2019. The club’s mandate is to connect students, celebrate Filipino identity, and challenge issues that touch Filipino youth. Currently, she is working on a variety show and art exhibition, titled Show Pao, which will feature local Filipino artists.

Trono will also be facilitating an exhibition for the 20th anniversary of Art Matters. The exhibition, As to be Told investigates the ways in which stories can be articulated through artworks and how we translate personal or collective notions through narrative forms.

As to be Told will be open at Galerie Luz (372 Ste. Catherine St. W, suite 41) from March 17 to 21, with a vernissage on March 18, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/events/869752196769950/ .

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