Portraiture, narrative, autobiography and the figure in nature are major and recurrent themes within my work. I am also interested in feminist issues as well as identity politics. The representation of women is at the root of my photographic practice. Over the past several years, my research has focused on the portraits of women produced by nineteenth-century photographer William Notman. Notman was a highly regarded Scottish-Canadian photographer who ran one of the first photographic studios in Canada. He produced hundreds of thousands of images and his archive is an important testament to our rich photographic history. The Notman Photographic Archives, conserved in the McCord Museum in Montreal, is a historically invaluable collection providing an extensive visual record of Canadian society from 1856 to 1934. The representation of women throughout this period, from the early days of photography to the beginning of the twentieth century is of particular interest to me.
In 2017, I was invited to be the artist-in-residence at the McCord Museum. The mandate of this residency allows contemporary artists to converse directly with one of the many collections held in the museum and produce a body of work that culminates as a solo exhibition. It is during the past year and half that I created In the Studio with Notman, which is not only a new series of female portraits, but also a body of work whereby, my sources of inspiration, my process of working and a glimpse behind the scenes is revealed to the viewer. I used this residency opportunity to not only dig deeper into specific Notman female subjects, but to also study the studio décor of a bygone era. In the Studio with Notman is an ode to the studio practices of the earliest days of photography and my fondness and weakness for Notman’s portraits of women. Finding inspiration in the sets, props and backdrops used in the 19th century photographic studio (a standard feature of early photographic studios), I root my photographs in a pictorial tradition borrowed from art history and my love of painting. My aim is to depict a diverse and contemporary representation of the feminine and to emphasize plurality and difference by photographing an array of female types from all walks of life, and age groups. In the Studio with Notman allows viewers to witness and appreciate his extraordinary legacy and experience a conversation that transpires between his remarkable images of women of a certain epoch with contemporary portraits of my own.
The culmination of this research is currently on view as a solo exhibition at the McCord Museum until February 2019. However, it is a body of work that I am still working on, by continuously photographing more women. Ultimately, the goal is to include a broader female representation and have the work travel to other cities and countries.