Michael Semak’s unique vision on display at the CMCP
Ottawa, Canada - May 6, 2005
The outcast, the dangerous, the forbidden and the exotic — these are just some themes running through Michael Semak, a new exhibition on view at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography from 7 May to 13 November 2005.
The exhibition of 125 works presents a cross-section of Toronto area photographer Michael Semak’s early work. The show focuses on his production from the 1960s and 1970s, a period when he combined documentary modes of presentation with a strongly subjective approach to produce images that comment, question and disturb.
Like many photographers of the period, Semak used the camera to create purely visual methods of expressing ideas and feelings about the world and society. But his goal was not to depict conventional scenes of beauty. Rather, he used the camera to provoke viewers to look at the world in new ways.
“He does not distort what is real; the subjects in his images are quite identifiable,” says the exhibition’s curator, Andrea Kunard, who is Assistant Curator at Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. “Rather, he pushes aspects of the real through photographic processes to make the viewer take a second look at familiar topics.“
“Michael Semak’s work provides a sense of expansion on the topics he engages. He examines themes such as childhood, old age, sickness and marginal life not from a single and restricted point of view, but from many angles and in many contexts.”
Semak, who has taught photography at York University, is known for a style that emphasizes unusual viewpoints and subjects such as the Toronto’s Warrendale institution for youth and the Black Diamond Motorcycle Gang. Many other photos document his travels through Europe, Ghana, Ukraine and the United States, capturing images of joy, innocence, love, anger, despair, cruelty, mental illness, poverty and sexuality.
An illustrated catalogue and a Bell audioguide complement the exhibition Michael Semak, which will tour after its presentation in Ottawa.
Meet the Artist
View the exhibition in the company of Michael Semak on Sunday 8 May at 2 p.m.