From the Field: Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival (Part 2)

I just got back from the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, a major photography event held in Toronto each year. In a previous article, I shared my exploration of several Festival exhibitions. In this one, I will look more specifically at a lecture by artist Moyra Davey, as well as the New Generation Photography Award exhibition organized by the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada.  


Ryerson Image Centre >>> Moyra Davey

Moyra Davey, EM Copperheads 1-150, Galerie Buchholz (detail), 2017

Moyra Davey, EM Copperheads 1-150, Galerie Buchholz (detail), 2017. Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York, and greengrassi, London


With colleagues from the Canadian Photography Institute, I attended a lecture by Moyra Davey, organized in association with her exhibition at the Ryerson Image Centre. Davey was the 2018 winner of the Scotiabank Photography Prize — one of the most prestigious photography prizes in Canada. Her work will also be featured at the National Gallery of Canada beginning in Spring 2020, under the curatorship of Andrea Kunard, Associate Curator at the Canadian Photography Institute.

During her presentation, Davey provided an overview of key projects that have been part of her artistic trajectory. Along the way, important issues emerged, including the exploration of mail art as a means of distribution. This approach led her to rethink her own practice, simplifying the transportation and display of her work in innovative new ways.

After folding her photographs to make envelopes, she sealed each piece with brightly coloured tape. Once arrived at their destinations, the works were unfolded and pinned to a wall. Remnants of tape remain visible on the surface, resembling a constellation of small points that outline the image area like a camera viewfinder.   

Davey also produces text and video to accompany her photographic work, revealing her subjectivity as she develops her personal narrative. She is equally interested in exploring the ideas of authors to enrich her own reflections on the creative process. For example, she quotes writings by Jean Genet suggesting that an author must not write solely for the commercial market, but should also seek personal inspiration beyond the act of writing by exploring music, film, theatre, or any other passion. Within a similar spirit, Davey emphasized the essence of her work by saying:


« I have to keep working to live, but not just materially, I need to keep working in order to be happy. » 


Gladstone Hotel >>> New Generation Photography Award

Luther Konadu, Viewing Viewer View, 2018

Luther Konadu, Viewing Viewer View, inkjet print, 2018. Courtesy of the artist. © Luther Konadu

Ethan Murphy, Gutless, 2018

Ethan Murphy, Gutless, 2018, chromogenic print. Collection of the artist. © Ethan Murphy

Zinnia Naqvi, Self-portrait in the Garden, 2017, and Nani in the Garden (2), 1948, printed 2017

Zinnia Naqvi, Self-portrait in the Garden, 2017, and Nani in the Garden (2), 1948, printed 2017, inkjet print. Collection of the artist. © Zinnia Naqvi


The second floor of the Gladstone Hotel, on Queen Street West, features the work of the three winners of the 2019 New Generation Photography Award. Organized by Andrea Kunard, Associate Curator of the Canadian Photography Institute, the exhibition gives viewers an opportunity to become better acquainted with the art practice of each winning photographer. Their images are displayed throughout the entire floor — in the lobby, in the hallways, and even in spaces that were once hotel rooms.

Luther Konadu is interested in portraiture and the way it is used to represent the Black body in Western visual culture. When taking his photographs, he creates a relaxed ambiance, encouraging conversation so that his subjects eventually command the photographic space by directly confronting the camera.

The work of Ethan Murphy examines identity, family and community in relation to the notion of place. He explores the memory of his late father in photographs capturing the essence of the latter’s favourite places on Bell Island, off the coast of Newfoundland.   

Zinnia Naqvi digs into her personal and family history to address issues of colonialism, race and gender. Vintage photographs of her grandparents allow her to revisit the past while creating links between the different realities that shape family histories.  

The photographs of Luther Konadu, Ethan Murphy and Zinnia Naqvi will be exhibited in the Canadian Photography Institute PhotoLab at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, from October 11, 2019 to March 22, 2020.


To hear these artists talk about their respective practices, view the series of videos produced by the National Gallery of Canada:


Luther Konadu - Lauréat du Prix Nouvelle génération de photographes 2019

Ethan Murphy - Lauréat du Prix Nouvelle génération de photographes 2019

Zinnia Naqvi - Lauréate du Prix Nouvelle génération de photographes 2019


To learn more about the Festival and its programming, please visit the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival website.  ​

Click here to read the first article on the Festival: From the Field: Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival (Part 1)

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Scotiabank Photography Program


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Programme de photographie Banque Scotia