Tim Porter

“Reading good literature has been described, very accurately, as a way of learning how to talk to ourselves intelligently. This is also the case with photography. One does not see better until one learns how to conduct the same intelligent internal dialogue.” — Tim Porter

Tim Porter is a Canadian photographer, painter and filmmaker, known for his highly formalist photographs that range from documentary and landscape images to abstract experimental works.

Born to Canadian parents in Washington, D.C., Porter studied literature and philosophy at the University of Virginia from 1964 to 1967 before moving to Montreal and taking up photography. By 1970, he was living in Vancouver, where he became active in the photography community. In both representational street photography and abstract works, Porter began experimenting with radical composition and cropping, highly contrasting light and shadow and grainy texture.

In 1978, Porter made his first photography trip to Japan, where he explored the coexistence of traditional and contemporary cultures for the series Tokyo Archaeology (1978 –1980). In 1980, he secured a position as Tokyo Bureau Chief for the U.K.-based agency Camera Press, taking on documentary photo assignments. 

Porter’s sustained interest in Japanese gardens resulted in a series of dark, meditative landscapes infused with a sense of the spiritual (2000 –2008). In Still Life (1988), he made a series of poignant, luminous photographs of stillborn conjoined twins that had been preserved in formaldehyde in a Bangkok anatomy museum. He also made a series of colour field photographs with Ether (1999), based on Polaroid photography. Porter has travelled and photographed extensively in Japan and other parts of Asia, as well as the South Pacific.

Porter’s work was first shown in the National Film Board of Canada’s group exhibition A Review of Contemporary Photography in Canada (1969) and the groundbreaking B.C. Almanac(h) - C.B. (1970), which was remounted at Vancouver’s Presentation House Gallery in 2015. His photographs have been exhibited nationally and internationally, in solo and group shows, and are held in both private and public collections. The National Gallery of Canada holds a large collection of Porter’s photographs, including works from his 1970s downtown Vancouver series and his Japanese garden series.