Young Champions: Emerging Artists in Contemporary Photography

Loss, longing and self-discovery are just some of the themes portrayed in the photographic work of the three inaugural winners of the New Generation Photography Award. Elisa Julia Gilmour, Meryl McMaster and Deanna Pizzitelli communicate their vision of the world around them by referencing cultural frameworks, personal experiences and global change. The prestigious award, created by the National Gallery of Canada’s Canadian Photography Institute in collaboration with its Founding Partner, Scotiabank, supports the careers of emerging artists, aged 30 and under, who create lens-based photographic work in Canada. The work is now on view in PhotoLab 4: New Generation Photography Award Exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada.


Elisa Julia Gilmour

Elisa Julia Gilmour, Over their Own (detail),  2014, print of a 16mm projection still. Courtesy of the artist. Produced with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, 2013. Photo © Elisa Julia Gilmour

Over their Own responds to 19th-century photographic studio portraits of infants held steady by a hidden figure. Due to lengthy exposure times, an infant portrait required the presence of a mother or a caregiver hidden beneath a veil, or behind a chair, to maintain the stillness of the child. The piece consists of two parts: a series of film portraits that reverse the 19th-century photographic process by veiling the child, and a grid of photographs produced from the projection of these very film portraits. While the films explore the women’s dual role as individuals and mothers, statically posing for the camera and carefully tending to their agitated children, the photographs collapse time, blurring the child in motion and revealing the mother.’

Elisa Julia Gilmour. Photo credit: Mark Peckmezian

Elisa Julia Gilmour is a Toronto-based artist working with still and moving images that explore cultural, familial and gender identities. Her video and sound installation Over their Own (2015) examines the complexities of motherhood through photographic and cinematic portraits of personal, fictional and historical characters. In 2016, she created Éperdument (Madly), composed of a three-channel video installation and a publication of short stories, which investigates how the Corsican mythological figure of the mazzere has enlivened a contemporary sense of identity. Elisa Julia Gilmour is currently writing a script about intergenerational ruptures caused by emigration.



Meryl McMaster

Meryl McMaster, Edge of a Moment,  2017, ink jet print. Courtesy of the artist and Katzman Contemporary. Photo © Meryl McMaster

Edge of a Moment was created at a historically and culturally important ancestral site: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta. As in many of my works, I approached this project with an interest in better understanding conflicted histories. … With Edge of a Moment, I want to bring specific awareness to the broad consequences of colonization, and how the mentality of greed and/or lack of foresight is still affecting us today. At the same time, my work isn’t intended to resolve this dilemma, but rather to create an opportunity for introspection and conversation.’

Meryl McMaster.
Photo credit: Neeko Paluzzi

Meryl McMaster was born and raised in Ottawa, and is of Plains Cree/European decent. Her distinct approach to photographic self-portraiture has been influenced by her experiences working in and exploring remote Canadian landscapes, as well as by contemplations of the complexities of her family heritage. Her photographs incorporate the spontaneity of photography, the manual production of objects or sculptural garments, performance, and self-reflection. In her works, these media form a mosaic that illustrate a journey of self-discovery as she explores how we construct our sense of self through lineage, history and culture.



Deanna Pizzitelli

Deanna Pizzitelli,  Portait, Nicaragua,  2017, printed in 2017, toned gelatin silver print (edition 2/5). Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

Koža began in Slovakia, and continued across Europe, Canada and parts of Latin America. Its subjects — bodies, animals, places — are variations on the same thing, an emotional landscape that is both powerfully vague and deeply familiar. This work is the voice of someone who does not understand the experience of being alive, but who collects stories in order to grasp the unfolding and often indecipherable feelings that being alive involves. In Slovak, koža means skin.’

Deanna Pizzitelli. Photo credit: Deanna Pizzitelli

Deanna Pizzitelli is a Canadian photo-based artist and writer. She completed her BFA in Photography at Ryerson University, and her MFA at the University of Arizona. Interested in the emotional landscape, Pizzitelli uses analogue processes to explore themes of longing, loss, uncertainty and desire. Her practice is motivated by the act of travel, and the visual residue of her many intersections with landscape, wildlife, and culture. Pizzitelli’s work was recently exhibited at AIPAD: The Photography Show in New York City, and Paris Photo-2017. She has had residencies in Canada, Iceland, and Portugal. She is represented by the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto.


PhotoLab 4: New Generation Photography Award Exhibition is on view from April 13 to August 19, 2018. The award recipients are taking part in the Gallery’s education programme and will be presenting artist talks on May 5, 2018 at 1 pm at the National Gallery of Canada. To share this article, please click on the arrow at the top right hand of the page.