Artist Stan Douglas Still Thrills to the Lure of the Lens

Canadian Photographer Stan Douglas is named the 2013 Scotiabank Photography Award winner. (L to R) Scotiabank President Brian Porter, renowned Canadian photographic artist Edward Burtynsky, 2013 Scotiabank Photography Award Winner Stan Douglas and Globe and Mail Arts and Life Editor Gabe Gonda. (CNW Group/Scotiabank)

Stan Douglas is going shopping. As the 2013 winner of the Scotiabank Photography Award, he has $50,000 in award money in his pocket, and his eye on a new $7,000 Leica.

“The Leica is more for doing studies and that kind of thing,” says the 53-year-old internationally acclaimed photographer, filmmaker, videographer and artist. “It’s quite lightweight, so I can take it when I’m walking around. When I create work, it’s usually a much more elaborate affair.”

The Scotiabank Photography Award—now in its third year—is Canada’s largest annual peer-reviewed award for excellence in Canadian contemporary photography. Chosen from a list of 12 nominees, Douglas received the prize at a gala event in Toronto on 16 May. It includes a featured exhibition of his work at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in 2014, and a book published and distributed globally by the German art photography publisher, Steidl.

“He really has a broad understanding of the very complex role that photography plays in shaping social behaviour, in our apparent understanding of history or our perceived information about history and culture,” says jurist and National Gallery Curator, Photographs Collection, Ann Thomas. “He has built narratives around the credibility and authority that photographs carry. He’s also just a great picture-maker. I see him as kind of a contemporary history painter, and as someone who is questioning historical narrative through the photograph.”

Stan Douglas (main photo), Ballantyne Pier, 18 June 1935 (2008), chromogenic lightjet, mounted on dibond, 294.7 x 114.3 cm. © Stan Douglas

The National Gallery of Canada has 49 works by Douglas in its permanent collection. Based in Vancouver, he has created films, photographs and art installations, which he says invite the viewer to speculate on or interpret the broader issues at play in a given piece. “It varies from work to work but I leave certain open spaces for them to use their imaginations to understand it differently,” he says. Until it becomes meaningful for somebody else, it’s not entirely complete.”

Douglas is also working on developing mobile apps and writing a play. But he is still drawn to what the camera lens unexpectedly unveils.

“The great thing about photography is that you are never entirely sure about what you’re going to get,” he says. “It’s like collaboration with the real, where there are certain things out of your control because unlike a painting or a drawing it’s not being processed through your imagination.”

"Stan Douglas has helped define and enrich the Canadian art and photography landscape with his outstanding artwork,” says acclaimed photography artist and co-founder of the award, Ed Burtynski. “He has pushed the limits of contemporary photography, and will continue to have an incredible impact on the world of photography, both here in Canada and abroad.”

Stan Douglas, Maritime Worker's Hall (2006), laserchrome print, mounted on aluminum 260 x 130 cm. © Stan Douglas

Artists Angela Grauerholz and Robert Walker were also shortlisted for the award, receiving $5,000 each. Born in Hamburg, Germany, Grauerholz is a graduate of the Kunstschule Alsterdamm, Hamburg, in graphic design, and also studied literature, linguistics and fine art. Her photographic work has been exhibited and collected internationally. Now living and working in Montréal, she received the Award of Excellence from the American Federation of Arts for the book, Lisette Model, published by the National Gallery in 1990.

Robert Walker gained international recognition for transitioning from his origins as an abstract painter to photographing the world as if it were an abstraction. After studying fine art at Sir George Williams University in Montréal, Walker developed a keen interest and skill in street photography, working for more than thirty years in dense urban environments. He then turned his lens on the natural world and flowers as a means of probing the boundaries of photography.

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