What was, what is now, and what could possibly be: A Look at the Finalists for the 2015 Scotiabank Photography Award

  

Scotiabank Photography Award 2015: Barb Mason presents the award to Angela Grauerholz, May 6, 2015. Photo: Melanie Choi

 

“All three of them are very interested in history,” says Andrea Kunard. “How we remember things or how we don’t; how photography can be a transcription of events for the future, but also leaves so much unspoken.” Yet, she adds, “they are all very different in their approaches to photography and have produced distinct bodies of work.”

Kunard, Associate Curator of Photographs at the National Gallery of Canada, is referring to the shortlisted photographers for the 2015 Scotiabank Photography Award: Rafael Goldchain, Angela Grauerholz, and Isabelle Hayeur.

Now in its fifth year, the Scotiabank Photography Award celebrates excellence in contemporary Canadian photography. And as Kunard points out, this year’s finalists — all of whom have works in the NGC collection — are indicative of the “continued high quality of photography being produced in Canada.” NGC Magazine recently caught up with Kunard to find out more about the 2015 Award winner Angela Grauerholz and the other nominees.

 

Angela Grauerholz, Rose et bleu (2010), ink jet print on Arches paper. 102 x 152 cm. © Angela Grauerholz

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Angela Grauerholz lives and works in Montreal. Known for creating intriguing images that are simultaneously descriptive and non-descriptive, she is also interested in thinking about photography with respect to installations and sculptural concerns. In 2010, her work was the focus of a major solo exhibition, Angela Grauerholz: The inexhaustible image … épuiser l’image, which included works such as Sententia I – LXII (1998). As NGC director Marc Mayer described it in the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, this “sculpture shaped like a cenotaph turns out to be display furniture for a set of large photographs, all of them depicting openings of some kind, shown in vertical drawers that the viewer must pull out one by one to see.”

“Grauerholz’s high-quality installations create interactive places within the gallery or art museum, where people can discover things for themselves,” says Kunard. “She references the photograph as an object, and as something that becomes part of an archive and a cultural memory.”

 

Isabelle Hayeur, Nadia (2004), 107 x 157.5 cm. © Isabelle Hayeur

The other Montreal artist on this year’s shortlist, Isabelle Hayeur has produced a compelling body of work that often touches upon concerns about land use and urban sprawl. “Hayeur is looking out at things as an artist would, but she also has a very deep engagement with how we are treating the planet,” says Kunard. Several of Hayeur’s panoramic landscapes are actually composites of different kinds of images — some taken by the artist herself, and some from other sources. As a result, her photographs often seem real and unreal, familiar and unsettling. Hayeur was also one of the artists whose work was recently featured in the NGC’s 2014 Canadian Biennial, Shine a Light.

   

Rafael Goldchain, Paradise Diner, Yucatan, Mexico (1985), chromogenic print, 51 X 61 cm. © Rafael Goldchain

Born of Polish-Jewish heritage in Santiago, Chile, Rafael Goldchain is a Toronto-based artist who has often explored his place in the world through photography. Whether it is his images of Mexico and Central America or his seminal series, I Am My Family, Goldchain’s work can be understood as a search for the self and an investigation of identity. In I Am My Family, for example, the photographer created a number of black-and-white self-portraits in which he cast himself as his ancestors, many of whom were killed in the Holocaust, or displaced across South and Central America in the early 20th century. His works attempt to connect the dots between fact, memory and imagination. But ultimately much remains unknown — proving, as Kunard says, that photography is “not just a document of something that happens in front of the camera.” In 2013, Goldchain’s work was featured in the NGC exhibition Clash: Conflict and its Consequences.

“What was, what is now, and what could possibly be. How we gain information through photography and how we lose it.” These are, as Kunard says, just some of the ideas that the 2015 Scotiabank Photography Award finalists are playing with in their work — albeit in very singular ways.

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