Maximum Exposure

by Heather on April 21, 2008

Ryerson is one of my Alma Maters- in truth I was only in the Image Arts Program for one year which was enough time to learn how to…ummm… load 4×5 film and that was enough to get me a job assisting so off I went. But every year they throw up a show called Maximum Exposure which is worth checking out if only to see what trends have filtered down to the schools:

Maximum Exposure highlights the talent and the potential coming out of the Image Arts program by showcasing the work of approximately 150 – 200 emerging photography, film and new media based artists.

I visited the 4th year Photography students exhibit at the Gladstone on the weekend and found a lot of deadwood but a few juicy jems.

Dominic Nahr stands out by far. At only 24 he has already established himself as a bona fide photojournalist. He has several heavy series under his belt for clients including South China Morning Post (he was raised in Hong Kong) and Agence France-Presse (they sent him to East Timor). In late 2006 Dominic became a contributing photographer for New York Photo Agency, Polaris Images.

This shot is from a series called Gaza Strip: When Brothers Fight:


And this is from an ongoing project called America: Milk and Honey:


Jonathan Taggart also showed strongly as a photojournalist. His work is reminiscent of Larry Towell in both it’s subject matter and treatment. I was intrigued by his series Salt & Earth which documents life in an ecovillage and biodynamic farm, one hour outside of Toronto. “The life being lived in the community blends traditional family values with modern ecological concerns and practices; the result is what can be described as a neo-commune.” I look forward to the increasing refinement of his eye and a push even further into his subject matter.


And now for something completely different. Jay Shuster’s got some personality. I’m a bit confused by his website but it seems to include the normally yawn-inducing “one photograph per day”. In Jay’s case, I guess his life is a little more colourful than most because his daily shots kept my attention. And his series’ are prolific too. Check out the the fun Anatomy of Wii and the ubiquitous floating series Into the Void. Here they are respectively:



Lena Oehmsen shows some promise. I liked this self-assignment:

Theatre Posters: Inspired by the work of the German theatre photographer Arno Declair and by my interest in theatre and literature, I decided to create, for a fictional theatre in Germany, posters for 3 different plays.

In the creation of the imagery I felt it was important that they would invite younger people. In order to accomplish this goal and because I feel it is easier to identify with a familiar emotion than with a complex story, I tried to recreate the mood of the plays instead of illustrating specific scenes. Furthermore I used contemporary settings and clothing for these environmental portraits illustrating the main characters and their emotional state in order to reflect the play’s contemporary interpretation on stage.


How very specifc of her. Obviously this kind of thought process and follow through execution is extremely useful for photo buyers to see in the work.

Clare Yow didn’t stand out to me at the show so thanks to my ever smart and vigilant colleague Liz Ikiriko (PE at Toronto Life) for pulling me over to Clare’s site. I know the swing and tilt has been done but I still like it.


Liz had a couple of other’s on her list of fave’s:
Robyn McCallum
Erika Jacobs

Sadly, there are a few others I liked who don’t yet have websites. Nor are their shots on the Max Ex site good representations so I’m not going to show you anything here from them. Mercedes Grundy and Eden Weiss: if you’re reading this, we need to talk.

I was heartened to see a handful of promising talent coming out of one of the better photography programs in the city. It needed refinement of course and the influence of recent grad Robyn Cumming loomed large but I think the future looks bright at Ry High.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

clint mclean April 22, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Hi Heather,
i agree with your top pick being Dominic. i’ve been a fan of his for a while now and can’t believe how good he is – especially at such an young age. He’s magic.
I made a rather short list of who to watch based at Max-Ex also…or rather, once checking on more/other work my list became very small.
I’m curious to see more work from the two erins – Hogue and Fitzsimmons. Hogue claims her website is up any day now – since i’ve only seen the two images at Max-Ex i’m not getting my hopes up too much though i do remember those two images long after i’ve forgotten most of the exhibition. Erin Fitzsimmons has some interesting work at the show and on his website. i almost didn’t see the work on his site though because his homepage stared at me as a big blank white box for so long i didn’t think it was loading. galleries 1 and 2 are nice though gallery 3…i think he’d be better off without it.

I really like working with new young photographers and do an aweful lot of it. My problem with the Max Ex show is so many of these new young photographers are doing exactly the same thing as each other or as someone who has graduated within the last few years.
If i want someone that shoots like jamie campbell or Johanna Warwick or Jennifer Long I will just hire the original – not the copy.
Clare Yow is an interesting example i think because she has great “finishing” and is certainly a competent photographer. Her best work however is built on what’s sorta a gimmick (and one so closely associated around here with tony hafkensheid that it’ll be hard to top the local king) and her other quality work is the book thing which has been done to death and then some (arnaud maggs i think has earned rights to continue it in spite of that).
I guess what i’m saying is when i go to scout new talent i want to see something fresh. The reason i take the risks on new photographers is because what you get in return is hopefully a unique, contemporary, somewhat uncomprimised aesthetic – but if they’re not showing something unique to themselves then why take the risk of giving someone their first gig? …in hopes they will develop i guess. there are certainly some from Max Ex who will develop but it’s a crapshoot whether to invest in the ones who are more technically proficient or more visually aware. I aim for the ones who mix the two when possible but sometimes the most exciting people slant heavily to the creative and not so much to the technical. Hopefully the technical catches up over time.
At the risk of going on too long i’ll end with a question:
why isn’t making a website a mandatory component of photo programs?


liz April 22, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Nice question, Clint. I was thinking the same thing. I was really surprised at the website links with Coming Soon or nothing at all. Maybe this is a good time to make it known to all graduates: Everyone’s watching and hungry for new talent and this is a perfect opportunity to jump into that big scary pool.

I completely agree with your comments that you saw a lot of copycat work and that is disappointing. The only thing is that trying out other styles can sometimes lead you to the one that is your own. In defense of Clare Yow – you can see her skill behind the obvious Toni Hafkensheid influence. And I like her conceptual vision. I don’t think the ideas behind her best work are influenced by Hafkensheid and that’s what stands stronger than the drop focus gimmick.

Overall, I agree with you. Hopefully in the next few years we’ll see these grads developing more definitive PERSONAL vision. I look forward to it.

Heather April 23, 2008 at 7:42 am

Thanks to both Liz and Clint for adding such great perspective to this discussion- for those of you who don’t know him, Clint is a PE for the Globe and Mail magazines so he, like Liz (PE at Toronto Life), knows what he’s talking about. He’s a pretty good shooter too:

Clint’s additions are: and Erin Hogue who doesn’t yet have a website. We’ll check back with some of these new talents when they get their online presence up and running.

In terms of Clint’s question about website development as part of the photo program, I’ll look into it. I don’t know about this in particular but I certainly find a big disconnect between what the students are learning in class and any kind of real world application. When I was a First Assistant (8 years ago) I found recent grads had no clue how to start assisting and as far as I’m concerned, this is a crucial part of your education- in my case, it was my main source of prep for a career in photography. More on this later.

Regarding Fitzsimmons- I’m still waiting for his website to load. Obviously this is a big problem- so, if you’re going to do a website, make sure it’s uber-quick.

Christine April 23, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Photography students take a Technology class, in first year, if I recall correctly, and this is when we are taught the basics of Dreamweaver. As part of our final assignment, are required to create a website and upload it to the Ryerson server.

For many students this was/is the extent of our website-creation-training. Not that the server isn’t wiped anyways, nor is the list of students ever accurate. For example, both Taggart and Nahr are both not listed anywhere after switching from different programs.

Personally, I cannot see getting away without having a website in these times. It’s the simplest promotional tool a visual artist can have. But I think many of Ryerson’s photo graduates don’t know enough about website building to create one that looks decent, and cannot afford to have someone else build it for them, no matter how much of an investment it really is.


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