(Above: “South Beach Deco Diner” / Photo by John Edkins)
There is a new photo exhibition at the Stittsville Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. It is called “Urban Destinations – City Sights Seen and Imagined at Home and Abroad” and is a selection of images by local photographer, John Edkins.
As implied by the exhibition title, the collection includes both photographs and “photo art,” which is the re-imagining of an original photograph to make it more interesting. “Painters shouldn’t get to have all the fun,” says Edkins. “Photographers now have the tools that allow us to add a layer of creativity on top of the original photo.”
The images are taken in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto as well as a number of international cities including Paris, Rome, London, Venice, and Miami. “In preparing for this exhibition, I found one of the most difficult decisions was to select twenty images from among thousands. It was important to choose images that were iconic but not clichés. You want to be able to recognize the city, but not in the usual way. Is there another way of getting the Eiffel Tower in a picture? You would still identify Paris but not in the usual way.”
The pictures portray contrasts: old (Rome) and new (Toronto), glitzy (Vegas) and ramshackle (Havana), and they sometimes combine colour with black & white for effect. For example, an image of a Venice canal shows a divide between a pedestrian alley (portrayed in colour) and a narrow canal (in B&W) with a traditional gondolier. The B&W implies going back in time.
The most striking aspect of the “Urban Beach” photo of downtown Toronto is the yellow umbrellas which frame the CN Tower and the Skydome. Edkins emphasized this graphic component by removing all other colours, rendering it as a B&W image but with yellow accents.
Serendipity plays a role in “St. Peter’s Basilica from the Tiber River.” The St. Peter’s dome is a very strong architectural feature, but is sometimes obscured unless you can find a good vantage point. Standing on a bridge over the Tiber River provided that point of view. The two people walking along the river produced an unexpected, and welcome, focal point.
Like most of the pictures, “Chateau Laurier Reflected” is the product of significant post-shutter artwork in Photoshop. This picture started its life as an unusual composition of the iconic Ottawa hotel reflected in rainwater. The end result is reminiscent of a pen and ink drawing that has been hand-colourized.
Several of the images feature people in the compositions. From the smiling young woman in “South Beach Deco Diner” (who is she sitting with?), to the London pedestrians in “St. Paul’s Cathedral and Millennium Bridge” (where are they going?), and the customer-free pedicab driver in “Downtown Havana,” the people are the heart of, and raison d’être for, cities.
The exhibition runs from January 2-31 at the library on Stittsville Main Street.
Edkins has been a photographer since his youth when he first started taking pictures with his father’s old Rolleicord twin-lens reflex. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy for twenty years as a naval architect, followed by another twenty years in private industry as a management consultant. John is a long-time resident of Stittsville. He is an executive member of the Ottawa West Arts Association (OWAA) and would like to encourage local photographers, painters and sculptors to join that organization. You can view more of his photos at his website, www.edkinsphoto.com
“St. Paul’s Cathedral and Millennium Bridge” / Photo by John Edkins