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Monday to Friday

9AM - 5PM

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FFOTO's Five Quarantine Questions for Barbara Cole, Virginia Mak, and John Lucas

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Barbara Cole at workBarbara Cole at work making underwater photographs.

This penultimate FF/QQ checks in with Barbara Cole and Virginia Mak, two fine-art photographers who make compositions imbued with richly narrative elements; and documentary photographer John Lucas, whose first collection of evocative explorations of Soviet-era Russia from 1981 have just been added to FFOTO's inventory - a second series, comprising pairs of polaroids from that same journey, will be available to collectors in June. 

- Craig D'Arville

 

 

Barbara Cole, Artist (@barbaracoleart)

Alliance, 2019, by Barbara ColeAlliance, 2019

Craig D'Arville: What are you working on right now? 

Barbara Cole: I’ve had to adjust what I’m working on because it usually involves a small crew. I’ve come up with an idea I wouldn’t have explored had this not happened. When the parameters changed it was necessary to think about things that I could do alone. It took a bit of time to adjust to the fact that this social distancing might last a long time. Then I realized there was an idea that had been on the very back burner for a long time and I decided to give it a try. At the very least it is an exercise to keep the mind active.

CD: How is physical distancing affecting your art practice?

BC: All of my work involves people and since that’s off the table I felt that my hands were tied. It is frustrating but I realize that other people have much bigger problems. It’s important to think rationally and not emotionally. So as I’ve said I’m working on something alone in the studio. It could amount to nothing more than a visual exercise but that might be enough to help me stay sane.

CD: What are you doing to stay engaged with your community during this strange time?

BC: Not a whole heck of a lot. I mean making wide circles around your neighbours as you walk the dog is not conducive to engagement. I have been baking delicious cookies and dropping them off on front porches. Also doing a bit of Zoom meetings. I’m calling and texting and using a lot of emojis.

CD: We're all spending a lot of time on social media right now. Whose work is getting your attention right now?

BC: These are some of the Instagram accounts I like to visit:
@billyundhells
@galerie291paris
@k2creativemgmt
@changedirection
@mymodernmet
@icp
@michaeltaylor5863
@historicphoto
#michaelborremans

CD: Any advice you’d like to share to help others coping with working from home, or in isolation?

BC: Nothing lasts forever!

Barbara Cole at work in her studio
Barbara Cole at work in her studio

Shop FFOTO: Barbara Cole

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Virginia Mak, Artist (#virginiamak)

Character Reference 03, 2010Character Reference 03, 2010

Craig D'Arville: What are you working on right now?

Virginia Mak: At this time, I do not actually take photographs. I am spending my time thinking up ideas for later shoots, re-visiting projects that were started but shelved, and substantive editing to reshape my direction. One project I am now working on is on "Water Colour" (working title). It includes photographs taken, and those yet to come, in a Newfoundland town. This place is rural and full of wonder for me: history and modernity, curiosity and suspicion; and nature, the delight in and threat of it.  And the water in particular: the waves on a stormy or rainy day, or the twinkling light on the water on a bright day. The idea is to record my existence there in a subtle or perhaps poetic way.

CD: How is physical distancing affecting your work flow?

VM: Physical distancing and closing of work places does affect my work. The photo lab(s) are closed, so it is not as easy to make new proofs or process film. On the bright side, I typically need "alone" time to conceive ideas, to daydream, to read, to listen to music and so on so as to produce my kind of work. At this time, I write loads of notes, make sketches and edit.

CD: What are you doing to stay engaged with your community during this strange time?

VM: I revert to simple living. Instead of a lot of social media, I prefer to write emails, or make phone calls to talk to an actual person. Sometimes, I would drive by to wave at friends to surprise them; to connect quietly. Not surprisingly, they are often home. I also write letters and send them by post.

CD: We're all spending a lot of time on social media right now. Whose work is getting your attention right now?

VM: Personally, I do not spend a lot of time on social media. There are however plenty of artists whose websites I enjoy. They include artists I know, or I know of, and whose works I admire. Uta Barth (Instagram), Marlene CreatesStephen Andrews (Instagram), April Hickox (Instagram), and Jennifer Long (Instagram) come to mind. I also like looking at picture books, slowly.

CD: Any advice you’d like to share to help others coping with working from home, or in isolation?

VM: These difficult times are terrible for many people. As an artist, these times can also remind us to re-learn how to pay attention. For those who are fortunate to be able to: find a nice window, on your balcony or yard, read a new book or re-read a longer favourite -- quietly or aloud. Learn or practise on a musical instrument. Do some sketching or collages, if you like. Or do what some would call "expressive writing" for yourself. All that may inspire. Dance at home, to music. Or if you can, walk or run outside, but maintain the 6 feet distance. 

Virginia Mak in her studioVirginia Mak in her home studio

Shop FFOTO: Virginia Mak

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John Lucas, Artist (johnlucasphoto.com)

Hermitage Gallery, 1981, by John Lucas

Craig D'Arville: Tell us about this photograph, "Hermitage Gallery".

John Lucas: I took this picture in Leningrad’s Hermitage Museum during the winter of 1981. On a personal level it is hugely significant, being one of several images that inspired my return to photography a bit over a decade ago. Back then, with my scientific career behind me I had time on my hands and contemplated various options. I began by rejecting photography outright, deeming it naive and absurd to suppose that I could re-engage with the passion of my youth.  But then, some months later, rummaging through my desk drawer, I came upon this image and a handful of other slides I had taken before the fall of the Soviet Union. I was struck by the atmosphere of what by then had thankfully become a distant world. I set about transforming the slides to dramatize and simplify their qualities of emptiness, light, and colour. I was hooked, and photography had returned to my life.

CD: How is physical distancing affecting your work flow?

JL: Not too much at this point. I am waiting for Spring to continue a photo project in the countryside. It is “lock-down” compliant, so long as I am allowed to drive out of the city! Unfortunately my talented printer and framer are in hiding, so I must be patient for a while.

CD: What are you doing to stay engaged with your community during this strange time?

JL: I’m not sure if you mean “photographic community”, or just “community” meaning family, friends, and beyond. For me, unlike my filmmaker wife, artistic creation is a fairly solitary pursuit. Apart from the few trusted and wonderful artist friends I occasionally turn to for advice, reactions to work in progress, and lunch dates, there is little of what I would call photographic community. Community is family and friends much missed. Skype and Zoom occasionally, but not too much.

CD: We're all spending a lot of time on social media right now. Whose work is getting your attention right now?

JL: I enjoy visiting the web sites of some of the best galleries out there, Stephen Bulger, FFOTO, and others, where I can experience and be humbled by bodies of work, especially when they are well reproduced on my computer screen. I am less interested in social media. Life feels too short to allow myself to be drawn into the seemingly infinite world of FaceBook, etc. I lost interest in Instagram a while ago. I had signed on with Nadav Kander (Instagram), Cindy Sherman (Instagram), and Nan Goldin, and could have filled my days following so many more talented, if less prominent, photographers. The small screen of my iPhone doesn’t really cut it. Moreover, viewing isolated images seems so scattershot compared to gallery web sites.

CD: Any advice you’d like to share to help others coping with working from home, or in isolation?

JL: Once you have taken care of the basics, try to think of this as an extraordinary period for doing things you might otherwise complain about not having time to do. Perhaps read Roberto Bolaño's 900 page novel 2666. If you’re a slow reader like me you might still be reading when the pandemic ends. And most importantly, take well-distanced walks, if permitted.

John Lucas' #WFH set-upJohn Lucas' #WFH set-up

Shop FFOTO: John Lucas

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