September 23rd, 2018

Eye on the Esplanade: Photography thriving in Medicine Hat and across Alberta

By Medicine Hat News on February 23, 2018.

This year for the first time the Esplanade is participating in the Alberta-wide Exposure Photography Festival, showing award-winning images by Medicine Hat’s own Wes Bell, and Festival founder Dianne Bos, joining Medalta with Hands at Work in Medicine Hat by James K. Farrell in the Yuill Family Gallery.

Bell, a successful fashion photographer for many years in Milan, London and New York, returned to Medicine Hat just a few years ago, but has already made an impact in our arts and culture scene, not only with his subtle and deeply moving black and white images in On the Line, but also through his participation in the city’s Arts and Heritage Advisory Board and Public Art Committee. Considering that there are 130 hand-printed images in five series in On the Line, selected down from many more, this makes Bell a rather busy man!

Wes shoots his images using a traditional film camera (a medium format Hasselblad for all you camera geeks), elevating to lyrical levels his often overlooked, everyday subject matter — plastic bags caught on fence wire, abandoned staircases and signs whose messages are obliterated by age and the elements. The Washington Post’s director of photography, MaryAnne Golon, writes of Bell’s work: “There is beauty, loss and poetry in every frame. Loss and remembrance are universal and Bell makes those emotions accessible and visible.” Bell led a fascinating tour of his exhibition for the public and the Medicine Hat Photography Club last week, lugging his cameras, equipment, binders of test images and notebooks for the club to examine, and generously sharing his decades of photographic expertise in both fine art and commercial work.

Dianne Bos also managed to make it here from Calgary for the opening reception despite frigid temperatures and blowing snow, to share how she came to create the rich and evocative images in The Sleeping Green: No Man’s Land 100 Years Later. Spending time every year in the French Pyrenees, Dianne wondered about the First World War monuments in every village, and what memories and impressions exist today about that horrific event. Using traditional film cameras as well as the pinhole cameras for which she is known (in which a hole focusing light replaces the lens), she shot sites in Belgium and France where Canadians gave their lives 100 years earlier. Later, at the Banff Centre for the Arts, in one of the few remaining colour dark rooms in Canada, she scattered objects from the battle sites — such as rocks, leaves, and a bullet — over the paper, as well as dodging, burning, and overlaying maps of stars, to produce layers of imagery that convey the emotional depth of these extraordinary landscapes.

As Bos says, these works “make the invisible visible” and explore how a terrible historical event has become part of the fabric of our collective imagination. The Sleeping Green was presented at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, France, and is touring across Canada by the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery.

You can catch these and many other thought-provoking, beautiful and diverse photography exhibitions both analogue and digital, across the province throughout February. See http://www.exposurephotofestival.com for the full listing.

Joanne Marion is director/curator of Art at the Esplanade.

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