GARNET DIRKSEN (Montreal, Canada)
Garnet Dirksen is a film photographer from Merritt, British Columbia. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Thompson Rivers University, and is currently completing a Masters of Fine Arts in Photography at Concordia University in Montreal.
Much of his work and interests originate with his upbringing in a small town, and he attributes some of his tendency to look more closely at subjects with the supposed lack of things to see there. His photographs often depict taken-for-granted spaces, themselves a parallel of rural life, examining their histories through the physical accumulations of those who occupied them.
The interaction between global trade, industry, and cultural change are recurring themes in my work, which examines their effects on smaller communities’ populations and built environments. I explore the interconnectedness of historical and contemporary events, the physical appearance of places, and how their inhabitants continue to transform, and be transformed by, the places they frequent.
I make colour photographs to document spaces which have been shaped as much by large external economic factors, as they have by small human interventions. People are often absent from my photos, either because they no longer inhabit a space, or because their presence is so strongly reflected in their accumulations that their physical presence would be reductive. This absence also emphasizes ongoing change, and the idea that there have been many occupants, rather than a singular one through time.
I am currently beginning a long-term project on the fur industry in Canada, as it exists today. The goal has been neither the production of a political work (for or against), nor a nostalgic trip back into Canada’s history, but a detailed examination of what remains of this industry, and how it continues to function in Canada today, through globalization and constant cultural change.
The resulting colour photographs, though obviously informed by my own identity, attempt to inhabit a more neutral position, in order that the viewer may ponder for themselves the different elements that come into play: wealth & power (or lack thereof), the worker and the economy, the rural and the urban, and the production of luxury goods. I have tried to present a different set of considerations on the subject, and to moderate a view into what is often a secretive and controversial economy.
Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?
A pivotal moment in my photographic practice happened when I switched from black and white film, the focus of many undergraduate photography classes, to colour film in order to learn the process of colour enlarging. Suddenly I found myself presented with a range of new and exciting considerations, which mostly had to do with the properties of colour film itself. I was particularly drawn to how colour film, by then only available in daylight balance, would render different light sources in relation to each other. I realized I could intentionally work with existing lights in interiors for effect, knowing for instance that a fluorescent would add a green cast in a particular area. With this discovery, I began to see the relationships between my colour photographs and paintings, and the images as something even more in my control than I had with black and white.
The reverse side of this is of course that often light sources are not controllable, and one quickly realizes the challenges of working with a single colour balance, particularly indoors as I often do. The benefit of this however is the rigorous discipline it promotes, forcing the photographer to slow down, consider what to meter for, what exactly to frame, etc. Like the use of a tripod suggested to me by one of my early mentors, the concentration demanded by shooting with film has stuck with me and informs how I photograph.
Finally, though I do not place an overemphasis on gear, the types of equipment available to the film photographer do influence the resulting work in my case. Often working with a medium-format camera on a tripod means that the types of images I make are slower and more studied than any I have made with a 35mm cameral. The relationship between equipment and image becomes especially apparent when photographing people, as the portrait often shifts from being a candid one to a posed one.