At the present time, my research focuses on the portraits of women produced by nineteenth-century photographer William Notman. Notman was a highly regarded Scottish-Canadian photographer who ran one of the first photographic studios in Canada. He produced hundreds of thousands of images and his archive is an important testament to our rich photographic history. The Notman Photographic Archives, conserved in the McCord Museum, is a historically invaluable collection providing an extensive visual record of Montreal, Quebec and Canada from 1856 to 1934. The representation of women throughout this period, from the early days of photography to the beginning of the twentieth century is of particular interest to me. This seminal anthology of society portraits is incredibly fascinating and I am investigating the ways in which women of this era were photographed and depicted.
Over the past several years, I have spent a great deal of time at the McCord Museum in Montreal, immersing myself in the tens of thousands of images of nineteenth-century portraits of women held in the Notman Photographic Archives. In 2015-2016, I produced phase I of the 3rd installment of Belle de Jour, which is inspired and informed by the Notman Archives. This body of work encourages viewers to witness and appreciate the extraordinary legacy of the archive and experience a conversation between Notman’s remarkable images of women with contemporary portraits of my own. My goal has been to create a series of photographs that dialogue with Notman’s historical oeuvre and legacy. By looking closely at Notman’s sensibilities and the underlying eccentricities of his work, I am attempting to build a visual relationship between past and present modes of female representation. The first phase of this series was shown in an exhibition curated by Zoë Tousignant at the FOFA Gallery at Concordia University in March 2016.
Recently, I was invited to be the artist-in- residence at the McCord Museum. This residency program invites contemporary artists to critically reflect on the museum’s collection and encourages them to explore and interact with the archives to create a body of work for display in a solo exhibition. I am using this opportunity to dig deeper into specific Notman female subjects and conduct more visual research on the use of props and backdrops employed in the nineteenth century. The culmination of this research will be presented as a solo exhibition at the McCord Museum in May 2018.