Capture Festival takes Vancouver photography to the next level

Lens-based art will take over Vancouver in April.

Kim Spencer-Nairn and Meredith Preuss at the Capture Festival fundraiser
Photographer Scott Massey at the Capture Festival fundraiser
Capture Festival fundraiser in Yaletown. l-r: Kim Spencer-Nairn (Executive Director) and Meredith Preuss (Program Director) ; Photographer Scott Massey with mini-edition of 'Spectrum Study 4 [Infrared]'

The Capture Photography Festival is skipping a few steps in cultural evolution, like if humanity had jumped straight from hunter-gatherer to smartphone-wielding commuter. Capture coordinates art spaces across Greater Vancouver into a city-wide mega-exhibition of photography and lens-based art.

Gotta catch 'em all

Program Director Meredith Preuss said that Capture creates public exhibitions and events, while encouraging the city's galleries to feature photography-based art. What they've created is, in essence, a peer-to-peer network.

On one hand, it will be really tough to see everything that Capture has to offer; though some will accept the challenge. On the other hand, photography lovers can encounter the festival virtually anywhere in the city they go. Executive Director Kim Spencer-Nairn said, "There will be over 100 exhibitions and events throughout the month of April, almost all of which will be completely free."

Space exploration

In Melbourne, any space left unattended for more than ten minutes becomes a pop-up bar. In New York, nooks and crannies become galleries and performance spaces, even if only as one-night stands. That trend has not yet reached Vancouver in force, but Preuss said, "I'm sure we're gonna get it eventually. We have a few shows this year that are in flex-spaces." For example, Make Studios will use part of their design studio to show work from Fred Shiffer: work normally shown formally, but presented in a new way for Capture.

Capture provides the glue that, even for just a month, unites over two dozen smaller art-exhibition entities that struggle to survive in a difficult climate: while not exactly hostile to art spaces, Vancouver's development has been indifferent at best as the costs of maintaining a space have skyrocketed –– like turning your dog out into the street and, in the back of your mind, hoping she does okay out there. Only recently did the City acknowledge that there was a problem. Spencer-Nairn said, "It's an unfriendly territory for real estate in general, and art spaces are victims." (The City of Vancouver and the BC Arts Council both support Capture; Clrs. Elizabeth Ball and Melissa De Genova were spotted at the fundraiser.)

Capture is also using public spaces. Sean Arden and Erin Siddall are placing a shipping container-turned-camera-obscura at Lonsdale Quay; as well as putting up a sequential exhibition that will run ten stations along the Canada Line from Waterfront to YVR.

Jessica Eaton will install a public artwork on the exterior of the monolithic Dal Grauer Substation on Burrard. A cluster of billboards at 5th and Quebec will be taken over by artist collective Other Sights, said Spencer-Nairn, and "we will be having Vancouver's first tailgate party there, I believe."

This is the second iteration of the Capture Festival. The first was in October 2013, and the event will run annually from now on in the month of April.

February 5th saw Capture's now-annual fundraiser, which was hosted at the Mini showroom in Yaletown. While sipping sparkling wine and getting 3D models of themselves courtesy of Tinkerine, attendees could purchase small-scale works of art from Capture's participating photographers, which organizers described as "guaranteed to fit on the wall of even the smallest Vancouver condo."

Scott Massey, pictured up top with Spectrum Study 4 [infrared], described the work for sale. He shot it at the site of the Hope Slide, Canada's biggest landslide: "I'm drawn to landscapes that are challenging," either due to a tragedy that befell the site, or a natural phenomenon that shaped it.

The series spun off from some work Massey was doing on a film: art tends to take on a life of its own, and subsequently take control of the artist's life.

The other mini-sized works were contributed by Danny Singer, Jessica Eaton, and Birthe Piontek.

Birthe Piontek: 'Trouts (2013)'
Birthe Piontek, Trouts, 2013

The fabric of the city

The 2013 Capture Photography Festival featured wildly divergent works, from police-raid photography (Victor John Penner) to a series of Barbie doll dioramas using human models (Dina Glodstein). Preuss said of this year's works, "One of the things we've seen maybe a bit more of –– and I think a lot of this has to do with our visibility –– is an elevated version of journalistic photography, that documentary style examining the various cultural trends in a somewhat investigative way." Indeed, those who study photography in Vancouver learn very quickly about Foncie Pulice and Jeff Wall, whose shadows loom large over the city's artistic scene.

More galleries beyond Vancouver's formal borders are taking part this year. Returning participant Presentation House Gallery will be showing "Images that Speak", curated by Christopher Eamon. Presentation House curator Helga Pakasaar described the show as exploring the idea of legibility: "How do you read a photograph?" One of the photographers involved is Turner Prize-winner Steve McQueen, Oscar-winning director of 12 Years a Slave.

The West Vancouver Museum will be showing work by Christos Dikeakos, whose recent work has focused on the rural landscapes of the Okanagan.

The Richmond Art Gallery and the Surrey Art Gallery are also participating.

Preuss said, "I think Capture has been a long time coming. It's been one of those things that's been wholeheartedly embraced by the city. We were able to fill a niche that a lot of people didn't identify as something that was missing."

She added that photography is "an incredibly accessible medium", and is therefore the perfect ambassador for fine art in general.

Capture Photography Festival runs April 2-29 throughout Vancouver.

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