Aimia | AGO Photography Prize Blog

Q&A: Jason Evans, Grange Prize Photographer-in-Residence

Jason Evans, A long, long time AGO / Media Productions / Lee, Gary, Pat, Danny, Zoé, Greg, Barb, 2013
Jason Evans, A long, long time AGO / Media Productions / Lee, Gary, Pat, Danny, Zoé, Greg, Barb, 2012

Welsh photographer Jason Evans is the current photographer-in-residence at the AGO. As part the of Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, his photo series featuring 12 groups of AGO staff members, A long, long time AGO, will be on view on the AGO’s Dundas Street façade and inside the Elizabeth & Tony Comper Gallery on Level 1 throughout May 2013. Evans, a 2012 Grange Prize nominee, will also facilitate public photography workshops focused on portraiture and at AGO 1st Thursdays on May 2, he will move through the Galleries with a roving DJ station, playing records from his personal collection for artworks in the AGO collection in a performance titled Music for Looking.

Jason Evans

Jason Evans

Your project at the next 1st Thursdays, Music for Looking, involves pairing pieces of music with works on display in the Gallery — how do you know if a song is “right” for a particular artwork. Did you choose the artworks first and match the songs, or was it the other way around?

When I was here for The Grange Prize I took in the collection and made notes of the rooms or objects that I was feeling, you have some lovely things and some sensual hangs. Instinctively I felt I could play that piece or this type of music as compliment or in dialogue. I often “see” stuff when I hear music so I wanted to work the other way around. Some associations are quite literal and others more formal or textural. It’s nearly all instrumental. After enjoying the atmosphere of the 1st Thursdays I felt encouraged to go as out-there as I needed. I think your punters can take it!

One of the invitations of our residency program is to draw on “the possibilities within the collections and exhibitions of the Gallery,” and other artists-in-residence have dug into the vaults and reacted to work on the walls, but for your A long, long time AGO series you decided to work with the Gallery’s people (our staff). Where did that project come from?

Institutions are pretty inhumane on the whole, yet they’re dead without people. The amazing narratives, cultures and objects sustained at AGO or any “museum” are facilitated by the staff; they’re the unsung heroes of Culture, while the authors get recognition. I want to promote a more holistic view. We’re all in this together. I subscribe to the belief that it’s often the “little people” that do the most important work… And in the meantime, I’m also reacting — the Janet Cardiff The Forty Part Motet can’t fail to influence. I love that piece and was stoked to learn it was here while I am and in dialogue with Moore too. I’ll be up there doing some drawing and soaking up the spiritual vibrations too.

Is Toronto a good place to take pictures? You visited Toronto last fall and you’re back again, this time for a longer visit. Is there one thing about Toronto that inspires you to pull out your camera?

Not yet.

The workshops you’re running as part of your residency are for beginner photographers and students will work with film cameras, not digital. What does film have over digital? Do you think it’s important to learn to work with film before digital?

I think that both formats offer different possibilities — it needn’t be a competition. I work on film most of the time because I like the texture of it. I wanted to share the thoughtful, slowness of film with folks who might not have had that experience before, and not just beginners either. In terms of learning, I think it’s unhelpful to generalize; we all find different ways to knowledge. Having said all that I am dubious of the market-driven motivations for digitalization and the pandemic social consequences.

Why doesn’t The Daily Nice have an archive? You must keep the photos, so why can’t visitors to the site see them? Is it about getting them to concentrate on a single image?

Here today, gone tomorrow. Just like life. Don’t hold on. The internet would be a whole bunch better if it wasn’t treated like a bottomless pit.

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You’ve made it clear you prefer “photographer-in-residence” to “artist-in residence.” Why?

I’m broadly interested in Culture more than Art, and that’s what I contribute to, in different ways. This is facilitated by photography in relation to life, music, people, exploring… you name it. I guess you could say, “that’s art,” but to me it’s more than that. Art might be a part of what I do as a photographer, but I want to take into account my record sleeves and my curation, my writing and my teaching, my ‘eye’ and my fashion work —these are all informed by my relationship with photography, not with art. I’m being a bit mischievous for the sake of opening a discussion. What’s the difference between photography made by artists and art made by photographers?

How important is space you’re inhabiting for this residency (the Artist in Residence studio) to the overall experience? What do you want to do with it?

I am a “messy” person, yet every time I need to make something I have to clear the decks to clear my head. I’m working on some drawings for photography while I’m here and having zero physical distractions in a space is a luxury. Having said that, it’s a weird, fish tank–like room with no natural light, not very soulful. This is cancelled out by the ultra-supportive staff. I’m being spoiled here — I just wish spring would hurry up.


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