Here's another one of those stories in which a unique business starts up n Victoria and makes an mpact on the world stage, hile remaining relatively nknown locally.
LÃºz Gallery on Oak Bay Avenue offers top-end digital photo printing, hosts workshops for photographers and has a small gallery. I dropped by to check out Diffusion IV, a show of "unconventional photography." What I learned from gallery owners Quinton Gordon and Diana Millar surprised me.
Diffusion is an annual show, now in its fourth year. The exhibition is rigorously selected by Blue Mitchell of Portland, Oregon, and results in the publication of a book. While none of the artists is from Canada, this year, the exhibition takes place at LÃºz . It's an honour for the gallery, and a treat for locals.
Let me give you a hint about "unconventional photography." Susan Kae Grant creates shadow-plays on a scrim in her studio, using actors and props and a strong dose of her own intuition. Leah Macdonald begins with a photo and layers it with paint, encaustic wax and found objects. Jon Cervinsky sets up still-life groupings, photographs them in fragments and sends the photos to a "painting factory" in China.
When the paintings come back, he sets them up within the original still life (often worse for wear) and re-photographs the assemblage.
It's not unusual to find painters using photography in their work, but "photographers are now looking to incorporate multiple disciplines," Millar told me.
Previously, expression in photography was somewhat limited, depending on the quality of the print and the vision of the photographer. As the art form became more refined, it lost some of its vitality.
In Diffusion, the unfinished quality of the works allows a lot more room for expression.
LÃºz principal Quinton Gordon, who is certainly capable of perfection, asks, "What's wrong with imperfections?" For those on a quest for perfection, even a tiny fleck on the paper would result in the print being torn up. But photography is only a means to an end. Gordon shows a tendency toward unorthodox cameras, street photography and handmade papers. I think of him as "post-perfectionist."
At the moment, LÃºz isn't accepting portfolios from photographers for consideration, as they discover more than enough talent at the photo-review sessions they attend.
What is a photo-review session? Photographers pay to present their portfolios to some of the 200 publishers and gallery owners who may attend each one.
Over the course of five days, photographers sit down, one-on-one, for 20 minutes with 12 to 20 reviewers. In a face-to-face interview, they receive what is, to them, invaluable feedback.
LÃºz has been among the reviewers at Lucida, a session held in Houston biannually for the past 23 years, as well as at events in Portland and New Orleans.
In addition to the critique, the session may result in a publishing contract or an exhibition opportunity. Many points of view, from reviewers from around the world, are available in one place. "Even if you're from Victoria," Millar explained, "galleries from China, New York and Europe get to see your work." The gathering is often associated with special photo exhibitions and publications.
It seems LÃºz is the only Canadian gallery represented at these sessions. "Victoria runs easier north to south, rather than east and west," she said.
Gallery aside, LÃºz is primarily interested in education. This past week, the little shop on Fort Street played host to Santa Fe photographer Don Mesek's workshop on "direct to plate" technology. The eight participants signed up for the week-long course came from Wisconsin, Vermont and Japan - and only one from Victoria.
As LÃºz has evolved, it has become an atelier, a studio where visitors can come to train with the masters, practise their skills and observe the state of the art. Diana Millar told me that LÃºz has just signed a lease on a larger, quasi-industrial space in the Rock Bay neighbourhood. Before they leave the Avenue, drop in and find out what photo art on the international level looks like.
Diffusion IV, until Aug. 31 at LÃºz Gallery, 1844 Oak Bay Ave.
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