July 18 to August 17, 2013
The photographic model of reportage has been dominated by the use of small and medium format hand-held cameras. It involves the photographer being mobile and on the “hunt” for events and scenes that often occur in the urban public domain. An entire school of artists developed a working process in this mode using the street as the environ to capture images of their world, including but not limited to Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Garry Winogrand. Their images are characterized by qualities such as black & white (which gives the works a more photojournalist look, like newspaper images), and a point and shoot aesthetic which could be described as non level, or non vertically aligned uprights. Mobility has been key to the street photographer seeking his subject, and moments are captured by chance, not planned or staged.
In McFarland’s new model of reportage, he positions his 4×5 camera on a tripod for a fixed period of time in a street location where there appears to be an interesting convergence of people and built elements of the urban environment. Returning day after day he continues to photograph various people that come into his view from the same camera placement. The “characters” in his images are not staged nor are they performers—they are individuals who happened to pass by his stationary camera while he was there to photograph them. In post editing with Photoshop, McFarland produces a seamless singular image that could have been photographed all at the same time; appearing as an instant. During this editing process, a new narrative is created from the raw material of different figures. People engage with each other in new ways that did not transpire at the time the images were taken. Individuals who now appear as friends were in reality strangers not even existing in the same space at the same time. McFarland’s new “nonfictional” narratives are created from non linear moments, but the aesthetics of early reportage create an understanding for the audience that the works present a kind of truth.
McFarland began producing large format street photographs after observing Repatriation processions that occurred on the streets of Toronto around 2009. The content of the motorcade rushing down the street was at first interesting to him, but in turning away from the processions and viewing the pedestrians observing them, he became more interested in seeing their reactions to the event: often a mixture of sadness and pride. Equally worth investigating was reactions of the pedestrians that did not notice or were indifferent to the Repatriation procession. McFarland photographed a number of these events during 2010, exploring the variety of seeing different aspects of the same scene. The series is printed larger than is typical to elevate a subject of daily newspaper interest into a more historical event scale.
Scott McFarland lives and works in Toronto, Canada. His works are included in public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. An upcoming exhibition of McFarland’s work from the last five years will be presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Spring of 2014.