Contact Photography Festival

The top 5 events to check out at Contact 2014

The Contact Photography Festival is naturally driven by gallery shows, but over the years organizers have taken strides in beefing up the number of events affiliated with the month-long celebration of all things photographic. This is particularly good news if you, like me, are somewhat underwhelmed by the feature exhibitions.

My best festival experiences have typically been the most interactive, where I make a point of engaging with photographers and gallery-owners. While this can be accomplished by being outgoing at the various shows, it's really the event programming that opens up this aspect of the festival. With that in mind, here are my top picks for Contact events this year. See our main festival preview for a list of the best shows to catch in 2014.

Kodak Lecture Series: Stan Douglas
Vancouver-based photographer Stan Douglas was awarded the third annual Contact Photography award, and will thus be in attendance to discuss his most recent work, which joins a body of photographs and visual material that extends back to the early 1980s. Douglas is a theoretically-inclined artist whose subtle social and philosophical critiques can be challenging to spot during a passive viewing of his work, which makes a talk by him all the more appetizing. April 30th, 7pm. Ryerson University.

Festival launch at MOCCA
This ain't your average art opening. As much as I detest the art-speak and hobnobbing that goes on at these things, fine art photographers would do themselves a service by mingling in this crowd. Not an artist? No matter, just play dress up, drink horrible white wine and remark that since William Eggelston, contemporary fine art photographers seem infatuated with the idea of the democratic forest and no longer know how to tell stories. Well, everyone except Alec Soth, that is. The after party at the Gladstone will be decidedly more laid back. May 2nd. Starts at 7pm.

Scott Conarroe
Scott Conarroe is one of Canada's finest photographers. Loosely inspired by photographers like Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld, Conarroe's large format prints are as gorgeous as they are thoughtful. I was a bit disappointed to hear that he had taken China as his latest project (too Burtynsky-like for my tastes), but I'm pleased to say that he's brought a refreshingly human focus to this series, one which goes beyond the scope of monolithic infrastructure projects, factories and the country's notorious density. May 3rd, 1pm - Stephen Bulger Gallery.

Gregory Heisler
Heisler is one of the all-time great portrait photographers, a craft which I seem to gain more and more respect for as I struggle to incorporate people into my photographs. The art of the portrait is a strange one, but no one knows more more about it that than this artist, whose work has appeared on the cover of Time Magazine more than 70 times. Wow. There will me much to learn at this lecture. May 14th, 8pm. Hart House.

Scott McFarland
Scott McFarland's wonderfully detailed prints are digital constructions that seem like a cross between a Andreas Gursky photo and and Gregory Crewdson production. While McFarland's work is photographic, the process by which he makes his prints is anything but conventional, stitching and combining, as it were, various images to construct a final work. Listen to the artist discuss the state of photography in the age of digital manipulation at the AGO on May 21 at 7pm.

Top photo by Scott Conarroe

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