Emerging artist Graham Ereaux on photography as social commentary

Let me introduce you to Graham Ereaux.  I talked to the young artist, who is recognized as an ’emerging name’ amongst Canadian photographers for 2013 – at XChanges Gallery in Victoria on Vancouver Island, where his current show “Walls of Utopia” will be shown until Oct 27. Graham’s photographs depict the remnants of the consumerist landscape when the act of consuming and the presence of people is removed. At night and without the consumer, malls become empty neon shells, parking lots become endless voids of concrete, and streets that once led consumption from one place to the next end up as a tangle of dry asphalt veins.

Copyright Graham Ereaux

Copyright Graham Ereaux

Graham Ereaux – you have been recognized by the Magenta Foundation, one of Canada’s leading photographic publicists, as an emerging name in 2013. What does photography mean to you?

Photography for me serves two functions – to encourage my own self discovery in a variety of subjects, and secondly, to share my ideas and opinions with others. I like to develop work that critiques and/or investigates social, cultural, economic and political issue. By making such work, I am encouraged to gain a stronger understanding of each subject  I chose to photograph, and in turn, share it with others. I think it is important to think critically of the world around us, and at the end of the day, photography is an excellent tool for doing just that.

Today, you said: “It’s nice to portray beauty, but for me the main role of photography is social commentary.” Why?

I do indeed enjoy taking pictures that are beautiful, but I feel photography has the potential to go beyond being a purely aesthetic experience. I think photography becomes a lot less boring to make (and potentially to view) when it has some form of social commentary.

Photographer Graham Ereaux

Photographer Graham Ereaux

Who inspired you?

I’ve been really inspired by a couple of my professors while studying at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. They have taught me the importance of staying focused only on what you feel strongly about. You have to be passionate with what you make.

Your current exhibition aims to encourage people to think critically about consumerism and its emotional, social, and geographical potential. Where did you get the idea for the series?

The series kind of came about by accident. To get out of the studio, I would go for drives around town at night just to clear my head. Soon enough, at night, I started taking photographs of all the gas stations around the town I was living at the time. I think it was these first few shots of gas stations that really made me question consumer spaces and how they transform at night when they are taken out of their working context. From there, the work just took off. Before I knew it, I was photographing every consumer space at night I could find.

In this digital age, do you think that there is a future for film-based photography?

Most definitely…that is as long as other people think so too. Film can only exist with a community to support it. Film is so important for so many reasons. Operationally, it forces you to slow down and really consider each image you are taking. Aesthetically, film has an incredible ability to capture colours accurately. Furthermore, using large and medium format equipment enables me to make extremely large prints if necessary without loosing image quality.

Upcoming projects?

I’m currently spending quite a bit of time photographing seniors at a local nursing home. Seniors are an extremely important part of society, but I think there is a lot issues, stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the older population here in Canada. I’d really like to address some of these issues.  I’ve also spent some time down on the Jersey Shore and Atlantic City where I’m photographing the major polarization between rich and poor in that area. I am planning another trip that way in the coming months.

Could you share 2 of your favourite images?

Ya, for sure – the first image is from my current series up at Xchanges Gallery, and the second image is of a friend of mine at the seniors home in Sackville, New Brunswick. The photograph he is holding is himself when he was about my age. He’s 93 now I believe.

Graham, thank you for sharing your thoughts and photographs with my readers.

'Young at heart' by Graham Ereaux Copyright 2013

‘Young at heart’ by Graham Ereaux
Copyright 2013

Graham Ereaux is a photographer located between Sackville, New Brunswick, and Salt Spring Island, BC. He uses large and medium format photography to explore socio-physical landscapes ranging from North America consumerist utopias to local seniors among his community. He is recognized by the Magenta Foundation, one of Canada’s leading photographic publicists, as an emerging name in 2013. Graham Ereaux gratefully acknowledges the financial support of ArtsNB.
For more information visit the artist’s website: Graham Ereaux

The Exhibition ‘Walls of Utopia’ runs through Sunday, October 27th, 2013 at XChanges Gallery, Victoria.
Gallery Hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 12 to 4 pm