Gastown is pleased to welcome the 2017 Capture Photography Festival to the neighbourhood.
From April 1st to 28th, Joseph Staples’ stunning photographic collage work will be displayed on various storefront windows throughout Gastown.
Staples is unique in every sense of the word. He sees a dualistic reality in images that can be further investigated, synthesized and then reborn to tell a different story, still using the entirety of the original material.
His work presents enormous depth and he touches the exact same pond of photographic imagery with a singular, intensely focused hand, creating ripples that every time, appear somehow different and beautiful.
We had a chance to meet with the artist and get to know more about him and his work here in Gastown.
Tell me a little about how you got into photography?
I work mostly with found photos where I make a lot of copies and then explore what I can make out of all those copies. Photography can be a strange mercurial thing where you see something you are drawn to and then desire to capture that singular moment through a lens. When you make multiple versions of that photo, you reduce that singularity into an up and down aesthetic and it fundamentally changes the form.
‘I like seeing what happens when one thing is added to another, how images change through repetition and looking at the cut line in collages’. (from: officesuppliesincorporated.com)
What inspires you?
I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up drawing. I started off with skateboarding and doing graffiti and then making posters. Collage seemed like a good format for the posters. I was able to make a lot of art fast and put it up all over the place. As a young artist, it was important to me to make my mark and get the images out there. As I got older, I started thinking about what I was doing and how contemporary photography asks questions about the captured moment. Of how everything is layered and you don’t really see anything on its own anymore. It’s as if everything is happening at the same time, all at once. I see this as closely relating to collage and the layering that happens in fashion and art.
What criteria/influences did you use in selecting the featured works for Gastown?
The artworks that will be used are from images that I have been working with for quite a while, almost 7 years now. Collage is very finicky. You pick one image and you put it on top of another and say it’s done. I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t pick another image, if I just stayed with the one image. It can be a challenge because each time I start a new work I wonder if I have exhausted this way of making art. What happens is I seem to be able to continue working in this way, exploring new facets and ways to represent the same photos. It’s not easy. It pushes me into places where I’m not always comfortable or confident being in, unsure of the final result. It’s an opportunity to investigate if I can still make something new from something that I am very familiar with.
Do you find that Gastown is an appropriate backdrop to display your work?
Gastown has forever been the center point for the historic and the young and up and coming to coexist. It’s always a great place to see what’s new and what’s going on in art, design, fashion and food but it’s also a place that doesn’t change. Gastown has an interesting dichotomy of being both different every time I come here and being physically the same with its architecture and layout. I think it is a perfect place for any kind of creative or artistic activity.
What can we expect to see in Gastown for the Capture Festival?
I have been trying to continue working through the Falun Series and seeing how weird I can get it and not have it fall apart. The artwork still needs to be interesting to myself and hopefully engaging to others. The challenge is how to rework and update an aesthetic using the same materials.
How do you feel about being a participating artist in the Capture Festival?
It’s great! Capture has been a very good opportunity for many of the young artists here in the city. I was really hoping that I could participate in the festival and I am quite pleased to have my artwork exhibited here in Gastown.
With your BAF Outdoor exhibit (Falun Dancer collage on the windows above the Alberni Street entrance to the Burrard Building) your work created great broad strokes displayed across multiple storeys on a glass front building. Is this your preferred medium/canvas and is your voice strongest when it appears in large scale?
The scaling of the image is tough. It is sort of a cheap thrill to just make the artwork blowup in size. The collages start off small and if I enlarge them, I try to bring the scale up so that it is the same size of an actual person standing in front of the piece. The image of the dancer that I used was a 1:1 scale to the observer. The point of it is that photography is a surreal experience. You are looking at a representation of someone which you could say acts like a window into a different time or place. There are plenty of theories as to what photographs really are. But they are also physical objects. When you are standing in front of the installation, you can see it’s the same scale as you, except that it is a completely abstract thing, undefined and made up of a bunch of little coloured dots on paper. There is a duality happening and it is important to realize that it is both a representation and an object. It matters to me that people see photographs as objects and not actual things. They are not stand-ins for real things. They are these strange agreements that we have with other people that this one image is representative of another.
Any upcoming projects?
I am currently doing a Masters at Emily Carr and I will become a Dad soon. I am trying to stay excited working in the studio and not get complacent in my art. I am looking forward to the year, and Capture and the Gastown BIA have been really great in supporting my artwork. It has been a fulfilling process so far and I am looking forward to seeing the pieces go up around the neighbourhood.
Is there any advice you could pass on emerging artists?
I have been lucky to work and hang out with a broad range of artists and creative people. Of those who seem to be doing well, many of them keep creating and don’t stop or slow down. There’s the impression that everyone is doing well except you, and that’s just not true at all. Just keep your head down, keep making stuff and you’ll do just fine.