Since the introduction of the Kodak Brownie in 1900, which brought photography to the masses, there have been more than 3.5 trillion moments frozen in time in the form of photographs — some are printed and packed in shoe boxes, at least 200 million are uploaded to Facebook every day and some are stored on hard drives never to be seen again.
Victoria photographer Mike Andrew McLean is digging deep into the relationship between people and their pictures in his project Thirty Five Thousand Forty, opening Thurs., Nov. 10 at Open Space.
McLean purchased one of Canon’s first professional digital single lens reflex cameras, the EOS-1D with four megapixels, and vowed to take 96 photos every day for a full year beginning June 19, 2010.
The result is a floor-to-ceiling display of 4×6-inch prints of McLean’s everyday life. From grilled cheese sandwiches and what’s in the back window of cars on the street, to a pregnancy test confirming he and his wife were about to have their first child, no subject matter was too big or too small to be included.
McLean’s work as a photographer and photo instructor leads him to a lot of conversation about photography. Many people he meets want to show off the 3,000 photos they took on their last vacation and McLean is intrigued by that.
“It was always these conversations about contemporary digital image making centred around volume and numbers of thousands of pictures that people make and somehow that is a validation. I was curious about that and wanted to explore it further,” he says.
Previous to this project, McLean worked mostly with large-format cameras. “I worked on very precise, well focused, very intentional images, and my shows would be 10 or 11 pictures. The last one I installed at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery this summer was three years’ work, but it was only 27 images. I wanted to go 180-degrees in the opposite direction. Why would I want to continue doing what I already know? So I bought a press camera and went out and started making 100 pictures a day.”
McLean was inspired to create something for the 30ft x 78ft gallery after helping with Cedric and Nathan Bomford’s Contested Landscapes exhibition.
“I spent a fair amount of time in the space and the scale of that project was massive and I thought it was really successful in this space, so I started thinking about how I could approach a project for this space that would operate in a similar manner but be uniquely photographic and not object based. One of the things I find working with photographic images in a large space, they can get lost and look a little bit underwhelming, so I wanted to do something that would operate in an effective manner here,” says McLean.
“Over the last 15 years, almost everyday I’m either making pictures, reading about making pictures or thinking about making pictures. I really set out on this project to really test that commitment to the medium. I think it’s unique in the world of art today that someone is medium specific. I don’t think in terms of painting a scene or in terms of making a sculptural object. I think about looking at the world through boxes, so I really wanted to test that and if anything is going to test my relationship to the medium, this is it and there were many days that were quite strained. I never wanted a divorce, but there were certainly times that I think my camera and I should have gone to counselling.” M
Thirty Five Thousand Forty
Opens Thurs, Nov. 10 at 7:30pm