Artful Blogger

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Photographing ghosts at Exposure Gallery

By Paul Gessell

The photograph of the door, the street, the colourful ruin all added up to one location: San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.

Anyone who has ever walked the streets of that delightful colonial city has fallen in love with the ancient cobblestones, splashes of bright colours, and the crystal-clear desert air that makes everything glow. You simply can not miss those telltale signs in a photograph from your beloved city. And that’s just what happened the other night at the vernissage for the newest exhibition at Exposure Gallery.

La Puerta de San Miguel by Terry SanCartier is part of an exhibit at Exposure Gallery.

The photograph in question is called Le Puerta de San Miguel. I’m sure I once photographed the very same door. It’s as if the door compels passersby to pull out their cameras and take a snap. And now a photograph of the door is the publicity image used by Exposure to advertise the exhibition What We Leave Behind. The show is a collection of photographs by Ottawa’s Terry SanCartier from his international travels.

Consider them photographs of ghosts. Each image shows a derelict building, a dilapidated boat, a rack of discarded tools or some other scene created by and then discarded by man. While the surface of the image shows the decay of today, beneath the surface we can see with x-ray eyes the people who once occupied these spaces and handled these materials.

SanCartier has perfectly captured the texture of his subjects. We can almost feel the roughness of the crumbling plaster covering an old stone wall or the sharpness of splinters from a wooden boat.

The locations of these photos are wonderfully eclectic.

The streetscapes from San Miguel are not the precious perfect scenes that have been created by the moneyed Canadian and American retirees who live there for the winters and are intent on transforming a charming, culturally rich city into a Tex-Mex-themed Disneyland.

Along with San Miguel, there are scenes of a falling-down building at Luskville, in Quebec’s Pontiac region, the prow of a boat in Baie St. Paul, in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, and a startling rack of old metal tools painted in neon colours. Those tools were found in a shed in Mayerthorpe, Alta., where SanCartier ran a marathon commemorating the shooting death of four Mounties in 2005.

SanCartier has had some previous photo exhibitions in Ottawa and has published three books of photos from his world travels. He describes himself, not just as a photographer, but as a singer-songwriter, an avid runner, and a public servant “by accident or necessity.”

SanCartier has been interested in photography since age 11 when he purchased his first Woolco brand 110 camera. Visit his website and browse through the various galleries to see just how talented this photographer is. SanCartier will give an artist’s talk at Exposure Gallery Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.

Until Sept. 27. Exposure Gallery, 1255 Wellington St. W.