By Paul Gessell
Ottawa artist Stuart Kinmond was sitting at home one day two years ago examining a series of photographs he had shot of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Suddenly, his Centretown studio was filled with the sounds of Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations. It was a genuine eureka moment.
The result is Golden Gate Variations, a series of 30 digitally altered photographs, many of them playful, paying tribute to San Francisco’s famous bridge. And, in a manoeuvre that smacks of carrying coals to Newcastle, Kinmond is exhibiting his photographs from May 22 to July 5 at a San Francisco waterfront gallery, Fort Mason Center, near the actual bridge.
The exhibition is timed to the 75th anniversary of the opening of the bridge. The exact anniversary day is May 27, the same day as the official opening of Kinmond’s exhibition.
Kinmond has been visiting San Franciso for many years (he has a son who lives there). About three years ago, he started taking photographs of the iconic bridge. He then Photoshopped the images to show them in ways the original builders never imagined, but in ways that reveal the role the bridge plays in the life of San Francisco.
One image, called “Fred and Ginger,” transforms the two bridge towers into dancers posed like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in some old movie. Another image shows the 100,000 vehicles that cross the bridge daily piled on top of the bridge in a many layered collision. Yet another moves the bridge to downtown San Francisco as if it were an elevated highway in the city centre. Just for fun, Kinmond paints the bridge green in one image. A sadder scene, shot from afar, shows a tiny speck representing a real person who has jumped from the bridge and is plummeting to the water below.
Kinmond was not sure what the Fort Mason Centre would think about that latter suicide image. But they welcomed it. Frequent suicides are very much part of the history of the bridge.
According to Kinmond, the San Francisco gallery “thinks it’s great a Canadian is doing this.” However, when exhibition organizers wanted to do a conference call with him, they were surprised he had no cellphone. “They probably thought I lived up north in the wilderness.”
So, why is Kinmond so fascinated with the Golden Gate Bridge?
“It’s one of the most spectacular structures in the world,” he replies.
Who can argue?