Scotiabank Photography Award: Stephen Waddell

by Photo Life


Curated by Gaëlle Morel and presented at the Ryerson Image Center until November 28 this exhibition celebrates the career of 2019 Scotiabank Photography Award winner Stephen Waddell, renowned for his urban scenes made in Canada and Europe.

This survey highlights the Vancouver-based artist’s experiments with various photographic techniques and processes, and brings into focus his careful attention to scale and light. Waddell’s elegiac images—colour street compositions of workers and pedestrians, along with more recent black-and-white photographs of caves and grottos—reveal the artist’s painterly sensibility, as well as a found and uncanny theatricality. In a newly-created video for the RIC’s Salah J. Bachir New Media Wall, Waddell revisits his earliest experiments with film from the early 1990s. This silent, non-narrative arrangement of Super-8 films focuses on one of his central photographic motifs: anonymous figures on the street seen walking from behind, followed stealthily as they circulate in various urban environments.

The Ryerson Image Center is temporarily closed in response to the latest COVID-19 restrictions and might reopen in November. Here are additional resources around Waddell and the exhibition:

Video walkthroughs of the Main Gallery
Salah J. Bachir New Media Wall
The recording of Stephen’s Tanenbaum Lecture, held on Sept 30, 2020
A 228-page catalogue co-published by Steidl with Scotiabank Photography Award

“Stephen Waddell embraces the entanglements and conundrums inherent to photographic mediations. For decades he has reinvigorated street photography and reportage through keen observation and an empathetic eye for social subjects. Initially a painter and filmmaker, Waddell brings questions about the very notion of realism to picture-making. He often references pictorial histories, such as early photography or classical painting, acknowledging that observation is informed by recognition and an unconscious awareness of existing images.” —Helga Pakasaar

Stephen Waddell, Chimney Sweep , 2003, pigment print. Courtesy of the artist and Monte Clark Gallery


Waddell is also part of the 100 renowned artists from BC and abroad who are donating their artwork to the Arts Umbrella auction coming up this weekend.

On October 24, Arts Umbrella will presents the first-of-its-kind Special Edition of their annual Splash Art Auction & Gala. Due to COVID-19, Arts Umbrella has reimagined this year’s event as an experience that enables guests to celebrate safely, in small groups.

For the first time, Splash will be hosted across multiple locations ranging from leading restaurants to private venues, each with a maximum of 50 people as per provincial government and health official guidelines.

Arts Umbrella is a not-for-profit where young artists ages 2–22 cultivate their creativity in Dance, Theatre, and Visual Arts. They have four locations in Vancouver and Surrey, as well as donor-funded programs at schools, community centres, neighbourhood houses, and healthcare facilities across Metro Vancouver.

Other featured artists using the photographic medium include Dana Claxton and Andrew Dadson.

Dana Claxton is a critically acclaimed filmmaker, photographer and performance artist. Her work looks at stereotypes, historical context and gender studies of Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, a focus of her philosophy is “art for a new understanding”.

Andrew Dadson is a Canadian contemporary artist who explores abstraction in various media including painting, performance, photography and works on paper. His work has been exhibited internationally in Italy, L.A., and Berlin among other destinations.

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