What is usually the quiet, humble space of Ryerson’s Image Centre (RIC) was a vibrant gathering of art lovers on Sept. 12 for the opening of four new exhibits.
The RIC premièred four exhibits this week exploring traumatic events through photography, three of which centre on Latin America. The exhibits include work from Claudia Joskowicz, Gordon Parks and Ryerson alumna Alia Youssef.
Ryerson makes an effort to hold exhibitions that reflect the issues going on globally and locally, according to Paul Roth, director of the Ryerson Image Centre.
“It’s an unusually curious campus. You feel it when you’re here. We’re embedded in the city. And so for us, we feel like it’s an imperative to show exhibitions that people can relate to.”
Though it has only been a few days since the new exhibitions opened, there has been much discussion around these works; the excitement is drawn from their sensitive subject matter.
Roth reflects on the importance of these particular exhibits on campus.
“Photography is something that we all use,” he said. “So for me, it’s a way of understanding the power of photography. All of our shows are always about trying to help people understand how photography is used and how it helps us understand other people.”
The Flávio Story by Gordon Parks traces the photo essay titled “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty.” It was published June 1961 in LifeMagazine and follows the life of the da Silva family who resided in a hillside slum in Rio de Janeiro. Parks focused his story on the oldest child of the family, Flavio, who suffered from life-threatening asthma. Life readers were so deeply touched by this photo story that the family and favela received $30,000 in unsolicited donations.
The centre’s collections curator, Denise Birkhofer, says she was so inspired by The Flávio Story she chose to curate a separate exhibit at RIC that would stem from Latin American roots.
“In some of our recent seasons you can see thematic ties that draw everything together,” she said. “These exhibits are about Latin America, but also about social documentary and also how photographers present tragedies as visual images.”
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi was present at the opening and gave a speech highlighting the accomplishments of Ryerson graduate Youssef.
With a warm smile ear to ear it was apparent Youssef’s first show in an exhibit was a success.
The Sisters Project is a photographic series of Canadian Muslim women, countering the idea that there is only one type of Muslim woman, Youssef explains in her artist statement.
“This is a very different way for me to spread the message of the project. I think it’ll change the way people approach the project because you’re not just scrolling past it on your Instagram feed you’re really stopping and sitting and taking in the work in a different atmosphere. I hope when people leave it’ll change the perspective of any preconceived notions people had of Muslim women,” says Youssef.
The Ryerson Image centre is free of charge and offers daily tours at 2:30 p.m.
Upcoming events at the RIC:
Wednesday, September 12, 6:00–8:00 pm
Exhibitions Opening Party
Thursday, September 20, 12:00 pm
Noon Time Collection Talk with Blake Fitzpatrick and Vid Ingelevics
Wednesday, September 26, 7:00 pm
Curators in Conversation: Philip Brookman and Deborah Willis with Paul Roth
Wednesday, October 3, 7:00 pm
Artist and Curator in Conversation: Claudia Joskowicz with Ilana Shamoon
Thursday, October 18, 12:00 pm
Noon Time Collection Talk with Vanessa Lakewood
Wednesday, October 17, 6:00 pm
Special tour of Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story with curator (and RIC Director) Paul Roth and Julie Crooks, Assistant Curator of Photography at the Art Gallery of Ontario