Volume 96, Issue 76
Thursday, February 13, 2003

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Paris and Polaroids: a photographer's escape

Exhibit: "Esc..."
Artist: Rob Nelson
Dates: Feb. 7 - Mar. 1
Location: Gibson Gallery (157 Carling St.)

By Maggie Wrobel
Gazette Staff

No one's ever going to confuse London, Ontario with "the other London," so it's both necessary and refreshing to find creative ways to escape The Forest City's dreary suburban landscape.

Canadian photographer Rob Nelson's new exhibition at the Gibson Gallery is designed to do just that – provide its viewers with an escape to Paris (France, not Ontario) without ever having to leave the gallery.

The images of Paris are juxtaposed with more contemporary Polaroids of models, as well as a collection of photographs that provides viewers with a glimpse into Nelson's everyday life.

The major part of the exhibit was spawned in 1990, when Saturday Night magazine commissioned Nelson to spend three weeks in "the city of lights," and capture the streets, cafés and people of Paris in his images.

Nelson puts his own modern twist on the somewhat traditional assignment by taking the pictures on black-and-white film, and then editing them on his computer to imbue each with muted tones and a hazy, greenish glow.

This creative technique gives the collection of Paris images a dreary and gloomy vibe, instead of the unique-yet-old-fashioned effect Nelson likely attempted to achieve with this effort.

The collection of model Polaroids is much more eye-catching, partly due to its clever display. Each Polaroid rests within the plastic cache that usually holds Polaroid film. Each cache is then housed in a glass box with a red frame on a white shelf, which is scattered with cinnamon hearts. Besides their pleasing display, the photographs themselves emit a warm glow, as each woman's individual beauty shines through in the soft lines and golden tones of each picture.

The third part of the exhibit is a collection of 24 photographs Nelson has titled "My Life." With this selection, Nelson has assembled a photo essay of sorts, documenting the mundane events of his everyday life, alongside the more glorious ones. The photos range in subject matter from Nelson's boring running shoes to his bathroom sink. Though this may sound rather lacklustre, the collection is surprisingly poignant.

With "My Life," Nelson proves that he does possess the trained and gifted eye of a sensitive photographer. His smart use of light and deft arrangements work to create a vibrant and visually rich portrayal of what is essentially standard and trite everyday subject matter.

Although Nelson may not be able to create a virtual, visual escape to Paris, his keen eye for light and detail allows us to recapture the beauty in the simple everyday things we may sometimes overlook.


Part of Nelson's exhibition is available for viewing on the Gibson Gallery's Web site at www.gibsongallery.com. For the gallery's show times, call 439-0451.

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