Trust Me, You’re Gonna Like it Here | Group Exhibition
Canadian’s perception of Alberta is one of seemingly endless abundance: endless prairie skies, staggering mountains, and then there’s the black gold—both in terms of nutrient rich soil and the bitumen that lies dormant underneath it. But on the precipice of an environmental and economic crisis, Alberta’s position of wealth in Canada, and the collective identity of the people who depend on it, is changing. Alberta is undergoing a crisis of identity, trying to reconcile its proud past with an uncertain present and the possibility of a prosperous future.
Trust Me, You’re Gonna Like it Here (Trust Me for short) brings together the projects of three photographers Kyler Zeleny, Elyse Bouvier + Claire Power —two Albertans and one from Italy—who seek to question the prevailing narratives of Alberta. This curated exhibition explores “Albertaness” as an evolving identity that reflects the true diversity and allure of the province.
Western Times (2015)
To many, the Albertan landscape brings to mind grand mountains and mundane prairies, but the province of black gold has much more below the surface and between the lines. In a place of “disappearing” towns and hopeful urbanity, Alberta is as much a Western trope as a place of stubborn resilience. Lost Between the Lines surveys Alberta as a place of growth and a patchwork of varied cultural identity. It shows Alberta as a place out of time, both nostalgic of “the good old days” and increasingly modern.
These images are impressions of Alberta’s conflicted identity and confusing modernity. They are a collection of details, faces, and spaces that could have been taken almost anywhere “in the west” but as a group showcase the uniqueness of Alberta. Shot over the summer of 2015, this project is as much about a road journey across great distances as it is about the common characteristics found between the vast expanses of land.
Elyse Bouvier (1987) is a Western Canadian photographer currently based in Toronto and working toward an MFA in Documentary Media at Ryerson University. Originally from Alberta, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Mount Royal University (2010). Her research fascination is with food and identity, in particular how food is connected to a Canadian national and regional identity. Her current work closely examines the Chinese-Western restaurants in rural Alberta and all the communities and spaces in-between. She is actively involved in the future of Food Studies and recently presented at an interdisciplinary food conference at Oxford University.
Dragonflies to Fill Three Jars (2015)
Created during a three-week-long road trip across Western Canada, the project attempts to recreate the atmosphere of small Albertan communities, with all their mundane elements and tensions. As a foreigner to Canada, one of the main worries was to avoid a superficial representation of its landscapes and inhabitants. So I strived to get as close as possible to my subjects, listening to their stories whenever possible and observing their daily spaces. The chosen photographs are often samples of larger narratives, combining portraits, landscapes, interiors, and other material details.
I entered a world of great distances and small communities. In striking contrast to the densely populated Italian cities, the towns were usually quiet, the streets empty. They came to life near bars and diners or during festivals, where families reunited and children waited for sweets to be thrown during a parade. An array of individual encounters presented me with a multitude of approaches to living in these communities: an artist involved in the local theatre, a young lady dreaming of escaping the small-mindedness that surrounded her, a retired musician with a passion for women jackets, old farmers exchanging jokes over a beer. Each, in their own way, opened a little window onto Alberta.
Claire Power (1989) is a British-Italian photographer interested in the relationship between people and place, both in private and public contexts. She graduated from the University of East Anglia (UK) with a degree in English Literature (2011) and later obtained an MA in Photography and Urban Culture (2013) at Goldsmiths University in London. She then attended photography workshops with photojournalist Mario Spada at Centro di Fotografia Indipendente in Naples. She is currently based in Turin (Italy) where she is attending a course in journalism writing at the Holden School of Writing.
Crown Ditch and the Prairie Castle (2015)
Forget the American Frontier. North America’s last great land rush took place in the Canadian West at the turn of the 20th Century. Often overshadowed (and sometimes visually conflated with its neighbour to the south), we forget to turn our gaze to the Canadian West. An area settled by a unique brand of hardened frontiersmen—cowboys, ranch-hands, miners, outlaws, and farmers—good ole boys chasing the advertised allure of a mystical landscape. New blood searching for the promise of the last ‘Promised Land’. Gone is the early Canadian West but its legacy still endures. Crown Ditch and the Prairie Castle is a long-term project that documents the space and people of the last great ‘proving out’. The project advocates for viewing this space as a beast upon itself, with a particular type of landscape, industry, and most importantly, people, who are a resilient breed created by generational lessons in fortitude and fortuned by circumstance.
Kyler Zeleny (1988) is a Canadian photographer-researcher and author of Out West. His current photographic research interests deal with contemporary rural issues and how geography extends identity and creates community. His personal interests are in found photography, family albums and the politics of archives. He received his bachelors in Political Science from the University of Alberta and his masters from Goldsmiths College, University of London, in Photography and Urban Cultures. He is a founding member of the Association of Urban Photographers (AUP), a guest editor for the Imaginations Journal for Cross-Cultural Image Studies and a guest publisher with The Velvet Cell. Kyler currently lives in Toronto, where he is a doctoral student in the joint Communication and Culture program at Ryerson and York University.