Christophe Jivraj | Les Corps
September 27 – November 2, 2013
Opening reception | Friday, September 27 at 7 pm
Artist Talk | Opening night at 7 pm
Over the last several years, Christophe Jivraj has made photographs with a group of physically disabled adults. In portraits of these people in their environments, Jivraj’s practice explores the ways that they are represented, and the surrounding taboos. His subjects sit without the most visible symbol of their disability, their wheelchairs, instead in their bedrooms: spaces that reflect their individuality, where the viewer can reexamine the identities and realities of disability. In photographs and video, these people are both vulnerable, and ready to speak.
Essay by Susan Beckett
Photographers are often accused of being tourists. Exploitative. Rash. Insincere. To some degree this aptly describes the birth of a photograph, though its life may be long and meaningful.
Les Corps exhibits pieces from a collaborative project that has spanned ten years and is still ongoing. The collaboration belongs to photographer Christophe Jivraj and Nadia, Giota, Fotis, Frank, and Alain—a small group of cognitively lucid adults living with physical disabilities. They met at C.A.R.E. (Centre d’Activités et Recréatives et Éducatives) in Montreal, where Jivraj worked as a full time caregiver for four years. Les Corps marks the first time that multiple works have been shown together, and though it is an exhibit made up of body parts, the connective tissue that emerges is the relationship between the photographer and his subjects. As in any relationship there is a beginning, and so the earlier images display an innocent exploration of disability, normality, trust, friendship, and the furthest road ahead, desire. The portraiture is playful, intimate, and aesthetically buoyant. The relationship is youthful. There is an innocent and subconscious effort to soften the more complicated themes by positioning all of the models inside beautiful and moody landscapes. But as the relationships mature, the work evolves into something more dynamic and confrontational. The surroundings become less beautiful and the intentions less ambiguous—a challenging rebirth after years of soft labouring. And as in any relationship the innocence is shed, but what has been liberated is a clear and distilled voice. The 1’5–1’5 series is for some, a difficult place to visit; however, these images represent an important destination for the work, the relationships, the subjects, and the photographer. It is an endpoint for the earlier work—a meaningful place from which one simply cannot return.
The Swimmers is meant to be a break from the continuity of the images—the aesthetic, the content, and the medium. It is a double-sided projection that creates, by its very nature, a more contemplative space, where stirred emotions might be explored in a more restful state. It is a meditative piece, yet it is also demanding of one’s attention. While the portraits are anchored in something more immediate, The Swimmers is meant to be a less literal and more unassuming approach. It is an open stage for beauty and ugliness, fluidity and fixedness. Its weight is in the unexpected.
This body of work invites the viewer to examine not only the images and videos before them, but also the emotions—negative or positive—brought about in one’s self. Les Corps brings into sight what is so often out of focus.
Susan Beckett has a degree in English Literature from UBC and is currently pursuing publishing at Ryerson University. She works for a literary agent in Toronto and writes short fiction. Susan has been involved with the people at CARE and with Christophe Jivraj for four years.
Christophe Jivraj has exhibited throughout Canada with solo exhibitions at The Harcourt House (Edmonton), The New Gallery (Calgary), and Skol Gallery (Montreal). He completed a Masters degree in Fine Arts at Concordia University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management at Ryerson University. He has an upcoming solo exhibition at Eyelevel Gallery in Halifax, 2014.