Scott Conarroe, MFA '05, will be exhibiting "By Rail" a new series of large format colour photographs that document the North American railway system at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, July 23 through September 12.
Fifty years since O. Winston Link’s "Norfolk and Western Project" and well over a century since railway companies commissioned photographers like A.J. Russell to produce expansive portrayals of their exciting new technology, Conarroe examines the North American rail system to determine whether it really has outlived its usefulness and relevance to our culture. Articulating the critical role trains played in continental economic and social development, Conarroe's understated vision uses long exposures to record a blend of natural light that occurs during dawn and dusk, providing a phenomenal platform for viewers to consider the profound impact railways have had on our lives. His pictures of this sprawling socio-geographical network are a remarkable testament to its past glory and future potential. Largely empty of trains or people, these contemplative, elegiac images evoke a range of responses to what is arguably the defining technology of the modern nation state. The tracks function as a unifying device; they animate the landscape with history and myth, and they are structures of beauty in their own right. While this series is laden with historical connotations, the images are a product of our current industrial state, an era when the ethics and logistics of land-use, travel and the structures of community are being reconsidered.
Conarroe is increasingly well- known for his social landscapes of familiar places, which evoke romantic pictorial traditions. His photographs of empty hockey rinks, town squares, back alleys and looming bridges and underpasses have been exhibited internationally. He has lectured throughout North America and was recently a visiting instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2008, he won Blackflash Magazine's "Best Still Image" prize and was awarded the Light Work residency and the Chalmers Fellowship. His work can be found in the prominent collections of the Bank of Montreal, Toronto; Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor; Mount Saint Vincent’s University Art Gallery, Halifax; Kitchener / Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener; and the Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa; amongst many others.
"By Rail" was made possible with a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, and received assistance from the Ontario Arts Council and Light Work. A more expansive version of this series along with a catalogue curated by James Patten launches at the Art Gallery of Windsor in October.