Janie-Julien Fort and the Materiality of Photography

by Nina Chabel 

Exhibited at the contemporary photography art gallery La CastiglioneFaire Rouler La Machine is the result of photo developing accidents and experiments in the dark room by Janie Julien-Fort. The results of these processes and manipulations have been compiled from a period of over five years and are now exhibited to bring the viewer to reflect on the materiality of photography and its unstable and unpredictable nature. 

In the exhibition space, Julien-Fort’s pictures are under white glass frames, grouped by colour tones. Some of the images she produced have more blue tones while other are on the pink side, and some of them have both colours intertwine creating tones of purple. A very interesting part of the exhibit are three long prints that are not framed but hang vertically on one side of the wall and continue up to the ceiling, resembling a roll of film as it is being unrolled and hung to dry after being processed.  

Julien-Fort spoke of her project and how it came to be: it all happened by accident. She was in the process of trying to fix a colour film processing machine by passing printing paper through its rolls. The paper then came out with a lot of different shapes with traces of the machine’s mechanisms and the use of chemical products. There were also differences in colour which were due to the different exposures to light. This kind of film processing machine is now quite rare in Montreal and to ensure its functionality you need to action its rolls and pass paper through it everyday because if you don’t the rolls stick together and become unusual. Julien-Fort liked the images this darkroom accident produced and so she held on to them and they are now part of this exhibit. It was interesting to see a photographer letting the viewer into their work process and share the other side of photography which involves mistakes and accidents that often goes unseen.

This project was the first time Julien-Fort really delved into abstract photography. She started out by producing more figurative images but slowly began bringing together abstract and figurative concepts. She became fascinated by the materiality of photography and its physical imprint, especially focussing on the accidents that occur when working in a dark room. Julien-Fort’s future projects involve the use of raw photo-sensible material which she will be using to explore approaches in creating installation works.

When asked about the difficulties surrounding the role of a female artist, especially in the world of photography which is still largely dominated by men, Julien-Fort was open about the realities of being a female artist, but still remained with a positive outlook: “Being an artist is difficult. Being a female artist is difficult. There are a lot of female graduates from art schools but they are still under-represented in the art world. Being a female artist is also difficult due to the social constraints involving the invisible workload of childcare and housework that often falls upon the woman. But I feel like things are slowly changing and the cultural landscape has a growing female presence. More and more women are gallery owners and hold management positions and are making things happen. To be an artist you have to want it. Especially if you are a female artist with kids. You have to want it.”

Faire Rouler La Machine is on display now through November 11th, 2017.   

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