I Want To See What She’s Seeing

NAC Underpass by Abigail Gossage

Courtesy of Abigail Gossage

The NAC underpass as photographed by Abigail Gossage. The artist captures many of her hometown’s sites and landmarks in her book Ottawa: Photographs by Abigail Gossage.

I love to be surprised by a work of art, and Abigail Gossage’s photograph of the NAC underpass did just that when I stumbled upon it on the artist’s website.

“Wow,” I said. “I want to see what she is seeing.”

Having taken strolls along the National Arts Centre stretch of the Rideau Canal, I knew exactly where Gossage stood when she snapped her shot. My memory, however, recalled only a cold concrete tunnel − not the visually rich and engaging composition of light and shadow, curves and lines, textures and patterns that the artist captured. I had to visit the underpass again to see if I could see what Gossage saw.

On an overcast Thanksgiving afternoon, I made my way to the NAC overpass, camera in hand. The sound of the bagpipes of the Ceremonial Guard at the National War Monument welcomed me. I took my time to study the pyramid-like staircase and the monument-like street lamps, the soothing texture of the rocks against the cold of the concrete walls, and the light spilling through the elliptical skylight. Although the underpass is an architecturally interesting site, I could see how my inexperienced eye missed the artful possibilities. Passersby also seemed unmoved by all the curves, lines and planes − perhaps they’ve been there, done that. I snapped a few photos and made my way home.

Copy, Paste, Gone!

A day or two later, I started drafting this post. Ready to look at the results of my mini photo session, I copy-pasted my photos into a folder on my laptop, then emptied the memory card. Yes, you guessed it, somehow I deleted the folder with all of the underpass photos. Gone, all gone.

To keep the story short, the following Sunday, again to the sound of the bagpipes, I snapped new photos. Here is one of them, in black and white and in colour, with minor Photoshop corrections, and cropped:

NAC Underpass by Violette Stepaniuk BW
NAC Underpass by Violette Stepaniuk crop web

Photos by Violette Stepaniuk

A black-and-white and colour versions of my practice shot of the NAC underpass.

Despite my evident ineptitude at selecting the right exposure, I see that it is the nature of black-and-white photography to bring out the nuances of our surroundings. I imagine that with practice we can all develop ‘an eye’ for such details and creative opportunities.

When sending her photo, Gossage noted: “This (image) is a composite of a number of photographs that I took with the idea of stitching. This is a process that I use quite frequently in my digital work and have also done it a bit on film.”

I hope to learn more from the artist about the composite aspect of her photograph, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can see more of her captivating images, not only of Ottawa:

  • View, and perhaps purchase, the artist’s book  Ottawa: Photos by Abigail Gossage. (Makes for a great coffee table book or a go-away present, if I may suggest so.)
  • Visit her website.
  • Visit the Abigail Gossage: Memories of Mexico 1958 exhibition at the Atrium Gallery, until November 26.

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