Emerging photographer showcase at Contemporary Calgary

Behind the lens: Danny Luong, a photographer, posing at a table at Holy Grill in Calgary on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. Luong asked to cover his face with his camera because, as he says, “When you make the decision to be a photographer, you choose firmly to be behind the lens.” (Photo by Marcus Ogden/The Press)

This year’s Exposure Festival is being held in February, providing a space for new photographers and artists to show their work. The Exposure Festival is an annual photography showcase, put on by the Calgary/Banff Photography Society, which exhibits work from Alberta and around the world. As part of the festival, the Emerging Photographer Showcase is exhibiting 15 Albertan photographers and artists looking to establish and further their creative careers.

The showcase was juried and selected by the Exposure team and by Tiffany Jones, founder of the independent art and photobook publishing company Overlapse. Those in the showcase will be eligible for Exposure’s Emerging Photographer of the Year award, as well as other awards juried and offered by organizations such as Trex Southwest and Shutter Hub.

Danny Luong, a Calgary-based photographer, is one of the emerging photographers whose work will be present at the showcase. Luong is a graduate of Mount Royal University’s journalism program and has been working as a photographer for seven years. Luong was born into a large family of Vietnamese immigrants and grew up surrounded by pictures from the Vietnam War, a fact which he says informs his photography.

“In the art world, I’ve been shooting professionally for maybe about two years,” Luong says, describing his photographic journey as one that has recently evolved from client-based photography into an interest in using photography as an artistic documentary form. “We wouldn’t be out here taking these photographs if we didn’t think it was important.”

Luong’s photography project, we were growers, follows Vietnamese cannabis farmers operating in B.C. Through his use of forest and tunnel imagery, Luong’s project draws a throughline between the farmers and their relatives who lived through the Vietnam War.

“As soon as I got out there, all I could think of was all the spaces were deep within the interior jungles of B.C., and so I thought, how ironic and how beautiful it is, like, we’re still trying to make a living out in jungles” Luong says, describing part of the inspiration for the work.

Luong’s photos also explore the cultural shift he saw in the Vietnamese community following cannabis legalization. Luong was exposed to the illegal cannabis world at a young age; when his father, a convicted felon, would grow cannabis in the basements of their homes. After legalization, Luong saw many of his extended family members moving out to B.C. to work on cannabis farms; “People started feeling safer to do it,” he said. “They didn’t have to invest in all this extra side gang stuff that makes the entire operation much more shady.”

An interactive piece: Levin Ifko, an interdisciplinary artist, with their installation “ULTIMATUM, BABY!” in Contemporary Calgary in Calgary on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. Meant to resemble a playground structure, the spinning column of the piece mix and match collaged screen-printed images. (Photo by Marcus Ogden/The Press)

Levin Ifko, an interdisciplinary artist in Calgary and a recent graduate from the Alberta University of the Arts, is another person showing a unique piece in the Emerging Photographer Showcase. Their piece, ULTIMATUM, BABY!, is an installation built to resemble a playground fixture. The piece consists of a wooden frame with columns of spinning panels wearing silkscreen printed images. It was constructed during their residency at the New Gallery in Calgary’s Chinatown.

Though Ifko does not identify as a photographer, they still feel a connection to the image that comes out in their work. “I’ve always been interested in images that we take to remember certain things and images we take of ourselves,” they said.

Rather than taking pictures, Ifko constructs their images through collages containing snippets of childhood photos and fragments of found imagery. “How can I make these little pieces of myself and pieces of objects and life become something new and say something new” Ifko said, describing their thought process in making the ULTIMATUM, BABY!.

Ifko’s piece is meant to explore the shifting, fluid, and non-linear act of identity creation in a playful way which reflects their own experiences. “I think the idea that you can never make a solid full image of something that completely fits together was also interesting to me about the piece and resembles the way that I, especially as a queer and trans person, see myself shifting and playing with my gender presentation and navigating the way other people see me in the world,” they said.

Ifko realizes the difference between their work and the work of the other artists being shown in the Emerging Photographer Showcase, but they embrace that difference. “I think it’s a fun piece, especially in a photography exhibition where there’s a lot of photos on walls. It makes me really happy to see artwork that you can touch and maneuver and interact with,” they said.

Being recognized for his work is “very, very affirming,” says Ifko, and they also shared the sentiment that their work being shown in the exhibit is a validating experience for them.

“I think it’s a reminder to me in a funny way that even though I’m talking about all these themes of change and things not really fitting into one category, I was still doing that in photography and image-based things,” they said. “That’s a good reminder to not put myself in a box.”

This year’s Exposure Festival begins with a launch party during Contemporary Calgary’s Free First Thursday on Feb. 2, where the award-winning emerging photographers will be announced. The Emerging Photographer Showcase will run alongside the rest of the festival from Feb. 3-16.

The exhibitions can be seen in-person at Contemporary Calgary, or online on their website.

Ultimatum, baby: Levin Ifko, an interdisciplinary artist, with their installation “ULTIMATUM, BABY!” in Contemporary Calgary in Calgary on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. Ifko’s piece is unique in Exposure Fest as it is one of the only three-dimensional pieces shown this year. (Photo by Marcus Ogden/The Press)
About Marcus Ogden 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Marcus Ogden is working as a writer for The Press in 2023.