Mark of Men/Structures is a collaborative exhibition comprising the works of emerging Canadian documentary photographers Mickey Nielsen and Justin Langille. Both capture notably different subject matter but find common ground in the absence of people in the stories they tell.
Nielsen’s series, Mark of Man, is a collection of photographs casually taken over many years with point-and-shoot automatic cameras and settings. While shot in a documentary manner, these photographs do not depict a storyline. They relate conceptually, captured in the rush of the moment and portraying the playful perspective of the photographer. The lighthearted images poke fun at the complex life humanity has designed for itself. In a rather subtle way, these photographs capture the contrast between man’s creations and nature.
Throughout Structures, Langille documents places homeless citizens of London, Ontario, build for themselves along the central banks of the Thames River. A regional city suffering the gradual collapse of its manufacturing sector, London suffers chronic poverty and overwhelmed social services. Chaotic shelters and multiple barriers to housing force many to seek shelter outdoors every summer. Photographs of these venues for rest and recreation are intimate evidence of inequality. However, their innovative designs and locations are evidence that public river land development is not just a bureaucratic process. Instead, it is a decentralized, often autonomous, practice dictated by deep personal need, not just the authority of government, conservationists, or business.
Conventional photographic documentaries depict a clear narrative by telling a story in a linear fashion. Alternatively, Nielsen and Langille approach their subjects with nuanced vision, foregrounding their fascination with spaces impacted by human life. Together, these projects suggest much can be learned in the absence of humanity from the places that function as the stages of our lives.