Just over a year ago, Vancouver photographer Steven Audia was eagerly preparing to present an exhibition of his work. Planned for March 2020, that show was intended to be a collection of photographs he had captured over the span of a decade.
Like many artistic projects set to launch last spring, the exhibit was swiftly cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, the photographer has refocused his efforts and is preparing to show his work yet again. But rather than a decade’s worth of photographs, this solo exhibit will instead be comprised of 20 black and white portraits, taken during a single particularly challenging year.
Titled 20/2020, Audia’s exhibit is set to debut at The James Black Gallery – a queer-led arts and culture hub in Mount Pleasant – next weekend. It’s scheduled to run from Friday, April 23 to Sunday, April 25.
The images explore how the challenges of 2020 shifted Audia’s perspective and approach to photography over the last year, and primarily follow a theme of “closeness.”
“Lockdown came, and we learned to fear the people and air around us,” the artist explained in the exhibit’s description. ”We were forced inside as the world outside changed. I tried my best to continue photographically documenting as I’ve always done. As the year progressed and my access to the external world and people that once drove my work shrunk, I had to become more aware of not only my immediate surroundings, but of finding liberation within. I tried to turn the camera on myself and the results were of little interest to me. I needed to look further than what a mirror could provide, I needed to go inward.”
Audia added that his images got progressively darker over the course of the year, with shadows engulfing his subjects.
“However in these moments I wanted to find the light, and I wanted to experience my subjects finding that light in their own way,” he wrote. ”I no longer wanted to just photograph people; portraits as I knew them became too surface. I want to see beyond what flesh is holding in and how I can connect and create space apart from my physical external world.
“These 20 images made over the course of 2020 are just the beginning of that exploration.”
Audia’s 20/2020 will be available for viewing at The James Black Gallery, located at 144 E 6th Ave., by appointment this month.