In 2018, I was invited to be the artist in residence at the McCord Museum in Montreal. I spent a great deal of time at the museum, immersing myself in the tens of thousands of images of 19th-century portraits of women held in the William Notman Photographic Archives. During this period, I created In the Studio with Notman, a new series of portraits and a body of work whereby my sources of inspiration, my working process, and a glimpse behind the scenes in the studio are revealed to the viewer.

I used this residency and research opportunity to dig deeper into specific Notman female subjects and study the studio décor of a bygone era. Finding inspiration in Notman’s sets, I employed an analogous formula and working methodology by photographing women in elaborately designed environments, using only natural light and hand-painted backdrops of landscapes and still life sourced from the public domain from the 1700s to the 1900s. These include the work of Dutch painters, such as Margaretha Rosenbloom and Rachel Ruysch, and paintings by other masters, such as Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro, to name a few.

In the Studio with Notman elucidates my fondness and weakness for Notman’s portraits of women and my relentless pursuit to give the sitters in my photographs agency in making their portraits. This project is also an ode to the studio practices of the earliest days of photography and the ubiquitous use of hand-painted scenery as a backdrop, a standard feature in 19th-century studio portraiture and a strong leitmotif in Notman’s oeuvre. In the Studio with Notman was presented at the McCord Museum as a solo exhibition and accompanied by a catalogue publication.

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