Artist talk with Gerry Yaum
Tomorrow evening from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Attendance is free but donations are accepted. Pre-registration is recommended as space is limited.
Art Gallery of St. Albert
19 Perron St.
Call 780-460-4310 or visit artgalleryofstalbert.ca.
Photographer Gerry Yaum did something that many people might find unthinkable when his dad was in the hospital. They were close to each other, and the adult son spent a lot of time with his elderly father during his struggle with terminal pancreatic cancer. There were already many photos along the way, and the art series probably wouldn’t have ended properly without getting the last shot too.
If you think about it that way, it would have been unusual to not take the last photo.
Yaum, a social documentary photographer, has worked on projects ranging from Thai sex workers to people who live in slums, among others. He says that his work is an attempt to tell the stories of forgotten or marginalized people. My Father’s Last Days, the title he gives to the photo series of his father that’s now on display as part of the exhibit Healing Process at the Art Gallery of St. Albert, is a project unlike all of his others: to make a record of someone who meant something important to him personally.
It started off mostly as casual photos, since Yaum always has his camera with him anyway, taking pictures of whatever he sees.
“Later on, as it became more social documentary in nature, just documenting what he was going through, he co-operated with me. One of the questions I had to ask Dad near the end was if it was okay to photograph him after he passed away,” he explained.
“That’s a pretty tough question to ask your father. He said I could. He understood how important the photography was to me and my dealing with what was going on. He even encouraged it.”
The work stands as not only a memorial to his father but also a door-opening moment to discuss the nature of art in terms of people’s own healing and self-care during hard times.
Yaum is preparing to sit down for a special artist’s talk at the gallery tomorrow evening to go into more depth about this series and his work in general. The exhibit, also featuring the contributions of Sima Elizabeth Shefrin and Darian Goldin Stahl, has sparked a lot of interest with the public. This has opened up a ripe opportunity for a more in depth interpretation right from the artist’s mouth.
The response to Healing Process has been overwhelmingly positive, said gallery director and curator Jenny Willson-McGrath, even despite the strong imagery that elicits powerful emotional responses.
“Patrons are really engaging with the show. We have had great conversations and exchanges with many visitors the past couple of weeks who have shared their own stories about personal experiences of illness and loss.”
Yaum elaborated further.
“Whenever I show these difficult photos, it allows many who view them to open up and share painful memories from their own lives. Many gallery visitors have told me stories of how they have lost their loved ones to cancer and other diseases. At the opening night for this exhibition, people were crying. Opening up to the pain of loss helps us all deal with it better. That is the beauty of social documentary photography: it is about the human condition. It is about our shared humanity.”
While he will undoubtedly talk at length about the work and its subject matter, he will also go into detail about his techniques and the analog process of making the prints using old film cameras, his darkroom, and all of the photochemicals that you don’t get much of any more in the age of cellphone photography. There will also be a Q & A session.