Surendra Lawoti, Palpasa Café/Mt. Monadnock, 2006. Image courtesy of the Artist.

I Witness

Johan Hallberg-Campbell, Surendra Lawoti, Jesse Louttit, Mike Andrew McLean, Meghan Rennie, Erin Riley, Kate Subak, Sami Siva

Curated by Curated by Patrick Macaulay

April 10 – April 10, 2020FREE

An exhibition of eight photographers that explores the idea of the photographer as witness to an event.

Photographers are constantly scanning the world around them—observing, composing and thinking of possible images that could be created with their cameras. Some have their camera at the ready to capture an image at a moment’s notice. Others construct their images through planned setups that are orchestrated with every detail under consideration. The image that the photographer creates is based in observation and presented as a document, but the truth in what is presented should always be questioned.

The eight photographers chosen for this exhibition were selected because the idea of truthfulness is central to the images that they create. Photographic technology has advanced to the point that the image now can be altered and changed completely through digital processes. I Witness offers a look through the photographer’s viewfinder just as the button was pressed. The images presented here are created within the camera in front of a subject, not on a computer screen after the fact. These images presented here are truthful documents. The photographers act as observers of events, chroniclers of the world around them and witnesses to lives lived.

— Patrick Macaulay
Head, Visual Arts


Johan Hallberg-Campbell

Grand Bruit, Newfoundland, 2010

This work explores the resettlement of residents of this coastal town during its last few days. Grand Bruit was settled in the 1800s and now, after making the hard choice to resettle, the people began preparing to move to new homes across Canada in June 2010. Year after year, more and more young people left their town and its heritage due to lack of fishing. This now aging population found it hard to survive the hard winters, isolation and lack of proper medical care. The future is absent there, the past lingers in the frozen hands of the fishermen; trades and skills are no longer passed down generation to generation. What is left is the present: ruddy, calloused skin worked hard yet alive. Their hearts are heavy, their children have left, the fairy tale village now sits deserted; no roads in or out, the lights are off and the last ferry has left.

— Johan Hallberg-Campbell

Born in 1978 and raised near Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland, Johan Hallberg-Campbell is a freelance photographer, living and working in Toronto since immigrating to Canada in 2006. He is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, where he received the prestigious Portrait Photographer Award. Hallberg-Campbell has exhibited his work widely in Canada and Scotland. He was one of five artists selected to exhibit their work at the first international Magenta Flash Forward Festival, Canadian Exhibit (Toronto, October 2010), from his series Grand Bruit. He has photographed for publications and institutions such as Red Cross Canada, The Big Issue, Scots Magazine, and The Walrus.

His documentary work focuses on capturing the visual manifestation of the latent concept of “place.” Exploring what it means to belong to a community and have traditions rooted in heritage, and alternatively what happens when one’s “place” is altered, removed, distorted and shifted – leading to the individual or communal experience of diaspora. His ongoing body of work documents not only what is but also speaks to what was. The aim is to photograph the environment without prejudice, creating images that are an honest representation of what he sees, hoping his approach to photography will create sincere, almost quiet depictions that illustrate powerful themes of the human condition.

Surendra Lawoti

Palpasa Café/Mt. Monadnock from the Still Life series, 2006

Photographs for Still Life were made in and around Boston, Massachusetts, my former home city. For this series I was interested in bringing together a wide array of photographs such as constructed imagery, landscape, portraits and self-portraits. The work looked at the landscape around me, my personal history and people that were close to me. I wanted these photographs to integrate the intimacy, magic and mystery of photography in an attempt to construct a moving visual narrative dealing with migration, multiple border-crossings, geographical and metaphysical mapping. In Still Life, as in my other works, loss, memories and the passage of time are reoccurring themes.

— Surendra Lawoti

Surendra Lawoti was born in Nepal and now based in Toronto, where he teaches as a sessional faculty member at the Ontario College of Art & Design University. Lawoti’s work centers on issues of migration, memory, loss and human frailty. He received his BA from Columbia College Chicago and MFA in Photography from Massachusetts College of Art & Design in Boston. He has received awards from Ontario Arts Council, Artadia, Somerville Arts Council and CAAP Grant through City of Chicago. His work has been exhibited in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, and Medellin, Colombia and in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Jesse Louttit

The Giraffe Keeper, 2010

These pictures are part of an on going series exploring people in the workplace and how professions shape character. “What do you do for a living?” The answer to this question often determines a perception others have of us as people. Our job says a lot about us, but the intimate details of our everyday lives can still be completely foreign to those who know us outside of our work, even to our closest loved ones.

This project is trying to bring the viewer to a place and moment in time that is unique and beautiful, yet might be everyday to the subject. My goal is to show employees in a place that gives insight into what they do, while still provoking thoughts about who they really are.

— Jesse Louttit

Jesse Louttit is a fine art photographer based in Toronto, Canada.

Mike Andrew McLean

Laura on Iceline Trail, Yoho National Park, BC
15:10 August 13th 2009 (PC#149) 290°

Historically, the Rocky Mountains and their neighbouring ranges have filled many roles in Western Canada. The landscape has helped to shape a collective identity, provided seasonal work opportunities, and offered recreational pleasures to countless visitors. But the histories of the Mountain National Parks are as varied as this geographic terrain and, in its many facets, the Canadian Parks Service reflects that diversity.

With this as a point of entry, I began the series of photographs, Range in 2008. These photographs represent my travels through, and interpretations of, Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, Yoho, Jasper, Banff, and Waterton Lakes National Parks.

Range is sectioned into two distinct categories: people and places. Portraits of individuals at work or play within these park boundaries are paralleled with photographic landscape studies focusing on the condition of wilderness preservation.

Though by no means exhaustive in its definition of our relationship to the Mountain National Parks, my intentions for this project and its resulting photographs remain constant: to better understand the historical complexities and provide a contemporary perspective on these mountain landscapes.

— Mike Andrew McLean

Originally from Lethbridge, Alberta, Mike Andrew McLean lives and works in Victoria, British Columbia. McLean’s work has recently been shown in the group exhibition Sentimental Journeys at Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, and in the solo exhibition Range: Mountain National Parks Photographs (LAB 9.1) at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Kamloops Art Gallery. In June, McLean’s series The Whites will be included in Proof 18 at Toronto’s Gallery 44. He is preparing for upcoming solo exhibitions at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge, Republic Gallery in Vancouver, and Open Space in Victoria.

Meghan Rennie

Jardins de Mossen Costra i Llojobera from the Alive and Well series, 2011

The series Alive and Well tells a story of urbanization in cities on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. These images draw influence from the contemporary work of Dutch landscape photographers such as Bas Princen and Hans Aarsman. While their images primarily focus on the Netherlands, they depict common topographical changes happening in cities worldwide. In a city with a rapidly growing population there is no luxury of space. The result is a landscape where the artificial and natural blend into one another. There is a blurry line between what is being constructed and what is being destroyed. We make modern additions in order to accommodate industrial and social demands. And yet, a unique beauty remains in this landscape cultivated by construction and our contemporary expectations.

— Meghan Rennie

Meghan Rennie was born in 1979 and received her BFA from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. During the 2010 Contact Photography Festival she had her first solo show and was recently nominated as a semi-finalist for the Hey Hot Shot! photography competition held by the Jen Bekman Gallery in New York, NY. She currently lives and works in Toronto.

Erin Riley

Lest We Forget, 2010

Erin Riley is a photographer based in Toronto. Very much rooted in the traditions of documentary photography, Riley’s work examines how conceptual strategies borrowed from the world of fine art can function as tools in contemporary documentary practice. Her work has appeared in many national newspapers and magazines. It is the storytelling aspect of photography that is the driving force in her work.

Kate Subak

Goodnight, Sleep Tight VI

In the series Goodnight, Sleep Tight, I am focusing on the process of losing a loved one and the accompanying emotional landscape. The work addresses my grief over losing my mother as well as the way our culture finds the final stage of life so difficult to confront. The images represent the final moments I was able to spend with my mother, when time seems to stand still and the smallest things take on enormous meaning. These images reflect an attempt to make sense of my mother’s dying moments and the complexity of feelings associated with being caught—literally—in between life and death.

— Kate Subak

Kate Subak has exhibited in the 2009 and 2010 Headwaters Arts Festival, where she won the Juror’s Prize. She has done extensive commercial work. She holds a Master’s Degree in Finance from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a degree in photography from the Ontario College of Art & Design, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Smith College. She lives with her four children, vegetable gardens, and a rotating assortment of animals in Caledon, Ontario.

Sami Siva


Since 2008 I have gone on a series of road-trips throughout Eastern Europe and India. While on the road, each day brings a new departure, leaving old faces and places as fading imprints. I have tried to capture the traces of myself that I have left behind, shedding my skin on the road, as solitude becomes my most faithful companion. Each mile takes me both closer and further for the home I seek amongst the shadows of so many cities, roadside cafes and emptiness strung out along my route, like pebbles guiding me on, that I have sown many years ago on some long forgotten journey.

— Sami Siva

Sami Siva was born and raised in rural Tamil Nadu, India. He studied electronic engineering and worked as a software engineer during India’s dotcom boom before immigrating to Canada in 2000. He is currently working on a long-term project about the socio-political construction of India.

Siva’s work has been published by The New York Times, Globe and Mail, Report on Business Magazine, Macleans, The National, The Caravan, Medecins Sans Frontiers and others. He is currently represented by Redux pictures and based in New Delhi.