Images of Douglas Clark tell simple stories about everyday life in Canada, back in the 70s and the 80s. As such, they have both documentary and artistic value. Clark was photographing people and landscapes, but it seems he preferred landscapes to portraiture, according to a modest number of his portraits in comparison to his street photos. Clark was a keen observer of nature – a lot of his photos were taken just to emphasize some detail, like a branch of a tree or an unusual shadow.
Clark earned his BFA in Film and Photography at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in 1974. He wasn’t interested only in taking photos, but also in giving lectures and curating photographic materials. Quite early in his career, he decided to move to Europe and later on to China. Because of frequent travels, his career was busy and exciting – he was a lecturer and a curator in Czech Republic, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Japan and China. He came back to Canada in 1976 and worked as a curator at the Edmonton Art Gallery in Alberta. He stayed there just for a couple of years and returned to Europe, precisely speaking to Germany. From 1993 to 1998, Clark was a visiting professor at the School of Art and Design in Hamburg, where he gave lessons on photographic and new media production.
Clark wasn’t too much into typical gallery exhibitions, he wanted to participate in multidisciplinary projects. His documentary photographic book called Keepsake is a great example of such project – it is a combination of photographs and essays of social scientists. All the materials in the book are related to lifestyle in Alberta in the 8o’s. Clark had one more important project, called Gallery in Transit. It was something quite unusual and dynamic – the idea behind this project was to organize a bus-mounted exhibition of modern photography. The exhibition toured western Canada in the mid 80’s and it was very successful because it clearly reflected the values and lifestyle of the 80s and the New Age ideology of living a free, nomadic lifestyle.
Like it often happens in the world of arts, Clark didn’t get awards for his work until the very end of his life. He received The Duke and Duchess of York Prize for contemporary photography in 1991 and his work is now the part of art collections throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. His photographs are simple, candid records of the lifestyle of the 70’s and 80’s in Canada which is not as commercialized as the same time period in the USA. Thanks to Clark’s work, we can peak into the Canadian world of the 80’s that we know little about.
The artist is represented by Stephen Bulger Gallery.
Featured image: Douglas Clark – Portrait of a woman, 1978
All images courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery