A Small Town During Pandemic: an Interview with Ryan Gordon - theHumm March 2021
A Small Town During Pandemic: an Interview with Ryan Gordon - theHumm March 2021
The Mississippi Valley Textile Museum mvtm.ca and Ryan Gordon Photography ryangordonphotography.com have partnered to create a timely exhibit of photographs entitled “Faces & Fabric of a Small Town During Pandemic”. Curator Michael Rikley-Lancaster and artist Ryan Gordon write: “As the community grapples with a pandemic that is radically reshaping every aspect of public and private life, we are striving to capture the historic shift through the eyes of everyday people in Mississippi Mills.”
Ryan’s photos can now be viewed and purchased online, with all proceeds going to the Almonte General Hospital Foundation front lines. They will also be treasured in the museum’s archives for future generations. theHumm contacted Ryan Gordon to find out more about this very special exhibit.
theHumm: When did you first become interested in photography, and how does it help youprocess and engage with the world around you?
Ryan Gordon: I have always been fascinated by photographs. I love that they capture a moment in time; they are the only proof we have that generations of loved ones who have passed before us actually existed, and they keep their memory alive to future generations. They capture expressions, feelings, emotions and behaviors. My mom gave me a Pentax film camera for Christmas when I was 16, and I’ve been talking photos since.
How and when did you find Almonte? Are you a long-time resident or a relative newcomer?
I was born and raised in Perth, Ontario, but still wasn’t too familiar with Almonte. After living in Ottawa for 15 years, working in the Funeral Services industry, I decided to move my family out from the city and get back in touch with my small-town roots. I wanted my kids to have a childhood similar to how I grew up. I was drawn to the energy of Almonte, the arts, the culture, the people, the vibe. There is something special here, something that cannot always be described, yet everyone knows exactly what I mean by that. There is a magic here, and something in the air, in the water, but I’m just thankful that my family is able to call Almonte our home.
You and Michael Rikley-Lancaster began working on this exhibition shortly after thefirst lockdown was announced. What has this project shown you about how people aredealing with Covid and its associated challenges? Have you been able to capture somemoments of hope and joy as well?
I had always been known for portrait or fashion photography, and it wasn’t until the pandemic began and the lockdown happened that I shifted my focus to landscape. In the beginning, with no sense of time and with nothing much else to do, I really dove head-first into the world of landscape photography. I think one gift that many of us were granted with this pandemic was the gift of time. Never in our lifetimes had we been given this amount of time. Time to learn, time to create, to experiment with things we had been pushing off, or to try something we’ve always wanted. I got time to not only spend with my children, but to really get to know them as people who have ideas and opinions — who have a voice.
I got to meet so many amazing people in the community through this exhibit, for which I will forever be grateful. Hope and Joy are hard emotions to capture in a world of the unknown, but what I feel I was able to capture was the human spirit. That no matter your thoughts, your views, your politics, people in this community were able to come together and help one another out, and that was a beautiful thing to see.
Michael has been such amazing mentor. He is inspiring, he is passionate, and his love of art and his love of this town and its history is so motivating. The best part of this experience for me is that the museum has now archived the selected photos and they will be become a part of the history of this town. In a hundred years, when future generations look back on these photos, I hope that they see that this was the beginning of a shift that needed to happen. This pandemic has changed the way we live, the way we communicate and the way we love. We know now that the world can change in the blink of an eye — that it can all change overnight — so it’s important be kind to others, lead all intentions with love, take risks, do what you have always wanted to do, tell people you love them, forgive, be thankful for every day, and don’t take for granted things like hugs, handshakes, celebrating special occasions or spending time with those you love.
Was there something specific that inspired you to use your skills to bring awareness to theTextile Museum and at the same time to raise funds for front line workers?
I wanted the photos to reflect beauty — beauty in a time when the world was uncertain and dark, people were dying and the public was scared. I wanted my art to show that even in uncertain times there is beauty in the darkness. I looked to inspire with colour, light, crispness and clarity, creating contrast with the dark so that the light was able to shine through. And in the end, I wanted the theme — that art is everywhere, even in mundane everyday life — to come through. You can still find beauty in the smaller things, in the boring everything things, and everything and everywhere can be art.
Can people still ask to have their photo taken as part of this initiative? If so, how should theygo about doing so?
The pandemic is still ongoing, I’ve been capturing it since day one, and I will continue to do so. If anyone in the community has a unique story, or has a story they would like to have preserved for future generations about their experience during COVID-19, they can reach me on social media @ryan.gordon.photography, through my website, or through the Textile Museum.
On a personal note, what is helping you to get through this first full Covid winter?
I read an article last year about embracing winter like the Norwegians do — getting out there and experiencing all that winter brings. I have been trying to do that this winter — changing my attitude towards it by getting outside as much as possible. I’ve been exploring lots of trails in the area; hiking, walking, taking the kids skating, and just trying to capture with my camera all the beauty that winter brings.
By Sally Hansen
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The Mississippi Valley Textile Museum mvtm.ca and Ryan Gordon Photography ryangordonphotography.com have partnered to create a timely exhibit of photographs entitled “Faces & Fabric of a Small Town During Pandemic”. Curator Michael Rikley-Lancaster and artist Ryan Gordon write: “As the community grapples with a pandemic that is radically reshaping every aspect of public and......
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