BANFF – The photographic medium is diverse.
The 2021 Exposure Photography Festival is kicking off its 17th year and is returning to Banff this February with three unique exhibits.
The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is the perennial venue of the photo festival in Banff and will host the Julya Hajnoczky and Snapshots exhibits. But this year there is a new host in town, the Sideshow Gallery.
“I always imagined that the Exposure Photo Festival is for bigger venues,” said Sideshow Gallery owner Brittany Watson. “It means a lot to me to be able to eke out a space for this kind of photography in this hallway of a space that we call home.”
Self-taught photographer, Imogene Broberg-Hull’s exhibit Or Was That A Dream? will be featured at the Banff gallery, located in the Harmon Building on Banff Avenue.
Her work explores experimental black and white darkroom techniques and the use of double exposure, using new and old photographs from her past to delve into the themes of surrealism, dreams and memory.
“It’s all about the mental crossroads of memory, dreaming and photographs,” said Broberg-Hull. “I’ve always had a horrible memory and I can never really distinguish in my mind between dreams and vintage photographs or my own. I am just plain old fabricating ideas in my mind and seemingly having memories that never happened.
“Double exposures for me depict what my idea of reality is. It’s much more realistic for me – in my mind – it’s realism not abstract. Memories are like images overlapping. They are always changing; they are not static. They are dynamic.”
The double-exposed pictures in the exhibition were either created in-camera or in the darkroom, and all but two of the images were taken within the last three years.
Two of the photographs are not Broberg-Hull’s, they are her great-grandfather’s photographs, that she developed from a box of negatives her grandmother sent her a few years back.
“I became obsessed with them. I think they perfectly sum up my having a borrowed memory that I was never there for. It is also a nod to my family history and all the memory gobbledygook.”
It has been a long time coming for Broberg-Hull’s Or Was That A Dream? to be seen by the public. The exhibit was originally slated to open in April of last year, but was postponed and then later cancelled due to COVID-19.
“It’s so great for this project to finally be out of my hand and hanging up on the wall.”
As the artist in residency at the Sideshow Gallery early last year, she completed her work on the exhibition in the darkroom at the gallery. During the lockdown, she returned to Vancouver to be closer to family and made her own darkroom in her parent's garage to continue her work.
“It took some convincing,” said Broberg-Hull while laughing about setting up the darkroom. “I colonized a little space at the back of the garage – blocked out the windows – and hopped on CraigsList and hunted down what appeared to be the only darkroom set up in the Lower Mainland. It was just mono-maniacal in my need to set up a darkroom, especially during COVID.”
With the Sideshow Gallery securing a space to host a show for the Exposure Photography Festival, Watson knew she wanted to finally exhibit Broberg-Hull’s work.
“We may be a small town, but there is a rich history of photography here. With Sideshow, I don’t want to just cater to tourists, I want to be able to show photography that is not typically mainstream in Banff,” said Watson.
“I want people to experience something you might typically find in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver – that is from here, which is why Imogene’s show is perfect for our space.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Whyte Museum is closed, but the exhibitions will be made available for online viewing. The Sideshow Gallery is in a unique position because the gallery also serves as a retail space. The exhibit will be open to the public starting Jan. 29 to March 7.
"Museums are still closed and I feel for them. We are very fortunate to be open," said Watson. "Our capacity is very small, but we will be able to accommodate people as they come to our space."