From ‘Image’ to ‘Altered’ Image

by Grace Sarabia | May 26, 2021

Propeller’s most recent exhibition, Altered Images at Hand, brings together fifty-seven artists in a virtual experience that is part of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. The 103 works presented all began as photographs and were in turn physically “altered” in some fashion, whether that be through paint, cutting, layering, distressing or other means. This theme complicated each artist’s process of creating their work and in turn elevates the viewer’s experience. Altered Images was preceded by an online demonstration of photographic manipulation by Tony Bounsall, inspiring some of the approaches taken by the exhibiting artists. The exhibition brought many new artists into the Propeller community and successfully displays the artists’ processes: from image to altered image. 

Elizabeth DeCoste’s contribution to the exhibition, Passage, combines photographs from Japan, Palestine and Canada into a collaged final product. Although the viewer’s eye is drawn first to the gateway and staircase images, the fractured lines of the collage are distinct and visually evident. The viewer is thus taken on DeCoste’s journey of travelling through these places, collecting these images and pasting them together. The visual experience of these places parallels the feelings of retrospection and nostalgia that the artist puts forward. 

In a similar way, Nora Do’s mixed media work, Ornaments, reveals the artist’s process to the viewer. Her statement, “I observe and then create,” aptly summarizes the Altered Images exhibition from the artists’ perspective. Her process reveals itself through the neon-like colour applied to the photographic image. These strokes of colour not only add another dimension to the work but index the presence of the artist’s hand as she created it.

Joseph Muscat’s addition of acrylic paint on to photographs is also emblematic of the exhibition as a whole. The strokes of red paint are layered visual alterations to the photographs in the background. They not only obscure representation of the model’s body but add an abstract geometric element to each work. Muscat thus allows the viewer to see the photographs and see the paint strokes and then analyze the effects of this alteration for themselves.

Zia Foley’s Get Lost in Me is another photo collage that combines different physical locations – places that the artist has lived – into a singular collage. In a manner unique from many of the other works in this exhibition, the assemblage of these different individual photographs is not clearly visible to the viewer. The artist’s statement detailing her layered identity provides an additional purpose to altered images beyond being visually complex. 

Altered Images at Hand thus allows the viewer to experience the artist’s recontextualization of elements through alteration, and the final transformation to a new expression of meaning.

Altered Images at Hand is open online through to July 28, 2021. ​

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