My next stop in the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival exploration of why photography is important to photographers, was at the Pikto Gallery in the Distillery District. I went to chat with Tony Fouhse about his provocative show, ‘User’.
These photos taken of crack addicts were taken over a three-year period on a 20-metre strip of sidewalk, one kilometre and a half from Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
These are portraits of the people and their feelings, not the drug. Tony says it’s important to look into their eyes, as we usually pass addicts and avert their eyes. People react — sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. But they react, which he considers to be a good thing.
This collection is a collaborative effort — All these photos are what they are because of what the subjects brought to the table. He doesn’t show a photo without their approval. But it’s more than that, it’s a cyclical process. He’s using them, they’re using him, and we (the viewers) are using both of them.
Tony likes taking the photos, but hates the drudgery of presenting the work. This is his hobby — he does commercial and editorial work for a living. But he decided to take this work out of his portfolio and share the images. ”People keep making me do it!”, he says.
Thank goodness for that, is what I say.