Words: Kent Mundle / Photos: Joseph Visser
The parking lot is desolate. Bleak buildings rise above Portage and Main as a single human figure tries to escape the frame. Looking at the photo, I hope that the label will read, “taken in 1975.” Chris took it this year.
This is it: Winnipeg. This is what the city looks like.
On the night of Thursday, Aug. 7, photographer Chris Friesen opened his show, Monomatic in the C Space at Frame Arts Warehouse. The content ranges from photos of Iceland to railroad trips out west, but the series that hits home is Chris’s documentation of the current state of Winnipeg.
Chris’s style is direct and honest, which he achieves by developing his own black and white film. This honesty is refreshing, as his critique on Winnipeg gets straight to the point. How much has our city changed in the past couple decades? What additions to the downtown have made a legitimate impact, while several issues seem to have been forgotten?
Chris insists that he is not cynical about the condition of Winnipeg, but has a love/hate relationship with the city. As in the Portage and Main photo, he celebrates the Bank of Montreal, framed at the centre, but regrets that similar buildings have been torn down for parking lots like the one in the foreground.
Chris hopes that his images bring an attention to the reality of Winnipeg’s landscape. Most people don’t know that the parking lot exists near Portage and Main. Fewer still know about the wasteland that is Brady Landfill.
The ability of photography to transcend time is a theme that Chris develops throughout his body of work. In the Winnipeg series, Chris’s photos elude any specific date, which questions how much the city has changed over time.
Chris avoids including signifiers of time in his photos, however he will use them selectively. In his piece titled Parade, a Spanish festival is taking place. Young girls in traditional dress carry flowers passed old couples that watch, clapping contently. The image is pleasant. It feels as though it could be found in a 1980s National Geographic, if it weren’t for two distinctly modern looking women who have seemingly teleported from another time and place. Their presence is unsettling. As the women unhappily watch the parade, they brood about how to escape the photograph.
Chris’s work will be on display until Wednesday, Aug. 13, so catch it while it lasts. If you don’t agree with his critical eye of the city, at least allow him to ask the question: Are you satisfied with this image of Winnipeg?