Scott McFarland is a photographer whose images are highlighted by meticulous staging and high-production values. McFarland documents a discrete range of subjects in ongoing suites, and his close attention to the minutia of his subjects allows for an empathetic yet critical viewpoint. The exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery concentrated on one of these projects: a large body of photographs documenting a rural cabin on the Sunshine Coast of BC. The series combines portraits of individuals with close familial ties to the cabin, an exterior shot of the cabin at night and a number of interior details, including rich and uncanny depictions of the cabin’s accretion of furnishings.
The compositions are carefully orchestrated, and the photographs have a clarity that gives the objects in them an indelible and dimensional presence. In much of his recent work, McFarland digitally overlays a number of different exposures, using selected areas from individual shots to build up a final composite negative. This technique allows for concentration on particular, and sometimes minute, details, after which the image is assembled within a computer. McFarland grounds this method of construction in explicit references to what he pictures. In Torn Quilt with Effects of Sunlight, for example, the crafting of image and object, photo and textile, are paralleled, as each product is manufactured by stitching together a number of disparate parts.
Also featured in the exhibition is Coastal Cabin, a work which mimics a magazine layout spread, combining McFarland’s images with a text by Owen Kydd. Kydd’s family, two of whom are depicted in McFarland’s suite, are owners of the cabin. The author’s reminiscence is designed as if it were to be included in a Sunday magazine supplement of a newspaper. Here, McFarland’s interest in photojournalistic and documentary photographic histories contributes to a way of appreciating his photographs distinct from the larger framed versions. These shifts in context together with McFarland’s reflexive image making techniques, speak to a continuing fascination with the photographic process, and to parallel interests in both what and how photographs picture.