Meaghan Ogilvie is a photographer who I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with in the creative world. I had a chance to sit and chat with Meaghan and ask a couple of questions about the her work and her inspirations. I really like what she’s been doing and her message and I wanted to share with all of you TPF readers.
Let’s tell our readers a bit about you, where are you from, where did you grow up, how did you fall in love with photography?
Meaghan would visit her grandparents a lot as a kid, right outside of Toronto in North York. “I spent a lot of time reading National Geographic. I was a very shy kid and would find my escape through reading about adventure photography,” says Meaghan. Early on in high school she was given her first camera. “..Mom gave me my first (camera) and I was able to show people without speaking. It gave me a voice.” Meaghan goes on to tell me how she fell in love with the darkroom, the not knowing how images would turn out – the excitement of the surprise. “I spent more time in the darkroom than I did in the classroom.” One of her first inspirations was Jerry Uelsmann, a surrealist photographer. She herself started playing around with image manipulation and pushing the boundaries. “When I went to college I found myself surrounded by like-minded people … I never turned back.”
Now that you’ve found a way to “speak”, what subject matter do you enjoy shooting?
“I’m very concerned about the environment,” Meaghan says. She chooses her tools mindfully, such as vitamin E and coffee in the darkroom for developer. Her emphasis is in self portraits about the environment and destruction.
“Another subject I’m passionate about is working with our aboriginal community and building relationships.” Her connection initially started with her admiration for the community’s harmony with nature, which her series Symbiosis touches upon. “I’d like to shoot full moon petroglyphs [silhouettes]. There will be many different components to this study. There’s so much to take in, but that’s the goal, no matter how long it takes. I know the idea will continue to develop as I continue to learn.” She tells me about the people in the communities she’s collaborated with and how she’s fascinated with the immense amount of knowledge they hold and the way the stories are passed on. “They’ve been learning about this their whole lives, I’m just scratching the surface.” Meaghan tells me her plan to play with video and incorporate music into her work in the future. She says, “I’d also like this to be a voice for some of the people in the community. It’s teaching me about giving back to the community and how to be more fair.”
Above you mentioned your Symbiosis series, but When I first learned about you it was your Underwater series that caught my attention. Can you tell me a bit about what got you started on that?
“My dad. He had a degenerative disease that made him lose mobility. It made me want to create images to show the freedom of mobility,” says Meaghan. She wanted to do something colourful and fluid and working with water came to mind because of its tranquility. “What I didn’t realize is how financially draining it would be. I needed to search for the right equipment and pools with good natural lighting.” She decided to work with a dancer because of the beauty of motion. Scuba was out of the question because of the relating costs and licenses required. “So we practiced with snorkels and holding our breath!”
In the end she was happy with what was created over a three year period.
What was the reception?
“It won a couple of awards, the Sony world and short listed for Summerset House [out of 62k entries]. I’m really thankful for the international recognition too, silver shotz magazine out of Australia featured this series in their annual folio.”
Now tell us a about Symbiosis:
Meaghan tells me how this series is different from Underwater. “I have been learning that I can’t make things [art] for other people.” She started to keep out the outside influences and influencers. “I shut myself out in seclusion, which is hard because I love people,” says Meaghan. She was told to get out of Toronto for a bit. Meeting people from all over the world helped put things into perspective for her. “[It] was a good catalyst to me learning more about the environment. I learned about other countries, indigenous people and the way they regarded nature. I think we, all of us, need to be more aware. And there are people trying – I’d like to be one of those people that helps, it’s a personal thing for me.” Which is also what led her into her next project and was an integral part of her ongoing journey.
Last but not least, can you tell us how you stayed positive when times got tough and any word of advice to those starting out?
Meaghan smiles infectiously and says, “Try to do something that relates to your work everyday! Even if it’s just research.” She strongly recommended mentorships. “They’ve (mentors) had struggles. Their experiences are humbling. Listen to the feedback.” She says it is important to learn from every experience, even if all the feedback is negative. “It’s better than hearing you’re great. You learn. To overcome brings such strength. And lots of hustle. Stay true to yourself and your work. Continue to do that. Stay true to your vision. Unique.”
Last bit of advice: “Networking is very important. Connect with as many people as you can. Take chances and risks. There are so many people that won’t and sometimes that is really all you need to set yourself apart. Also, try to surround yourself with like minded people. Positive influencers are huge.”
UPDATE: Meaghan is one of the artists chosen to be commissioned by the Arts and Culture Program of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. Congrats!
Interested in learning more about Meaghan’s work? Check out www.meaghanogilvie.com.