Critics’ Picks

Michèle Pearson Clarke, Double Charles, July 16, 2018, ink-jet print, 16 x 22".

Michèle Pearson Clarke, Double Charles, July 16, 2018, ink-jet print, 16 x 22".


Michèle Pearson Clarke

Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography
401 Richmond Street West Suite 120
September 7–October 13, 2018

Trinidadian Canadian Michèle Pearson Clarke’s new body of analogue photographs—dozens of candid portraits of friends, family, and colleagues—exudes a cozy familiarity, in contrast to much of the theory-driven and clinical contemporary photography one sees today.

This warmth is emphasized by Clarke’s presentation strategy: photos of all sizes are placed in wood and metal frames, variously sized. Some hang on the wall, others are plunked on slim metal shelves or lean against the wall on the floor, as if waiting to find their place. Photographed in their homes, in parks, on tree-lined residential streets, and in backyard gardens, Clarke’s subjects pose in formal, office-ready attire or shorts and T-shirts. There is no set backdrop or dress, and their postures don’t feel overly performative. Immersing oneself in the exhibition and Clarke’s scrapbook-like images prompts interior questions about one’s own family and friends—where one belongs and with whom.

Clarke’s study of Caribbean Canadian representation in the history of analogue photography—one fraught with the (mis)readings of people of color—fuels “A Welcome Weight on My Body.” The exhibition is a call to ownership via the familiar and the consciously understated, a quiet but sure act of confidence. In a genre overdetermined by white-centering, Clarke’s exhibition asserts that people of color have the right to record family, place, belonging, and self-celebration, in front of or behind the camera, without the fear of being othered or exoticized.