The order and chaos of a place

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jokkmokk I, Sweden, 2009

By Tony Martins  /  Photos by Pedro Isztin

With his wayfaring photographic practice, Ottawa’s Pedro Isztin seeks places to examine in his own back yard and in regions far and wide. Yet the specific settings don’t matter much, ultimately, because essentially Isztin looks everywhere for the same thing, for some subtle assurance that he is making a mark while alive.

His showing of photos called Study of Structure and Form
that opens Friday, January 13 at the School of Photographic Arts Ottawa offers 13 images of natural settings touched to some degree by humanity. In some instances that touch is only Isztin’s. In the photos the photographer is looking for patterns or “messages” as he puts it. Exactly what those message are, he’s not quite able to say.

“I can't really analyze them too much,” Isztin said of the works. “It's important to know the language of nature is extremely vast and simply complex.”

As he approaches the age of 50, Isztin becomes increasingly philosophic about ideas such as life journey—and it shows in his work.

“It feels like we are all wanderers to some extent,” said the photographer. “I think coming to this planet as a baby and leaving whenever it is the ‘right time’ offers some insight into how each of our lives is truly an individual and separate journey.”

Isztin’s traditional methods are important to note. He shoots using colour negatives and uses only natural light. Several of the images in the show date back a few years to a trip to Sweden. One such image, shot in the moody light of the midnight sun, shows a tree with a ring of bright red paint.

“The markings or stains we leave behind while we are visiting this planet came to mind,” Isztin muses. “I shot on intuition knowing that our mother earth is alive and I picked up some interesting messages.”

Referring to another image from the show that depicts a spray-painted boulder, Isztin notes: “I was interested in what the tagging could mean, or not mean, that had transformed that specific form of nature. However, what fascinates me more is that I know how temporal are those two interconnected forms of material energy. That is, nature and we are intertwined … always being born and always dying, transforming.”

Despite such constant transformation, the title of the show reveals Isztin’s desire to somehow understand the order of his surroundings.

“I think order can also mean chaos,” Isztin adds. “Nature destroys itself in many circumstances. It is very creative. That fascinates me or inspires me as well because I know some kind of birth isn't very far away. A birth of consciousness, hopefully.”

Study of Structure and Form
is the fourth installment of SPAO’s year-long Call and Response project on its Red Wall Gallery. Sandra Ridley’s collection of poems entitled Shadow Lines responding to Isztin’s works will be available online and in the gallery during viewing hours.

Vernissage: Friday January 13, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Show on view until February 6, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


For more on Pedro Isztin, visit his web site.

Jokkmokk III, Sweden, 2009

Dechênes I, Canada, 2011

Dechênes III, Canada, 2011

Wakefield, Canada, 2010

Stowe, USA, 2011

Barcelona, Spain, 2011