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Interview with an artist: Ralph Nevins


Ralph Nevins is an Ottawa based photographer who transforms images to create stretched realities. Ralph’s practice is founded on experiment, test and repetition until he finds something that works, that is interesting or that stands out from the ordinary.  At the AOE Gallery on exhibit from June 4 to July 14, his show entitled ‘Urban flow’ displays images that consist of urban’scapes, visualizing the flow and distortions as people walk or drive by. AOE Arts Council has the privilege of showing some of his new works that have never been seen before. The public is invited to meet the artist on June 28 during the event Beau’s Art at the Shenkman Arts Centre where he will be available to answer questions.

Could you tell me a bit about your idea behind this exhibition, ‘Urban flow’? Is there any particular theme or message you would like to convey?

It is an exploration of time and people and how they generate abstracts all the time, about how we don’t know or see them. It is just very cool to convey the unseen. It is also the poetry of life, the continuous play of unseen movements that are captured, and the spaces between the observed.


© Ralph Nevins Photography

What type of photography equipment do you use?

I build my own digital cameras using broken film cameras as a base and incorporate the electronics and programming in behind the lens.

You use a slit-scan technique to create your images, could you describe this technique?

There are many terms that describe this technique such as strip photography, streak photography, chronophotography, but I use slit-scan, as it is the most recognizable. Slit-scan was originally a technique where a photographer would drag film behind a slit so the film was only exposed for a brief time along the narrow opening.  Electronically the method uses a single line sensor, similar to the one found in scanners, to accept the image one line at a time.

What first inspired you to use this technique to transform your photographs?

Back in 2002 I had seen a web page that a professor at RIT, Andrew Davidhazy, had created. There were interesting images using film, then a scanner and I wanted to try it. At the time I knew more about electronics than digital photography. The project was a success but my photography skills had to catch up with the device. Seven years later, I revisited it with much more success.

Why did you decide to use black or white versus colour for this series?

At this time all images are black and white because of the type of sensors I use. Although, later this year (2015), thanks to a Canada Council of the Arts grant, I will be using a colour camera.


© Ralph Nevins Photography

When you are photographing your subjects, do you usually have a planned vision of the final work or is the process more instinctual? 

Both, I try to give little direction to my subjects. When dealing with individuals I suggest but not enforce movement. When out in public, it is just the normal eb and flow of humanity that I capture.

Could you describe your process when creating a work after the photographs have been taken?

Very little post processing is done, depending on the focal length of the lens. The aspect ratio of the image may need correcting but there is little enhancement to the eventual image. Except when I create my “in the round” images which are a rectangular to polar conversion on linear panoramas. It is a simple mathematical formula which consists of mapping a rectangle onto a circle.  It’s a simple function that works in most popular software and that works best for a 360° degree panoramas or at least when one side of the image is the same as the other in non-moving slit-scan images.


© Ralph Nevins Photography

Where do you find your artistic inspirations? Are there any artist references or places that you are always drawn back to?

My inspirations come from real life, the need to experiment and try new things. I am a fan of M. C. Escher, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, though not directly and more ephemeral.

What would you like the visitors of the AOE Gallery to take away from your exhibition?

A sense that they saw something new, not made up, but a way of seeing the world from a different point of view, one that always existed but was not previously seen.

Exhibit: June 4 to July 14, 2015
Meet the Artist : June 28, 1 – 3 p.m.

AOE Gallery
Shenkman Arts Centre
245 Centrum Blvd,
Ottawa, ON K1E 0A1
*Free Parking

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