One New Work
M.N. Hutchinson: The Last Longest Day
October 22, 2016 - February 26, 2017
One New Work is a series of three small focused exhibitions, curated by Nancy Tousley and mounted at Glenbow throughout 2016. Each exhibition features a new work by an Alberta artist shown in the company of other works or objects selected to set it within a context. The aim is to illuminate aspects of the artist's practice by emphasizing them.
M.N Hutchinson: The Last Longest Day is the third exhibition in the series.
On June 21, 1999, M.N. Hutchinson got up before daybreak and set out with an objective. He would take one photograph every minute of the day from sunrise at 04:23 to sunset at 23:10. He chose the date of the 1999 summer solstice because it was the last longest day of the year and of the millennium, and it was the day that offered the longest stretch of daylight in which to take pictures. Over the course of nearly 19 hours, he took 902 black-and-white photographs.
As he photographed, Hutchinson was doing more than just point-and-shoot. He was selecting the shot, composing it, adjusting the focus, checking the exposure, calculating the tonal range: all the things a photographer does to make a good picture. The mental concentration this took was demanding, but he was surprised by the physicality of the undertaking and amount of physical energy the project consumed. Everywhere he looked there was a potential photograph. By the end of the day he was exhausted.
The madness inherent in Hutchinson’s project is present in the literary source that inspired it. Italo Calvino’s philosophical short story, “The Adventure of a Photographer,” was written in 1955. In the story, a non-photographer takes up the camera. He begins by taking snapshots and gradually becomes so obsessed with photography that his passion for it consumes everything else.
Hutchinson developed contact sheets of the negatives he exposed, but then he put the project aside. He did not take the next step of going into the darkroom to make photographic prints until now, 17 years later. To prepare the 106 prints chosen for this exhibition, he took the film negatives not to the scanner and computer, but back to the enlarger, the trays and the chemicals in the dim red light of the darkroom he hadn’t used in years. He did this to maintain the integrity of his original intention and to follow it through using the analogue technology he started out with.
The project poses questions that are as much about the photographer as they are about photography itself. Hutchinson sees the work now as a self-portrait, albeit an extended one.
Hutchinson constructed the photographs in The Last Longest Day in that narrow space between “the reality that is photographed because it seems beautiful to us and the reality that seems beautiful because it has been photographed.” Nonetheless, he says, “The potential for beauty doesn’t rely on anything special occurring in front of you. It’s something you make.”
- Italo Calvino, "The Adventure of a Photographer," in Art on Paper (March/April 2008) pp. 42 - 47
About M.N. Hutchinson
M.N. Hutchinson has been a working photographer for more than 30 years. His career has included both a commercial business that included shooting album covers for A&M Records and a nationally recognized professional practice as an artist. His artistic practice has been contrarily cross-media. He has exhibited photographs, printmaking, sculptural installations, audio, video and performance works. Hutchinson completed his MFA in New Media at the University of Calgary in 2004, has presented his work and theories in over 20 lectures and public presentations and been the recipient of several grants and awards. He has taught for 20 years and has also invested a considerable part of his career in the community, having been both a co-director of Truck Gallery and a photography facilitator at the Banff Centre, as well as a board member of several arts organizations.
About Nancy Tousley
Tousley is an award-winning senior art critic, arts journalist and independent curator, who received the Governor General's Award for Visual and Media Arts for outstanding contribution in 2011. As art critic of the Calgary Herald for more than 30 years, Tousley became known for making art accessible and relevant to the general public. She was the first Critic-in-Residence at the Alberta College of Art + Design has been a contributing editor to Canadian Art magazine since 1986. Tousley has received numerous awards for outstanding achievement in arts journalism.
M.N. Hutchinson: the Last Longest Day exhibition guide
Italo Calvino, "The Adventure of a Photographer," in Art on Paper (March/April 2008) pp. 42 - 47 (PDF)