Stephen Bulger Gallery: Claudia Fahrenkemper

The Stephen Bulger Gallery, one of Toronto’s leading photography galleries, is currently exhibiting a survey of work from photographer Claudia Fahrenkemper. The exhibition opened on January 11th and continues to February 8th, 2020.  Even though the famed photographer has been shown internationally, and has even been collected by the National Gallery of Canada, this is Claudia’s first solo show in Canada and her second within North America. 

I did not know of Claudia’s work until this past Wednesday when I attended a private talk at the gallery about the artist. So here are some of the key facts I learned about Claudia, just in case you are new to her work as I am.

Claudia is a german photographer, who studied at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf from 1989 to 1995. Her practice focuses on the isolation of beauty in both man-made and/or natural items. This has led her to create works highlighting landscapes, machinery, microphotography, and armour throughout her ongoing 30-year practice. 

Claudia’s early work depicts her fascination with mechanics.  Everything from enormous machinery, as shown above, to the tiniest of screws used in medical operations. From here she began to manipulate scientific computers, used originally for documentation purposes, to take highly detailed photography using medium format film.  Each object was plated in gold to achieve high contrast and to stop dust from collecting. She used the altered machinery to photograph a variety of seeds and insects, often referring to their skin/shells as their armour. 

This led to her practice exploring other varieties of armour, from knights to most recently samurais. Most of her photography is in black and white until her samurai series, where she introduced colour to highlight the significance of the sun often depicted on the armour itself. She is currently continuing her exploration of armour through the use of different specimens and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

Claudia Fahrenkemper’s work is a true mastery of documentation photography. Her commitment to detail and scientific/historical accuracy is what truly sets her work above the rest. The curation invites the audience to enter a trance-like state when viewing her work. Each piece is given space to breathe, so even though you are surrounded by photographs it never feels overwhelming. 

I am surprised that I have never heard of Claudia Fahrenkemper before that night, especially due to the extensive history of photography courses I took during my BFA. So I highly recommend going to see this exhibition before time runs out. To not only further educate yourself on this artist but to see how artistic curiosity furthers innovations that allow others to see everyday items in a new light. 

If you check out the exhibition let me know! I would love to hear your take on Claudia’s work or just which piece stands out for you. 

- Sarah Zanchetta

15 Home Studio Must-Haves

Last week I dived into why I have a home studio, and since then I have had a lot of questions about what I think you need to create a good home studio. Now I am not expert by any means, but I thought I would make a quick-fire list of fifteen items that have made my studio experience better. Either because it has allowed me to continue creating, or just made me more comfortable within the space for long periods of time. Don’t worry there aren’t any big-brands or crazy expensive must-have items - just regular things, that you could even purchase at a dollar store. So let’s jump in!

1. Pens & Markers - a lot of them. I’m not saying buy a bunch of microns and high-quality markers. Just grab a bunch of different varieties: thick, thin, metallic, neon, etc. So when that idea comes you have something to write it down with or actually do it with. Plus make sure that you check if they work every few months - nothing is worse then a dead marker.

2. Extra sketchbooks. The same thing as the pens, once you like a sketchbook buy a few copies of it and store it away within your studio space. This way you never create something you love on a random piece of scrap paper or a napkin that ends up going missing. Or even worse - writing it down in the note section of your phone, only to find it months later and have no idea what it means. 

3. Tape. Every single type you can possibly think of.

4. A printer with a scanner option. It’s not only great for documenting paperwork, but you’d be surprised how many applications actually need to you physically print a form, fill it out and email them the scanned copy of it. 

5. Extra ink and paper for the said printer. (duh) 

6. An actual comfortable chair, not that old dining room chair that squeaks or that wobbly stool from the garage. Find a chair that you can sit on for hours at a time, I recommend chairs with wheels - just in case you really never want to get up. 

7. Drawers. Tons and tons of drawer space. They will help you store, organize and keep your work and supplies safe. Plus decluttered. My space has nine drawers, two milk crates and two medium-sized IKEA boxes - and I could still use more.  

8. Clamp light. Document your work professionally in your own space. All you need is an extra pair of hands or an object to lock it on to as you take your shot.

9. A white wall or large piece of foam core for said documentation. 

10.  Lysol wipes, or a lint brush/roller if you make textile work like me. Keep your space clean, and there will never be an excuse to not use it. It sounds silly to say, but actually wipe up spills when they happen or don’t let dust bunnies take over. Being messy doesn’t make you an artist, it just makes it harder to work in the space. 

11. A fan for when it’s hot as hell outside, and a space heater when it isn’t. I don’t know about you but I cannot wear a bunch of layers when I’m supposed to be working. I find it constraining and overall just too hot. So prepare yourself for all weather, and to be comfortable within the space. But get an actual sized fan, or space heater - the mini cute ones for your desk, often advertised on Facebook won’t do you any good when the storms come. 

12. Post-it notes, and a dedicated place to hang them. It’s simple, have a great idea that you want to explore or something that you need to remember. Just create a small section of your studio to stick them to, and this way you won’t forget. 

13. Several different types of room lighting. Yes, your room has one light in the centre, but that won’t be much help when you are working. It is always a good idea to have a variety of light intensities, hues and sizes within your space. Not only will it make it easier to see the art, but to also do quick documentation if necessary. 

14. Paint and brushes. Even if you don’t paint as part of your practice. This medium pops up at the worst time, and you never have time to run to the art supply store. So just keep one tube of the primaries, plus black and white within your drawers this way you are ready. As for brushes, I have a set from the dollar store which I keep on hand just in case. Paint doesn’t expire, so keep it closed and it will be waiting for you until you need it. 

15. A candle. Okay, I know this one stands out from the other ones of the list - but trust me it fits in. I find myself wanting to snack all day when I’m in the studio or constantly sipping on coffee - all which is not great for you. But recently I received a coffee-scented candle, and have been using it ever since. I light it right before I get started for the day, and my whole apartment smells like a coffee shop. It allows me to further drift into my work, and focus better during long periods of time. Now it doesn’t have to be coffee-scented or even a candle. Just find a way to make your space inventing to more than one of your senses, and you will find it easier to stay there and work. 

So that is my list, what do you think? Did I miss one of your favourites? If so, let me know! I love knowing what others put within their creative spaces - maybe I’ll even fall in love with one of your recommendations. See you next week!

- Sarah Zanchetta

Why I Have A Home Studio

When I studied at OCAD University, my main studio space was on campus. In the first two years, I was ducking in and out of class studios to use the space when it was free, never really in peace, always surrounded by the noise - either the loud clanking ceiling fans or the crowd in the corner. During the last two years, I was lucky enough to have a dedicated space within the school to create, still around people - our desk chairs bumping into each other and my headphones never truly cancelling out their music. It was always loud, chaotic and I told myself I loved it. 

I am not a ‘true’ extrovert, but I do like being around people. The impromptu conversations, the bouncing back and forth of ideas, or even the quick coffee run that you should have definitely written down their orders for. I told myself I liked the chaos, that I will miss it after I graduate - since that is what all my professors told me. That community helps make the artist, keeps you sane, and keeps you working. 


Truth be told, I did miss it during my first six months out of school. I learned to create in the noise, and without it, I felt lost. I moved into a small one-bedroom apartment, and my studio now consisted of my old makeup table and desk chair, with a few drawers on each side.  There was no one there to bounce ideas off of or to get me inspired by staring at their colour palette left on the floor after a long studio day. I had to rely on myself to get started, and it took a while - but once I did, I never looked back. 

Having a home studio gave me the freedom to try whatever the hell I wanted to. There was no fear of being judged by a third party, because who is going to see it unless I let them. I started to experiment for the first time with photoshop, then printing on fabric, and now looming. I could work at any time I wanted to, and create to any scale - since I did not have to worry about sharing the space. When inspired I could stay up all night, or leave the desk in a mess since I didn’t have to shove all my supplies away to be safe.

It gives me the time to create most importantly. Since my studio is in my apartment, I don’t pay anything extra for it - just one lump bill each month. This means that instead of working five days a week, I can work four at my job and have three days off which always have a big chunk put aside to create art. With no commute, no unexpected studio mate drama, and no chaos. 

My studio space can grow when it needs to or shrink if I’m working on writing. For instance, when I took on Sweet Digs last year, I was able to take over the majority of my apartment in order to create it. I had fabric hanging from the ceiling, over my couch, and even encroaching on my bedroom. My friends were able to come over to help, no guest limit like most studios have, and it was open 24/7. Which was exactly what I needed in order to properly create such a large scale installation and I would not have been able to afford a studio space of that size.

Overall, I have been out of university now for close to two years, and even though I dive in and out of shared studio spaces - I still prefer my home studio. Through it, I learned that my actual favourite studio times at OCAD, was when I would get to school really early and hide out in the corner classroom while no one was around. I would sit and paint without the headphones, and the chaos - and this when I made my best work. Not that it always looked great at the end, but it was the best because I was pushing myself. I tried new brush strokes, or a weird colour palette, heck one time I only used my fingers to paint. I tried new things because I wasn’t worried about what my peers or professors would think, and having a home studio is the same.

So in short, I have a home studio because it gives me total freedom. I can create what I want when I want. No fear of boundaries or pointless limitations set by fear. Just to have some space, and dedicate time each day to it - to grow, and to explore. I make whatever I want especially if it makes me laugh, and I have built confidence in my practice because I don’t worry about peer or society judgement first - I focus on if I like it or not. Plus if I miss the community aspect, I just reach out to my friends and we go grab a coffee and talk art. I’m not saying everyone should have a home studio, but if you have some space and need some freedom then I recommend you try it out. I think you just might like it. 

- Sarah Zanchetta 

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