For Stephanie Foden photography is as much about the physical as the visual, as much about the space as it is the light, maybe more.
“I take photos of what I see trying to establish a visual sense of place,” says Foden.
For the past four years her place has been in Brazil documenting the ordinary lives of her extraordinary neighbours in the northeastern coastal state of Bahia and its capital Salvador.
Her debut solo show “Saudade da Bahia” currently on display at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. The exhibit is part of the Scotiabank CONTACT photography festival taking place at various locations in Toronto and at satellite sites in the GTA.
After graduating from Journalism at Durham College Foden travelled solo to Bahia. She says her intention was to stay for a few weeks but the best laid plans etc.
“I was so compelled by the mystery and beauty of the region that I kept extending my stay. I extended is enough that I started to establish roots there and had no interest in leaving,” she says.
She was inspired by the intense visuality of the culture around her, in particular the capital, Salvador, where 80 per cent of the people are of African descent, the legacy of the city’s position as the largest port on the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
“I just fell in love with Bahia and loved photographing there in general. I learned a lot. I didn’t decide I wanted to be a photographer until I was almost done college, so in a way living and photographing in Bahia was like an education for me. Bahia has such beautiful colour and light, so I really started to craft my aesthetic with that in mind. My work has a lot of deep bold colours and much of that was inspired by Bahia,” she says.
Foden’s photographs capture the easy flow of colours and cultures which move, as Leonard Cohen’s sang, like the shoreline and the sea. It is her bold approach to softness which has earned Foden many accolades including being selected by Photo Boite as one of their 30 Under 30 women photographers. She also won the American Experience category in the 14th annual Smithsonian Magazine photography contest for her portrait of a Native American family taken on commission for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s initiative, The Development Set. In 2016 Her work won her the Emerging Photographer Award at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s annual fundraiser, RMG Exposed.
Saudade de Bahia continues until June 11 2017.