Jorian Charlton – fi di gyal dem – CONTACT Photography Festival


The annual Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival is known for presenting a diversity of exceptional lens-based projects by Canadian and international artists. Fortunately, the program is not only reserved for those who were able to travel to Toronto this past summer.From the range of artists that the CONTACT team has gathered for this year’s edition, we would like to bring portrait photographer Jorian Charlton to your living room. The virtual exhibition ‘fi di gyal dem’ of works by Charlton and visual artist Kadine Lindsay is running until December 10, presented by Doris McCarthy Gallery in partnership with CONTACT. Visit the exhibition curated by Roya DelSol, enjoy our Q&A with Jorian Charlton, and celebrate with us Black lives!

Alongside portraits, paintings, and animation, the exhibition ‘fi di gyal dem’ includes a series of commissioned, collaborative mixed media pieces which are an intimate celebration of the interior lives of Black women.Jorian, what’s the meaning behind the exhibition’s name ‘fi di gyal dem’?The exhibition's name is Jamaican patois. ‘Fi di’ means ‘for the', and ‘gyal dem’ means ‘girls’. The title is playful, inviting and also fitting as it is an exploration of black womanhood.

You and Kadine take a different route to a remarkably similar depiction of Black womanhood, influenced by your shared Jamaican heritage. How did you two meet?Kadine and I met on Instagram. I really admired their work and immediately knew that I wanted to work with them. Their work was so different from mine, but familiar. For me, Instagram has been a great way to connect with other artists or people I admire / want to collaborate with.

‘fi di gyal dem’ invites viewers to explore the interconnections in your and Kadine’s practices. Tell me more about the behind-the-scenes for this joint exhibition. How was it for you to see your works becoming refracted with additional illustrated elements added by Kadine?The process in which I create work is usually collaborative, so it was nice to see our works in dialogue with each other in a unique way. Kadine’s work is so vibrant and playful which truly complements and contrasts my portraits at the same time. The fluidity and organic lines and forms of her illustrations really activate the still images in a unique way.

Our society often projects upon Black women, or fails to see them at all. Sitting at the intersection of fashion and documentary, your contemporary portrayals allow Black women to be seen as they really are - bold, tender, vulnerable, sensual. Has that always been a focus in your practice? Yes, that has always been my focus in my practice. As a black woman, my work will always be through the lens of a black woman first and foremost. Black women are here and we are delicate and deserve respect. I want my work to show what it looks like when we are given space to be our most authentic selves.

We have many young portrait photographers in our community. Is there any advice that you would like to share with them?My advice to young portrait photographers in the community is to keep pushing yourself and do what you want to do and not what you think you're supposed to do. I didn't always produce work the way I am today. When I first started out, I felt as though I needed to do a little bit of everything in order to be ‘successful’, but soon realized that that wasn't necessarily the path for me. It may take some time to find your element, but it's there and, without sounding too corny, your lens will also guide you. It's important to tap into what you know best and your experiences because that is what will make your work unique.

You have been celebrating Black lives through a range of museum, outdoor, and virtual exhibitions, and we are excited to see what’s coming next. Is there a specific project you are working on right now?I'm always creating and planning new works. I’d like to create a photobook, so I’m starting to prepare for that project.__________________________________________________________________________About the ArtistsJorian Charlton is a portrait photographer based in Toronto. Her work focuses on Jamaican-Canadian culture through her personal experiences, highlighting beauty and style when it comes to contemporary modes of Black representation. She pursues reflections of identity and diasporic relationships to homeland, while her poetic approach to these themes characterizes her method of visual storytelling.Kadine Lindsay is an illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. They mix the styles of late-1990s and early-2000s animation with visuals from their Jamaican upbringing, to tell stories that aren’t usually told, depicting the nuances of Black Existence. In their work they strive to make people feel seen, heard and celebrated.__________________________________________________________________________About Scotiabank CONTACT Photography FestivalCONTACT fosters and celebrates the art and profession of photography with its annual Festival across greater Toronto in May and year-round programming in the CONTACT Gallery.In 2022, the 26th edition of the festival featured over 140 exhibitions by Canadian and international lens-based artists who presented an array of projects online and in museums, galleries, and public spaces across Toronto. Alongside Jorian Charlton, artists include Stephen Andrews, Claudia Andujar, Atong Atem, Raymond Boisjoly, Sandra Brewster, Sophie Calle, Sunil Gupta, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Brendan George Ko, Meryl McMaster, Memory Work Collective, Tyler Mitchell, Gisela Motta & Leandro Lima, Aïda Muluneh, Shirin Neshat, Anastasia Samoylova, Jeff Thomas, Natalie Wood, and many more.Visit the homepage of CONTACT for ongoing exhibitions.