Apr 12, 2022

Intuitive reflections

Jorian Charlton reflects on four photographs featured in her solo AGO exhibition. 

Jorian Charlton, Untitled (Nyabel & Nevine), 2021.

Jorian Charlton, Untitled (Nyabel & Nevine), 2021. Inkjet print. Overall: 76.2 x 101.6 cm. Courtesy of the artist. © Jorian Charlton.

When portrait photographer Jorian Charlton steps behind the camera, she’s driven by intuition. The minute details of her photoshoots are rarely planned but rather realized and embraced as they form organically – an approach that has helped define her striking style of medium-format film portraiture.     

Charlton’s debut AGO solo exhibition, Jorian Charlton: Out of Many [closed at the AGO in August 2022], spans generations, placing 35mm slides taken by her father in the 1970s and ‘80s alongside her contemporary portraits of Black Canadians. Reimagining the idea of a family photo album, the show explores cultural identity as it moves over time and space. 

Below, Charlton offers us a window into her unique creative process, sharing some candid reflections about four of her personal favourite photographs in the exhibition.  

A photo of two young boys standing in a field.

Jorian Charlton, Mikhail & Kaleb, 2020. Courtesy of the artist. © Jorian Charlton.

This is one of the first photographs I took when I made the switch from digital to medium format film in 2020. Documenting siblings Mikhail and Kaleb (ongoing series). Their mother is one of my oldest friends, so I've watched them grow up and felt it was important to document their growth/relationship. They're innocent and soft, though the media portrays Black boys as individuals to be feared.


Nyabel & Nevine, 2021 (image at top)

Info: Photography: Jorian Charlton, Models: @nyabelgg & @nevinneee, Assistant: @jjjjjjjoshua, Hair: @riahatzis, Makeup: @milavictoriastudio, Styling: @bulia_fashionator, Florist/Set Design: @succulent.slut666 & @jjjjjjjoshua 

The process behind this image is somewhat contrasting to the one of Mikhail & Kaleb. It's newer and definitely more stylized. I was working with a team of people. Stylists, makeup artists, hair, and yet... It still wasn't a big production. It was very DIY and was photographed in my friend's backyard. There was no plan, no set vision in the beginning. Collaborating and working with teams is so great because things can just really come together as you go along. It's not until the end where you see what you've created. You get to sit back and think, wow...we did that. When you work with like-minded people you get amazing results. This shoot in particular was done when I was eight months pregnant, and I've always had a passion to create through both of my pregnancies. Some of my biggest career milestones have come while I was pregnant, so I'm proud of myself for my journey and never giving up.


A photo of a young woman sitting in a field.

Jorian Charlton, Georgia, 2021. Courtesy of the artist. © Jorian Charlton.

Georgia is one of my favourite people to shoot. Truly my muse. Her energy is vibrant and she's down to earth. Simply, someone you just want to be around. This shoot was spontaneous in that we had no idea where we were going to take photographs until we started. This image is part of a series where I photographed Georgia and her younger sister Kukua. I love that you can't tell where this photo is taken, the fact that this could have been taken in another country adds just a hint of mystery. She's unbothered and calm. I feel it is important to showcase the relationship between Black sisters because young dark skinned Black women have a common stereotype of being aggressive or overbearing. This image of Georgia and her sister is quite soft, which wasn’t intentional however it highlights how safe the relationship between them is.


A photo of a young woman posing while wearing a fashionable outfit.

Jorian Charlton, Rembo, 2021. Courtesy of the artist. © Jorian Charlton.

Model: @am_rembo @wantmanagement ⁠Photo assist: @jjjjjjjoshua Styling: @corey_ng @p1magency⁠ Makeup: @ronnietremblay @p1magency⁠ Hair: @steph___george⁠ Art Direction: @joanna_kam

This photo, for the Spring issue of S/ Magazine, was done with a small team. I feel like I had a really great connection with the model. She had great energy and was so happy that a Black woman was photographing her, which speaks to how important it is keep doing this work. Although it was our first- time meeting, it really felt like photographing a friend. The shoot felt very natural, collaborative, and overall, we enjoyed working together. Of all the images I've taken, this portrait is one of my favourites.

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