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Home » Publications » Catalogue Excerpts » Bodies in Translation: Age and Creativity

Bodies in Translation: Age and Creativity

George Steeves

Artist Biography
Born in 1943, Steeves has practised chemical photography since boyhood, but it wasnít until completing university that he had the time or means to pursue it intensively. The date on his darkroom sink (Halifax) is 1974 and it is still in full production. Steeves was employed for 39 years as a research engineer at a number of laboratories. This provided the reliable economic engine necessary for completely independent photo work. For three decades Steeves worked about 70 hours a week at his job and on his art in equal measure. The burden on his personal life has been considerable.

Steeves has produced about 40,000 negatives and 4,000 exhibition prints. His exhibitions have been mounted principally in Quebec and northern Europe. Several public collections have acquired his work.

Steevesí primary subject matter has been the nude. He sardonically refers to himself as a “body mechanic.” His major works have blended nudity with extended portraiture. Years, sometimes decades, have been spent photographing a small number of fearless female collaborators. Sometimes the images have been supplemented by biographical texts. The objective for Steeves always has been absolute and complete exposure.

Artist Statement
I have had an intense relationship with elderly people my entire life. Now at 74, and having suffered a stroke, I am unequivocally one of them myself. I was born in wartime 1943, when elderly people and women dominated the social space. After my father belatedly returned in 1948, our family was not a happy one. I compensated for this by maintaining and extending my network of highly educated elderly widows and spinsters. I was taught far more by them than by the school system. I can recall all their names even now and see them clearly in my mindís eye.

The date on my darkroom sink is 1974. It is still in full operation. The six pictures on display for this exhibition are selected for the purpose of matching them to the exhibition thesis from a massive photographic archive called Excavations on which I laboured for ten years. I have never focused on elderly people as subjects for my cameras, but when they came my way I treated them with the same probing regard as everyone else. I see and view aging as a process of subtraction. One by one abilities and capabilities are taken away, but paradoxically I am consoled by an expanded scope of emotional awareness.

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