Work of Art: Lake O’Hara by Blake Chorley

This black-and-white photographic artwork is part of this year’s Exposure Photography Festival.

Photograph by Blake Chorley

Title: Lake O’Hara, 2016
Artist: Blake Chorley
Medium: multi-layer ambrotype (photograph on glass)
Size: 24 inches by 20 inches
Location: Part of Exposure Photography Festival 2018,
Notes: Blake Chorley is represented locally by Christine Klassen Gallery. For information on hiking to some of the best-known landscape locales in the regional mountain areas, consult the Hiker’s Guide to the Art of the Canadian Rockies (1999), or, for the Lake O’Hara region specifically, The Lake O’Hara Art of J.E.H. MacDonald and Hiker’s Guide (2003) by Calgary author Lisa Christensen.


The photograph of Cathedral Mountain reflected in the crystal waters of Lake O’Hara sparkles with luxurious detail. The distant rock face is crisp, sunlit clouds dissolve into delicate filaments and the hummocks at the water’s edge are lush. If you have a mind for geometry, you’ll see triangles throughout. When you follow the outline of light around the spruce trees on the far left and down along the shore, the dark foreground looks as if it has been cut out and superimposed. (The actual construction features two glass plates, each hand-printed with a layer of the landscape, stacked over a black-metal backing, creating a heightened sense of space.)

This black-and-white photographic artwork is one of a series in a solo exhibition of young photographer, Blake Chorley. The exhibition is the award for winning last year’s Exposure Photography Festival Emerging Photographer Showcase. Chorley earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Windsor and a diploma in applied photography at Sheridan College. He operated a studio in Toronto for four years before moving to Calgary, where he graduated from the MFA program at the University of Calgary in 2016.

Well-versed in the craft and history of photography, Chorley also nods to the relationship between painting and photography. To make contact with the wilderness landscapes painted by members of the Group of Seven, Chorley tracked down 25 locations in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. As he documented them in photographs, he came to understand their artistic devices and brought painterly eyes to his photography. This particular landscape bears kinship with Group of Seven associate Tom Thomson’s Northern River.

Chorley mastered the wet-plate collodion photographic process introduced in the mid-19th century. He re-enacted the approach of Ansel Adams (his idol), camping for two months in the backcountry, where he used a large-plate camera and rigged up a portable outdoor darkroom. He’s now developing his own technique, a combination of film, digital and wet-plate processes.

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