The Stephen Bulger Gallery Turns 20
by Laura Horne-Gaul May 4th, 2015
The Stephen Bulger Gallery recently celebrated 20 years! A major accomplishment in the world of the arts. Stephen Bulger has also contributed towards founding the CONTACT Photography Festival and the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto. Bulger is a past president for the Association of International Photography Art Dealers and has been appointed to serve on the Canadian Cultural Property Review Board. After having the opportunity to interview Bulger I was semi surprised but not surprised at all by the response that Bulger doesn’t have a favorite photographer or photograph. The institute of the image is so vast that of course it would be impossible to pinpoint such a thing as a favorite when so all encompassed by the image itself.
Bulger's story is one of hobbyist photographer turned successful photography gallerist / dealer, “In high school my hobby of photography veered into the direction of ‘fine art photography’ and became a full time passion while I studied at Ryerson. While there, I began coordinating student print sales as fundraisers and was asked to help open a gallery for the Photo Arts Department at 80 Spadina. I enjoyed the myriad details involved with managing the Ryerson Gallery, but dreamed of having more control. The dreaming turned more solid after I stopped volunteering for Ryerson and I felt a strong desire to exhibit photographs that I thought were being overlooked. Luckily I had an older brother and sister who guided me through a business plan which was not only essential to opening the gallery, but in making sure that I could keep the doors open,” explains, Bulger.
As the gallery continues to grow Bulger plans to maintain his active programme which involves up to 12 exhibitions a year showcasing photographers ranging from historic, documentation and experimental / digital. Bulger reflects, “The gallery’s inventory continues to grow, so I have started the process of looking for a new location. I expect we’ll remain at the current location through the summer of 2017, but hope that by then I will have found a new home for the next 20 years of operation.” Many Queen West galleries are doing the same as the street changes its dynamic from culture hub to condo core including Clint Roenisch Gallery and the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art.
One of the unique aspects to Bulger’s gallery space is the use of an attached viewing, theatre esque area called CAMERA that is used for the gallery’s artists to choose and screen video/film work which relate to their exhibitions. CAMERA offers free matinee screenings and is also rentable. Bulger plans to continue CAMERA at the gallery's new location.
With the digital revolution at its peak photography has become a fragile medium with the masses having immense accessibility and with software such as PHOTOSHOP luring the artist to distort / manipulate the image. In a very apropos manner Bulger responds, “In terms of digital grab, it has made photography much more accessible for many people to practice and distribute. The advent of software like PHOTOSHOP has made it easier for people to understand the subjectivity of a photograph. In terms of the prints, it has fostered a new generation of colour prints of high quality and longer durability. In terms of digital storage, I believe that people are making the assumption that digital files with little maintenance will last as long as negatives. Unfortunately this is simply not true and a vast archive of images made in the first 25 years of the medium will likely disappear.”
The future of the print in photography relies on the archival quality of the output and storage. To ensure that our generation is represented by the image appropriately in the future and not by corrupt digital files of images Bulger recommends, “My only advice is to ensure that all decisions about size, paper, type of printing etc. is the best possible decision to produce the best quality work.”
Currently on exhibition is work by André Kertész Titled Surveillance running until June 20th, 2015 Part of the CONTACT Photography Festival.
Copyright Scott Conarroe, courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery
Loop, Biloxi, MS, 2010
Copyright Gilbert Garcin, courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery
L’envol d’Icare (d’après Léonard de Vinci) - The flight of Icarus (after Leonardo da Vinci), 2005
Copyright The Estate of André Kertész, courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery
New York, November 10, 1961