by June Lee
Capture Photography festival is an event that features local and international artists and their accomplishments as the media of photography and documentation. Dana Claxton, a Vancouver based artist, has contributed many of her works including her book Paris June Fourth, Fifth, & Sixth, Two Thousand & Six, which recounts her three day stay in Paris, France. Her book contains 77 black and white photographs taken from Parisian urban life, that investigate issues of gender studies, Western culture fetishes, and the commodification of aboriginal aesthetics in contemporary culture.
As an individual of the Hunkpapa Lakota group, Claxton’s attention focuses heavily on the relationship between the realities of Aboriginal culture as a result of colonization, and its stereotyped projection throughout western cultures. The first page opens with a close up image of what appears to be a radiating stained glass window as an architectural feature of a cathedral. This kaleidoscopic pattern is perhaps our first allusion to the recurring theme of cultural and religious colonization of minorities, which is apart of the history of almost every indigenous group around the world.
What follows is a mixture of scattered images of commoditized Aboriginal paraphernalia, which includes figurines, traditional headdress decorations, and icons of “Indians” in relation to cowboys. Despite a violent, tragic and subsequently suppressed history, Claxton’s photographs reveal the diversity of the culture being reduced to toys, accessories and other products for sale.
This misrepresentation extends into the concerns of body imagery and the objectification of sexuality. A blurry photograph captures two nude figures in a painting, which undermines the individual, in favour of the idea of possessing the female body. Further commoditization occurs in a photograph of a nude male figure in a soccer poster for loveball. Claxton’s exploration of minorities and gender labels through understated and inaccurate tropes brings to light the rampant stereotyping in popular culture.
Pages throughout intimate and close up images, are photographs of European architecture and historical statues. Traditional Parisian features are captured in severely cropped angles, where the subject intrudes into the cohesive white spaces of the sky. It conjures the illusion similar to the tip of an iceberg, where beneath the surface of an image lies a much greater and hidden history.
The last page of the book closes with Claxton’s piece Staircase, where a shelf of unidentifiable books are stacked against a wall – floor to floor, wall to wall, exploding with words unread and stories unheard. The viewer is left confronted with the daunting unknown contents of these narratives, which is echoed in the red stained pages hidden between folded images of Paris. This detail is my favorite part of this book; this subtle yet integral feature that underlies the idea that behind the constructed reality we live there is always the untold truth of minorities.