Created using source material from the Thomas Bouckley Collection, Whitby-based artist Wes Peel’s cyanotype photomontages bring together various historical photographs of Oshawa to create new narratives and offer different perspectives. In describing the series, Peel says the works, “combine and unify different objects and moments together. As with other forms of collage and photomontage, new combinations [of images] create new ways of seeing, and our mind invariably looks for connections.” Here, the combination of different images create fantastical scenes where fact and fiction merge. For example, in Ghost Tuners apparitions of Williams Piano Company employees playing instruments appear floating in front of an interior view of the factory.
The Thomas Bouckley Collection, holds over 3,500 historic and contemporary photographs of Oshawa and the Durham region, providing a vital resource for connecting the community with local history. Thomas Bouckley’s goal in putting his collection together was to create a photographic archive documenting the evolution of Oshawa. Peel transforms the images in the collection to encourage stories that contribute to a shared history.
A hybrid of digital and traditional methods, Peel’s cyanotypes are created by collaging digital images which are printed as negatives. The negative is then placed on chemically-coated paper and exposed to light, creating the blue-hued image. Cyanotypes are an early photographic process dating back to the 1840s and their nostalgic quality is fitting for Peel’s historical reinterpretations. Alternative photographic processes continue to draw artists for their simplicity, expressive qualities and unique aesthetic. Born and raised in Oshawa, artist Wes Peel currently lives in Whitby and is an arts educator at Henry Street High School.