Fredericton-based photographer Gary Weekes likes to think of his art as “slightly crooked” to make it stand out.
Weekes won the Research and Creation Canada Council grant worth $25,000. The grant is intended for Canadian artists and artist groups in the early stages of developing their creative projects.
Weekes began his photographic journey as a commercial photographer in New York. Working commercially limited the creative drive that really motivated him.
“I like mistakes, I like coincidences,” he said. “What I try to do is look at things a little lopsided, a little differently, so my art stands out or at least feels like it’s pushing the art form.”
Weekes said the challenge for artists like him is balancing creating and working a nine-to-five job to pay the bills at the end of the month.
“[This grant] gives me the opportunity to receive funding to create new work,” said Weekes. “You never know when inspiration will strike.”
Weekes intends to gradually step away from his day job at Jobs Unlimited, a nonprofit organization that provides employment and work experience opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities, and to begin work on his new project, The EveryPerson Project: The Superstore.
“I teamed up with a local grocery store to take a series of portraits of people in the store,” he said. This project runs throughout the year. He hopes to start filming on this project later this fall.
Weekes said while there’s pressure not to know how his portraits “come together as a cohesive body of work,” that’s part of the beauty of working for yourself as an artist.
Weekes is also the first photographer to be represented by the Gallery on Queen, an art gallery in downtown Fredericton. In addition to his photography, he is a co-founder of the New Brunswick Black Artists Alliance.
“I think a lot of the good things that have happened to me in the last two or three years have come from being a part of this organization,” Weekes said.
“Numbers make you strong; It’s nice to work with like-minded people.”
Weekes said it was important that photographers be given the same respect as painters and sculptors.
“Today, photography is seen as an art form in its own right, while it has always been seen as something that just records an event,” he said.
Gallery on Queen director Nadia Khoury said the more she got to know Weekes, the more she felt he was a good fit for the gallery. She believes Weekes has a good eye, which she says is what it takes to be a great fine art photographer.
Khoury wrote a letter of support for Weeke’s application for the scholarship.
“Through my conversations with Gary, I have become increasingly hopeful about the prospect of a broader realization of black artist talent in New Brunswick,” Khoury wrote in the letter.
“Our ability to support colourists is vital to the Gallery on Queen and to our province’s culture as a whole.”