The idea for photographer Maya Fuhr’s first solo exhibition came from the same place as many great creative breakthroughs: the debilitating anxiety that comes with a particularly nasty hangover. On view at Toronto’s Gallery on Wade, “Curb The Hub” is a culmination of the dreamy, spontaneous, oft-voyeuristic point of view the 27-year-old artist has been honing over the past few years.
Taken at face value, the work is a tongue-in-cheek iteration of aesthetically pleasing, high flash hipster photos in the same vein as Ryan McGinley or fellow Canuck Petra Collins. But when you dig a little deeper, the work tackles notions of body image, sexual identity and overall self-worth. Images are cropped and zoomed to create a sense of claustrophobia or, as Fuhr puts it, being stuck. Despite it’s glossy veneer, the images are oft humorously unsettling, like a David Lynch film.
Who says nothing good ever came from a hangover?
“Curb The Hub” is on view at Gallery on Wade until 6pm. It closes today so if you’re in Toronto, GO SEE IT. No, seriously, GO.
Maya Fuhr with Curator Sophie Blumenthal
When did you first pick up a camera?
I first picked up a camera when I was about 5 years old when I was at a wedding. I know this because there’s a cute photo of me in a pink dress carrying the camera. I’ve always loved the romantic aesthetics of weddings so I was probably feeling myself already.
Your work is super “Instagram Friendly.” Is that a nice coincidence or has Instagram had a direct effect on your work? How do you curate your feed?
I shoot on film so when I want to post the photos on Instagram after they’ve been processed, I send them to myself. There’s some annoying steps. Haha. Taking the effort to email myself photos makes me more selective in which photos to post, and which suit my current color scheme on the IG “feed.” I tend to go for the more minimalist photos with not a lot going on in the background, to be honest. I’m cropping images a lot tighter than I used to but I’m never shooting intentionally for Instagram. Usually I post when I’ve been archiving my photographs or when I’m lazy at home.
Do you read your Instagram comments?
I read all of my Instagram comments! I never have excessive amounts so it’s easy to keep up.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever slid into your DMs?
I’ve had a couple “casting” inquiries from Spanish guys with no shirts on.
Where does the name “Curb The Hub” come from?
Curb : a check or restraint on something. Hub : the effective center of an activity.
I’m trying to control the viewer’s center of focus by cropping the image.
Is there a story you’re trying to tell through this selection of images or is it more about a mood?
“Curb The Hub” originated when I happened to have this overwhelming feeling that I was out of control. It was a Sunday, I was hungover and unorganized and my summer had been flying by. I think so much of our lives revolve around control or lack thereof – if it’s in the form of self image, structure in relationships and monogamy, or even that common obsession with controlling all aspects of identities encompassed by a tiny iPhone screen.
Thematically, each photo presented in “Curb The Hub” is about my own personal views on control; with the small nuances and details in each photo being the center of the viewer’s focus. Each photo tells it’s own story. For example, my photo called “Stuck” is about that feeling of wanting to explode at the seams and maybe cause a bit of trouble but you’re stuck in the middle, like you’re in a straight jacket. I paired that photo with “Condition & Clean” because it’s the juxtaposition of being constrained and controlling one’s self image. When we’re alone and can walk around naked and lack inhibition, but when we’re in public we tend to control ourselves more by dressing a certain way or maybe presenting a more “put together” version of ourselves. In my opinion, sometimes these pressures can actually make you feel physically stuck in the comfort of your own safe space where it’s chill.
Tell me about the decision to crop and zoom in on certain images and repeat certain images?
Every single photo in the exhibition is presented in full horizontal format and then zoomed in and cropped to be a square. I’d like the viewer to notice how their brain adapts when looking at printed images. Personally, I think we now find satisfaction in cropped, square format images because we’ve been accustomed to looking at Instagram on small screens for so long now. I want to attempt to take this control back and find humor in it.
When it comes to photographing people, what draws you to a subject?
I like photographing people that are comfortable in their own skin.
How do your subjects react to your photos? Have you spoken to anyone depicted in this exhibit?
Usually people love the photographs I depict of them, at least I haven’t experienced otherwise. It’s kind of an unspoken mutual agreement that they’re comfortable and happy to be documented while I’m actually taking the photo. I know that Claire (the blonde in the photographs) said something like, “Yay I’m finally a star,” with a bit of sarcasm, but mostly truth.
Your work comes across as quite feminine. Are you a “girly girl” yourself?
I’m a woman documenting my life, so this may be viewed as a feminine practice but I never hear guy’s art being “boyish” or “masculine” so I have to say that these questions are always a bit weird for me. My femininity changes daily for sure.
Why do you think the Toronto art scene is having such a moment now?
Toronto has such a thriving art scene right now! There are always art openings and musicians in town etc… I think it’s the most cosmopolitan, culturally diverse city in Canada and people come here to make a name for themselves. It’s kind of like New York but cleaner and more condensed.
Were your parents always supportive of your aspirations or were they ever like, “Get a real job?”
I really have the best parents in the world. They’ve always been supportive of me through my lack of interest in the school systems and my many phases of wanting to be an actor, director, dancer, photographer etc. etc. My dad is a cool mix because he was a film maker and photographer when he was my age and then got his Psychology PHD afterwards and my mom is a chef turned eco-friendly designer, so I was raised by a couple creative souls.