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Photo courtesy of Megan Conley

U of C photography instructor takes part in Pecha Kucha Event

By Troy Hasselman, January 23 2020

Ten female photographers will take stage on Feb. 7 as part of the Exposure Photography Festival for a presentation that uses the Pecha Kucha storytelling format. Pecha Kucha involves a presenter showing 20 slides for 20 seconds each, with the entire presentation lasting no longer than six minutes and 40 seconds. 

One of the participants in the presentation will be University of Calgary photography instructor Megan Conley, who uses her stark, black-and-white photography to explore themes of self-identity. 

“I grew up with a facial and dental deformity,” Conley explains. “I started using photography in 2011 during my undergrad degree. My presentation is based on how that’s changed over the last ten years of really starting to form an identity and talk about myself. Gradually, over the years, I’ve done a lot more residencies specifically with the Calgary Board of Education and now I’m doing a little more work with youth. Most recently I did work with the Artscape Gibraltar Point in Toronto.”

“Trauma.” // Courtesy of Megan Conley.

Though Conley works largely within photography she was not originally a photographer, but rather began as a painter before switching to photography while in art school and has worked in other mediums including sculpting and 3D printing.

“I started off as a painting major at AUArts,” Conley explains. “I actually switched to photography in my third year. When I was doing grad school I did a lot of sculpture work. Now I’m getting back into photography and 3D printing so I’m quite interdisciplinary. I work in a lot of different mediums, but photography has definitely been in and out of my practice throughout the years.”

One of the major appeals of photography for Conley is the speed at which she can realize her ideas compared to other mediums such as painting.

“Creatively, I work quite quickly and with photography I find I am able to get my ideas and what I want to experiment with out at a faster pace,” Conley says. “Painting can be a lot more time consuming. That was actually why I started with photography initially was to be able to express myself quickly. You can take 100’s of photos and delete and edit them at a quicker pace than you can with painting.”

Conley’s work uses a stark black and white colour palette that makes use of X-ray images and deals with her past medical history and ideas of self-image. Conley says that the ideas she’s trying to communicate translate better into black and white.

“I’m not really drawn to colour,” Conley says. “I find that I deal a lot with X-rays in my work too and black and white just shows up better. I’m also dealing with a lot of images of skulls too, which I think works better in black and white than in colour. I wouldn’t really be able to speak to colour if I was to use it. With X-rays and the past showing up in my work, I’m gravitating more to black and white than colour.”

The 10 photographers participating in the Pecha Kucha presentation include commercial photographer Julie Vincent, photojournalist Leah Hennel and photography and skateboarding instructor Marlene Hielema. Conley notes this illustrates the diversity present within photography as a medium.

“What’s interesting about the 10 presenters we’re showing is that it’s not what you would usually expect to see,” Conley says. “There’s a wide range of instructors. It’s such a diverse group and the medium can be used in so many different ways, versus your typical family portraiture and what we commonly see in photography.”

The presentation will be presented by PhotoED Magazine and take place on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Central Library. Regular admission is $15 and $10 for students, seniors, educators and unemployed people. Super tickets are available for $25, which includes a one-year subscription to PhotoED Magazine, and for $35, which includes a two-year subscription to PhotoED Magazine. 

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