Monday, 1 September 2014

Getting Intimate With Local Songwriters

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Photo: Jamie Kronick

If you check out live shows in Ottawa regularly, chances are you've encountered Jamie Kronick. You've either seen him play with many local bands or you've seen him at a show, supporting his friends and fellow musicians. And of course, you just can't forget that hair! But maybe you didn't know that Kronick is a photographer. His exhibition The Songwriter is currently on display at the Ottawa Art Gallery Annex (located in Ottawa City Hall) until October 12.

Kronick plays drums with various local bands, including GoodLuck Assembly, Scattered Clouds, Her Harbour, Keek, Laurent Bourque and André Bluteau, just to name a few. Born and raised in Ottawa, he picked up a camera for the first time about 6 years ago. He has been working professionally as a full-time commercial photographer for 3 years. Kronick explained that the interest came from his upbringing in the band/music world, where he worked closely with photographers. "I was always the one working on the artwork for the album for all my bands. One day, I jumped in and said I feel like doing this." Kronick recently did work for his friends in Amos the Transparent for their most recent album. He also does a lot of promotional photos for various local bands.

The Songwriter is comprised of 28 portraits, 20 of which are currently on display at the OAG Annex. The series features both emerging and established, including a few Juno award winners and nominees Ian Tamblin, Amanda Rheaume, Kathleen Edwards, Jim Bryson. From the 28 subjects in the series, Gabrielle Giguère (Her Harbour) is the only musician that Kronick has played with.

The series has been in the works for a few years. Kronick was a student at School of Photographic Art of Ottawa (SPAO), graduating in 2011. This project started as his graduating series, where students show a body of work when they graduate from the school. Two of the images are from 2010 and the bulk of the projects are images taken in 2011. After graduating, Kronick let the project sit until just recently. The Ottawa Art Gallery approached him to show the work earlier this year. "I was reluctant because I had already been sitting on the images for about 3 years and I wasn't super excited about showing older work, I had so much newer work that I'm more excited about. So I counter-offered them with, if I could do new work for the same series and do an amalgamation of the old and the new, that's something I would be interested in."

In choosing subjects for his project, Kronick tried to show a cross-section of the music scene, musicians from different genres, different ages, trying to represent both genders equally. The one criteria that he strictly followed was the idea of a traditional songwriter. "I really wanted the traditional songwriter so somebody who sits down alone and writes something [...] I wanted the intimate solitude of songwriting."

When asked about the idea that inspired the exhibition, Kronick shared that he's been asked that question so many times recently, and it's only in answering the question that he ended up discovering the series' true inspiration. "I play in so many bands and I work with so many songwriters, in the projects I'm in, I'm typically very involved in the songwriting process [...] But what I realized is that I'm never really there for the inception of the song, I'm never there when the song is formally created, when the person creates something out of nothing. Photography was my way to see what that looks like. I never knew what that looked like, I was never involved in that process so this is my sneaky way to see what it looked like, and to see what it looked like from my peers and from people I looked up to musically."

We can all agree that songwriting is a personal process, albeit different for each individual. But why is that? "These people are committing to words, to lyrics, which I can't imagine ever doing. I'm not much of a wordsmith [...] You can dress it up however you want, and that's where I come in as a musician in the process. You can put any kind of beat or sound to any kind of song but at the end of the day, when you strip away everything, you're left with melody and lyrics."

There were lots of surprises for Kronick when creating the series, especially when he discovering how open and willing people were when asked to participate in the project. "At least two thirds of the subjects in this series, I didn't know personally before this. I knew who they were by reputation or by their music, and I would reach out via email, Facebook or Twitter and say "Hey, this is what I'm doing, here are a few example of photos, would you be willing?" I only had one no." For the most part, these images were taken in the subjects' residence (living room, bedroom, home studio, etc). Kronick was surprised on how wiling people were to give themselves to him and allow him into such a personal space. "They're letting me into their lives, so that was certainly a surprise."

As a musician and someone really involved in Ottawa's music scene, Kronick has nothing but positive things to say about our city. "I think [the scene] is awesome. It's thriving! I feel like as I'm getting to the age where I'm meeting more people all the time and the lines are blurring between genres and people are co-existing from one genre to the next [...] I speak to people a bit older than me who've been in the scene longer than me, and they see now as a time where things are really happening where as I feel I've sort of just grown into it because I'm now at the age where things are happening. It seems to be better than ever, that seems to be the general opinion. That's something that this series touches on as well, the diversity of the music scene, be it in age, in genre [...] There's a whole bunch of insanely talented people in the city."

So what's next for Kronick? Well, you'll have to stay tuned! According to him, he has a lot of stuff on the go and lots of seeds that have yet to develop. Safe to say, Kronick will keep thriving and shedding light on the best our city has to offer. "I think I've done a good job representing Ottawa and the diversity we have," shared Kronick. I think we can all agree with that!

Check out The Songwriter until October 12. The vernissage will be taking place Thursday, September 4th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm.

August 30 - October 12, 2014
9 am - 8pm
OAG Annex (City Hall)
110 Laurier Avenue West

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