By Lara Chatterjee
Looking at the stunning photographs of Mimi Cabell’s exhibit Quiescence, it’s hard to believe she once thought photography wasn’t a serious career choice.
Cabell has been interested in photography ever since her parents gave her a point-and-shoot camera in high school. She immediately started taking pictures of her friends, and eventually took some weekend courses and workshops.
In one such course, she took a portrait that she affectionately calls “my first really important photograph.” It reminded her colleagues of the work of Cindy Sherman, a photographer Cabell admires. But Cabell didn’t see photography as a serious career.
She decided to attend Malaspina University in B.C. for a few years, but then took a year off once she realized she needed some time to think. “Photography was the only thing I was interested in consistently,” she says. She applied to Ryerson on her mother’s advice, then packed up and left for Toronto.
The fourth year image arts student has had her work exhibited in many group shows and has begun to make a name for herself. Quiescence is Cabell’s first solo show. The exhibit came about by accident. While home for Christmas in Nanaimo, B.C., Cabell took a series of landscape photographs.
“I was shooting like crazy,” she says. “Like 30 rolls of film.” She had an assignment due for class a few months later, but she wasn’t sure what she was looking for — she just wanted to shoot landscapes and wanted to do it at home. “It was the blurry ones I was most attracted to,” Cabell says.
Quiescence, a series of these blurred photographs, is described as an exploration of Cabell’s childhood landscapes as seen through the eyes of an adult. The images are haunting and familiar all at once; it is serious work created by a serious artist. The Ryerson Gallery accepted Cabell’s work during an open call submission. An appointed committee reviewed each submission for the faculty- and student-run gallery, taking into consideration the space for the exhibit and how the gallery would look when something is hung.
This year, every exhibit in the gallery has been an affiliate of Ryerson, consisting mainly of students. It gives students the chance to work in a professional situation. The gallery is part of a learning process where students have control over how their work is exhibited. “It’s a little bit nerve-racking and stressful,” Cabell says.
She likes having control of how the exhibit is presented, “(but) it’s not just hanging pictures on the wall; it goes way beyond that.” Cabell works mainly with film cameras, appreciating the tangibility of physical film. But her photography is evolving. She reads constantly, absorbing new styles and techniques, combining her skills with the knowledge she has learned from Ryerson’s program, especially camera operations. It’s difficult for Cabell to describe how she takes a photo.
“I’ll just get a feeling about something, and I’ll photograph whatever I feel can express that feeling,” she says. “It is understanding the moment and seeing the moment, but also understanding the camera and how to capture that moment.” Quiescence will be exhibited at the Ryerson Gallery (80 Spadina Ave.) until Jan. 21.