Fredericton-based photographer Gary Weekes likes to look at his art as “slightly askew” as a way to make it stand out.
Weekes won the Research and Creation Canada Council Grant, valued at $25,000. The grant is for Canadian artists and artist groups at the initial stage of development of their creative projects.
Weekes started his photography journey working as a commercial photographer in New York. Working commercially limited the creative drive that truly motivated him.
“I like mistakes, I like serendipity,” he said. “What I try to do is to look at things slightly askew, slightly differently, so that my art would stand out or at least feel like it’s pushing the artform forward.”
Weekes said the challenge for artists like himself is to balance creating and having a nine to five job to pay the bills at the end of the month.
“[This grant] gives me the opportunity to get funding so that I can create new pieces of work,” said Weekes. “You never know when inspiration will strike.”
Weekes intends to slowly transition away from his day job at Jobs Unlimited, a not-for-profit organization providing employment and work experience opportunities to adults with intellectual disabilities, and begin working on his new project, “The EveryPerson Project: The Superstore.”
“I’ve partnered with a local grocery store to do a series of portraits of people within the store,” he said. This project will run over the course of the entire year. He hopes to start shooting for that project later this fall.
Weekes said while there’s pressure in not knowing how his portraits “will come together as a cohesive body of work,” that it’s part of the beauty of working for yourself as an artist.
Weekes is also the first photographer to be represented by Gallery on Queen, a fine art gallery located in downtown Fredericton. Alongside his photography, he is the co-founder of the New Brunswick Black Artists Alliance.
“I think a lot of the good things that have happened to me over the last two or three years has been because I’ve been part of this organization,” said Weekes.
“There’s strength in numbers; there’s beauty in working with like-minded individuals.”
Weekes said it’s important that photographers be held in the same esteem as painters and sculptors.
“Photography is now being considered a separate art form, whereas it was always looked at as something that just records an event,” he said.
Nadia Khoury, the director of Gallery on Queen, said the more she got to know Weekes, the more she felt that 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 arts photographer.
Khoury wrote a letter of support for Weekes’ application for the grant.
“Through my discussions with Gary, I have become increasingly hopeful about the prospect of a more inclusive realization of the talents of Black artists in New Brunswick,” Khoury wrote in the letter.
“Our ability to support artists of colour is crucial to Gallery on Queen and to the culture of our province as a whole.”