Asking a generation: What’s the problem?

Located in the Latin quarter of downtown, Théâtre Sainte-Catherine Café-Bar hosts What’s the problem?, an impressive photography exhibit by Ana Jovmir. The collection centres on a group of physically beautiful young adults and issues they feel themselves facing in capitalist society. The images capture their expressions and reactions to life.

The message the exhibit arrives at is one of taking inspiration from your frustration with your surroundings. It is a conception that would undoubtedly be taken to heart by the more creative crowds that are drawn to the venue the exhibit was presented in. Théâtre Sainte-Catherine Café-Bar is certainly not traditional in the sense of a gallery exhibit: The photographs and accompanying statements are displayed throughout the front café area as well as into the actual theatre performance area. A small space overall, it is difficult to get a sense of the whole project without feeling slightly intrusive to patrons at the café or theatre crew members prepping for the evening show.

The photographer’s subjects feel constrained, whether by inequality, violence, imbalance of political power, loss of true communication, or a simple lack of enthusiasm about life itself. Each model brings focus to an issue in their lives by providing the photographer with a quote to be displayed beneath their portrait. The photographs are unabashed, effortless, and spontaneous. The collection feels timeless due to Jovmir’s decision to set all of the images in black and white. The power of the photos are only intensified by the incorporation of text quotes taken from each subject and displayed below each image.

Italian photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin famously stated, “the abstraction of black and white allows photography to speak in more symbolic term- colour, sometimes is all too real.” By removing colour from our interpretation, Jovmir brought the images down to their bare bones and allowed for the humanity underlying each subject’s experience to project with greater focus.

Self-discovery was a focus of the photographer as she conceptualized this project and selected friends and acquaintances in her life to photograph. As the project evolved it came to be an ever important illustration for creative individuals, and Jovmir stated in the exhibits description: “The inevitable destination: the place where shackles, struggles, dilemma and grief reconfigure into action.”

These individuals, who appear to be at different stages of life, illustrate the variety of challenges along the way. Along with their individual photographs, Jovmir included a quote from each of her subjects to further illuminate their humanness. One of the models, a young man named Brian, hid his face while displaying a tattoo along his bicep that reads ‘what a life.’ His quote was one of confusion and despair, as he stated to the photographer that, “What bothers me most is how little I give a fuck about anything.”

Just a few feet away, this image was contrasted to the portrait of an unimaginably free and unguarded image of a woman named Tessa with arms raised, eyes closed, and head titled up. She looked incredibly at peace with herself, and her quote was one of greater optimism and inclination towards taking action and reads: “We’re just as responsible for the consequences of our inaction as for the consequences of our actions. There is no difference: Either way you’ve made a choice, and the longer you refuse to act the more things turn to shit.”

Unless you are already visiting the theatre for a show, do not expect to easily explore the whole exhibit. Visiting the café-bar earlier in the evening would likely be the best chance to peek inside the theatre and glimpse the entire exhibit. Whether you want to take in a theatre performance, or simply sip on the espresso or alcoholic drink of your choice surrounded by art, What’s the Problem is certainly an exhibit worth visiting.

What’s the problem? is running until March 13 at the Théâtre Sainte-Catherine Café-Bar (264 Rue Sainte-Catherine E). There is no entry fee.

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