The panoramas of artist Danny Singer

The panoramas of artist Danny Singer

Photographer creates images of small Prairie towns

  • Jan. 8, 2020 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Lin Stranberg Photography by Don Denton

Danny Singer, a photo-based artist who lives in North Vancouver, says he loves to come back to Vancouver after spending three months on the Prairies.

Danny spends his summers exploring and photographing Canadian and American prairie towns with his wife Tisha. In the past two decades or so, he has photographed more than 160 towns from which he has produced an epic series of works depicting the main streets that define them.

The photos, direct frontal views, are astonishing. At first glance, they appear as panoramas; a closer look reveals a much greater complexity. They are constructs, with each one an assemblage of as many as 150 digital images that he methodically shoots, slices, masks and seamlessly edits together on a tricked-out 2013 MacBook Pro. He uses a jumbo Epson inkjet printer in his small home studio to produce them as big-scale photographic prints, known as giclée or simply inkjet prints. They can be as large as 44” x 96” in size, a format at the top end for mounting materials.

When it comes to describing his sophisticated process, Danny prefers to keep it simple.

“It’s a case of making choices,” he says. “It begins when I drive into a town and decide on whether I like it, based on no particular criteria.”

If the town appeals to him, he and Tisha draw a line in chalk and follow it, setting up a tripod and a 36-megapixel camera every two or three feet to shoot the buildings along the street. After that he works alone until he can show a print to Tisha, an art historian who teaches at Capilano University.

“I wouldn’t dream of letting anything out of my studio until she has seen it. She has a great eye for detail and she never lets me down.”

Danny has an affinity for the vast landscapes and big skies of the North American Great Plains. As a teenager growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, he spent summers with relatives in prairie towns and had vivid experiences that stayed with him all his life.

“I didn’t come at these places from nothing,” he says, “I had some experience with them as active, small, safe communities.”

These places have all changed, of course, even in the years since he began the project. The typical “main street,” the centralized retail and social hub linked with traditional small-town values, is part of the past.

How long can these towns last? The title of his fall 2019 exhibition at Vancouver’s Gallery Jones was The Forecast for Tomorrow, and Danny comments that the title could refer to the weather or the question of the towns’ future. In the Main Street series, it seems he has been documenting both the changed prairie environment and a vanishing piece of his own personal history.

Since 1987, Danny has lived in a townhouse just up the street from where he lived in his days at Simon Fraser University. There was no film school at that time, but the theatre program student made films on a camera his father gave him.

“I was a charter student at SFU,” he says, “and I made the first films on campus. Then I left to go to work at the CBC.”

He moved to Montreal and pursued a career in film until he had a breakthrough meeting there with Lorraine Monk, then executive producer of the Still Photography Division of the National Film Board. Lorraine, who went on to help establish the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, took a chance on Danny by sending him out to shoot stills for the first time. He landed several pages in her prestigious 1976 book Between Friends/Entre Amis, which was Canada’s gift to the United States on the occasion of its bicentennial.

After that, he spent years working in both still and motion-picture photography. “When I came back to Vancouver in 1989 I was doing photography for an architectural firm and, over a three-year period, I also shot a time-lapse film of Olympic Village being built. The running time was three minutes.”

He likens the Main Street series photos to dolly shots, a specific form of motion-picture tracking shots where you follow the subject on a moving piece of equipment called a dolly. But in his photo series, it’s the viewer who moves. You first stand back and then move slowly across the photo, taking it all in. There’s a lot to see: the architecture, the signage, the exquisite clarity of the details and, in his more recent works, the sweeping western sky. As Danny puts it, “The sky’s sitting on top of the street, anchoring it to the ground.”

Unlikely as it may seem, he says the Main Street concept initially came to him back when he moved to Montreal.

“I had never seen rows of buildings like that. It was like the street was organic … the buildings were the street.”

Decades later, the concept re-emerged while the couple was camping in southern Alberta. He began photographing the main streets of towns they visited. Longview, a village in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, was the first one that worked.

As his concept evolved and grew, he took a Photoshop course at BCIT to learn how to manipulate the images to fit his vision.

“It was all very slow, very deliberate. It took me two years to get the first one.”

Danny’s works have been acquired by international public, corporate and private collections. He shows in Vancouver at Gallery Jones and in Calgary at Trépanier Baer. The Vancouver Art Gallery has often exhibited his work.

“Vancouver has been good to me. The Vancouver Art Gallery has been good to me. I have been fortunate enough to live and show my work here, and it has been well received. Vancouver has big, modern houses where bold artworks look great.”

Danny Singer’s next show is from Jan. 31 to April 12, 2020 at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff.

To see more of Danny Singer’s art visit his website here.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

ArtLifePhotography

Just Posted

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) were deployed to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device on Jan. 20. (Google/Screencap)
UPDATED: Bomb disposal unit still determining nature of suspicious device found on Salt Spring Island

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The objectives of the Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society include peer support for parents and caregivers, as well as developing support services, projects, educational and employment opportunities for people with Down Syndrome. Photo supplied.
Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society offers support for families in the community

New non-profit seeking directors in cities across Vancouver Island

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

The Rogers Creek Trail main trailhead is located on the Redford Extension in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Hiker rescued after cold few hours in the bush outside Port Alberni

Alberni Valley Rescue Squad said they receive frequent calls for people lost on this trail

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

The Victoria Fire Department extinguished a 15 foot tent fire in the 500-block of Ellice Street Jan. 19. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police investigating after 15-foot flames engulf tent

Flames damage nearby business in 500-block of Ellice Street

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Hecht Beach cabin in ashes. (Submitted)
Beloved secret cabin lost to fire on the North Island’s west coast

The trappers cabin was shared with locals, but kept mostly secret

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Most Read