The following students were selected by internal juries at their respective institutions as finalists for the 2015 – 16 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize Scholarship Program:

Benoît Courchesne

Born in 1967, artist Benoît Courchesne has lived and worked in Montreal since 1998. He is currently completing a Bachelor of Visual and Media Arts at the Université du Québec à Montréal. His artistic practice is mainly comprised of photography, video, and installation. Through these mediums, he deals with themes like death, losing one’s bearings, and the solitude that comes as a result of sickness or trauma. He draws from personal experience to create mise-en-scène that explore the taboos existing within the family unit. The issue of identity is however a key theme in his work. For the first time with his series Second Souffle (“Second Wind”), he juxtaposes text with his photographic installations. He is currently gathering his family’s archives to construct metaphoric images that evoke imaginary spaces.

He has exhibited at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal, at the Théâtre de Val Morin, at UQAM’s CDEx and at the Place des Arts in Montreal. In 2015, an image from the series Second Souffle appeared in Remaides Québec magazine. In addition, Courchesne has been selected three times to donate work to Artsida and to the AIDS Community Care Montreal auction.

(Université du Québec à Montréal)

James Malzahn

James Malzahn is an interdisciplinary visual artist whose work draws on his extensive background in Internet technology and data forensics. He views technology as an artistic collaborator and an essential feature of his practice. His work proposes links between human perception and corrupted digital imagery, advancing a critique of state surveillance and the abuse of technology by government agents. Recent works expose mounting threats to privacy, aesthetically and functionally embedding photography, painting, print, video and installation with [surveillance and security] technology to visualize omnipresent and corrupt government entities. Image loss and data corruption function to create unsettled atmospheres, to mimic the workings of corrupt systems, to [paradoxically] re-humanize digital images and to create momentary disruptions that prompt viewers to pause and reconsider the content. Malzahn has been the recipient of multiple scholarships and awards including the Takao Tanabe Scholarship in Painting, and his work has appeared in juried solo and curated group exhibitions. He is currently completing a BFA Honours degree at the University of Manitoba.

(University of Manitoba)

Katarina Marinic

Katarina Marinic is currently a BFA candidate with a major in photography at NSCAD University. Born in Toronto, Katarina's background as a commercial photo retoucher has motivated her practice. Focusing on the idealized female form, her interests revolve around how representations of women can serve as a means to investigate the body and self-image. Many of her works are introspective explorations of the dynamic between flawed and flawless bodies made possible through imaging technology. Drawing from personal experience, as well as research in historical and contemporary depictions of women, she aims to explore liminal spaces that challenge this unattainable perfection. Rendering the body with unexpected approaches, her work often produces an uncanny effect for the viewer. Katarina is a recipient of a number of scholarships and awards, including the 2016 Starfish student award at NSCAD University.

(NSCAD University)

Rachel Meneguzzi

Rachel Meneguzzi is a photo-based artist completing her BA in Studio Art at the University of Guelph. Meneguzzi’s work explores both materiality and human interaction with photography and digital imagery and works in various photographic mediums of camera-less and digital photography. In past work, Meneguzzi has been interested in the use of technology within both physical and online spaces, investigating both human relation with technology and exploring unconventional materiality and installations of photography. More recently, Meneguzzi has been working with the translation of three-dimensional spaces and objects into two-dimensional photographic images as well as the translation of two-dimensional photographic imagery into three-dimensional photographic objects. This process of translation is accomplished through physical manipulation of paper, darkroom techniques and camera techniques. As a result, Meneguzzi’s work often encourages the viewer to question both what they are looking at and how the image was created. Her practice moves beyond traditional photography and challenges photography in a contemporary context. Recent achievements include placing in the University of Guelph’s Juried Art Show, receiving the Gordon Couling Scholarship and showing in Withheld at the Boarding House Gallery in Guelph, Ontario.

(University of Guelph)

Chris Eugene Mills

Chris Eugene Mills is a Vancouver-based artist working through various disciplines all tangled up in the intersections that many call ‘new media’. Key concerns in his practice include understandings of built space within and outside the digital interface, loose material borders in the post-internet era, and the increasingly blurred and humorous (mis)understandings of our deeply-networked society. Current modes of engagement include late net-art, lens-based media, and machine drawing.

Mills is currently pursuing a BFA in Visual Arts at the University of British Columbia, and after an active year of collaborations and group exhibitions, his recent work includes a public installation at a Vancouver Skytrain station and an exhibition in a garbage closet.

(University of British Columbia)

Linda Muizniece

Linda Muizniece was born and raised in Latvia and moved to Canada in 2013. She is currently completing a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in studio art at the University of Saskatchewan. She works primarily in photography but recently has begun to transition into installation art. Her background of growing up in a post-Soviet Union setting and the lived experiences has developed her artistic practice based on a profound interest in human rights, social issues and exploration of the second hand experience of significant events in other people’s lives. Her focus is on recording testimonies from conversations with people and representing them through various media. Through the action of gathering an archive of testimonies and representing them she attempts to understand the suffering experienced by the disempowered and source of the unequal power.

Her work is in private collections in Canada and Europe. She has exhibited extensively, worked with internationally known artists, and held a residency and curated a show at the A.K.A. artist run gallery in Saskatoon.

(University of Saskatchewan)

Maria Munar

Maria Munar is a Colombian/Canadian artist, based out of Calgary, Alberta. Currently attending The Alberta College of Art + Design, on her 4th year of a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts majoring in Media Arts. She works in a variety of mediums such as; video, sound, installation, painting and photography. Her work explores the interior and exterior physical spaces of the human body as an object that influences discourses of identity, power dynamics, language, politics and visual culture. Her work reconfigures the body and investigates the interplay between the grotesque, unusual closeness with beauty and symmetry. Exploring the fluidity of the perception of images, perception of self, and representations of gender and identity. Munar’s work is being shown locally, and nationally and internationally. She is an avid participant of the arts community, works alongside local artist run centers, and is a practicing artist.

(Alberta College of Art +Design)

Philip Ocampo

With his work, Philip Ocampo sifts through intersections of identity, culture, and power. Seeing art making as a tool for self introspection, Ocampo uses personal narratives as a medium to examine the larger issues that not only affect himself, but the world at large. Stories concerning privilege, representation, queerness and family, are used as empathetic links, connecting the individual to the many. Stemming from an interest in the charged symbolism and language associated with existing objects, he alters, arranges, and rearranges the readymade to suggest new ways of communication; new stories to be told. Artworks are epilogues under the hand of Ocampo's storytelling: Unoccupied, lingering spaces which appear to have been previously active act as constructed illustrations of lived experiences. He primarily works in sculpture, installation, illustration and animation.

(OCAD University)

Helen Olcott

Helen Olcott is a Visual Arts and Art History student graduating in 2017. She has previously worked in the printmaking studio and currently works in the photography lab under a work/study program at York University. Her work strives to engage with her identity as a dis/abled artist and printmaker. Printmaking is an essential aspect of her core being, the processes, and methods used before, during, and after shooting are influenced heavily by this print media based practice. She is not inventing or creating new content through Photoshop and she prefers to shoot in black and white as coloured images produce strong memory associations. Helen seeks to work through her disidentification with her younger self, brought on by discouraging and discriminatory experiences as a dis/abled student growing up in Newmarket, Ontario, and self-deprecating notions of the ‘ideal’ female body by indulging in rather intimate body-centred self portraiture. The face as a signifier for identity is something to be challenged by intersectional modes of identifying oneself after trauma. What is/does recovery and acceptance look like for privileged female-identifying dis/abled artists and students? Who can afford recovery and who is rewarded for it? Her passion for printmaking and photography helps to reinforce inner notions of self-worth, knowledge, and the reclaiming of power over the body, mind, and spirit.

(York University)

Tori Schepel

Tori Schepel is a multi media artist born and raised in Vancouver, BC currently completing her BFA in Photography at Emily Carr University of Art + Design after having studied at Pratt MWP. Her practice is embedded in self portraiture, redefining tropes in female imagery and examining problematic genres of cinema through analog photography. Her praxis is rooted in identifying the autonomy of documenting the female body and self by performing visual cues in the stylings of melodrama, horror, and film noir. Recently, she has been short listed for the Philip B. Lind Prize 2017 and will be exhibiting at Presentation House Gallery during Capture Photography Festival.

(Emily Carr University of Art + Design)

Maximilian Suillerot

Maximilian Suillerot was born in Mexico City in 1991. He holds French and Mexican nationalities. After spending all of his life in Mexico City, he moved to Paris in 2010 where he began his artistic training at the Ateliers de Recherche, de Création Artistique et D’Enseignement Supérieur (Les ARCADES) in Issy-les-Moulineaux. Upon finishing those studies, he moved to Canada in 2011 to further his education at the University of Toronto, where he obtained a Specialist degree in Visual Studies (hons) in 2016. He currently lives and works in Toronto. As a multi-media artist he works trying to understand inner processes, as well as the limits of intimacy and personal experiences. His work is part of an ongoing exploration of humans in relation to death, grief, personal narrative and mental isolation amongst other categories. His practice plays with concepts that encompass the duality of presence and absence. Portraits are used to raise questions surrounding relationships and to play with the evident fragility of existence. The human concept of memory is questioned and put to the test. Rituals are created as a coping mechanism to deal with life; the reality of uncertainty is exposed, and all of its consequences are accepted.

(University of Toronto)