Langara College instructor showcases photography at art exhibit

Colin Mills 2
Colin Mills, geography instructor at Langara College

A Langara College geography instructor is approaching suspension, and he’s excited about it.

Suspension, which opens on Nov. 21, is the title of a solo art exhibition featuring 17 photographs by Colin Mills, a Langara geography instructor of 17 years. The collection consists of pictures from the last six Celebration of Light fireworks competitions in Vancouver.

Self-taught, but learns from every experience

Mills didn’t train formally as a photographer, but began dabbling in photography after buying his first camera in 2006, a Nikon D50.

“I wanted to play and teach myself. I wanted to make lots of mistakes, which I’ve done,” Mills said.

“My inspiration was just to create. I had no desire to be a particular style,” he said. But others, including his curator Peppa Martin, were quick to identify his work with abstract expressionism.

Where popular abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock splatters paint across a canvas on the floor, Mills said his own style is similar, but reversed.

“I move my canvas, the camera, across the paint, which is the fireworks, to get bold lines and shapes,” he said.

His technique involves mounting his Nikon D300 onto a tripod, setting a slow shutter speed anywhere from one to three seconds and then rapidly moving his camera while taking the picture.

“I like that frenetic, chaotic, on-my-heels, made-to-respond environment,” Mills said. “It means the image that results doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

The final product is a series of intertwining, brightly coloured lines that resemble ropes.

“They’re non-representational,” Mills said. “The idea is that I surrender my right to interpret the picture and I give that over to the reader.”

Mills gives his students the same freedom of interpretation

“ I don’t want to impose rigid boundaries as to how they should understand the things they encounter in class,” he adds.

Stephanie Au-Yeung, a geography student enrolled in two of Mills’ classes this semester, agrees.

“He provides lots of instruction, but he doesn’t force it,” Au-Yeung said. “He really encourages critical thinking and open-mindedness.”

Suspension will show from Nov. 21 until Dec. 8 at the Truth and Beauty gallery in Vancouver. In keeping with the theme of suspension, the displayed art will be frameless, hung away from the walls as floating images, said gallery owner Peppa Martin.

“I’ve watched Colin’s body of work develop over a number of years, and I’ve been very impressed,” Martin said. “He has his own style that’s not influenced by trends or conventional parameters, and that’s a rare thing.”

Reported by Tricia Lo

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