Three delicate stems of a potted monstera peer out from the edge of a polished screen. This nearby surface captures the hazy reflection of their tear-drop leaves, accented in the soft glow of an unseen window just beyond the frame. In Stieglitzian fashion, this monochromatic interior scene is strikingly intimate, relaying the fullness of a quiet moment. Yet the objects themselves are difficult to encapsulate, shifting in scale as light touches their surfaces.
Another image conveys a similar sentiment. An angular shadow abruptly meets the midday light, cutting sharply across an abstract form that reveals itself as a building façade only after a second or third viewing. The geometric joints of the cladding form a tilted grid that disappear at the shadow’s edge as the inset windows appear to radiate from within. “I really like contrasts—contrasting scenes and subjects,” explains Yellowknife-based photographer Christopher Blechert about his rich monochromatic still-lifes. Through subtle variations between light and shade, rooted in the contemporary built environment, the photographer deftly abstracts everyday elements of urban life in the North. “Once I started exploring black-and-white photography, it made me see things differently and made me see how it can shape an image or a subject. It changed my perspective.”
Christopher Blechert Reflection (2018) Digital photograph
These shifting points of view are at the core of the self-taught photographer’s practice. Growing up, Blechert recalls a camera always being near, with his father’s early interest in photography sparking his own exploration of the medium. This fascination is also shared with his sister, designer and photographer Caroline Blechert, whom he cites as a major influence in his work. Although early in his visual arts career, he has already created a significant collection of vignettes reflecting themes of contemporary life.
“My work and my images are like a snapshot of my life,” he says, “but they are also a snapshot of what it means to be Inuvialuit.” Both qualities are at the fore of Tern (2019), a favourite of the artist. Bathed in the rose tones of the setting sun, the bird breaches the peachy hues of the still lake, its wings outstretched, encircled by the rippling water beneath it. With no horizon in sight, the diving tern and its reflection straddle the thin line between earth and sky—caught mid-dance.
Christopher Blechert Shadow Building (2019) Digital photograph
For Blechert, the quiet moment also brings to mind Western Arctic drum dances, drawn from the movements of local fauna. “If I create a pleasing image and if someone simply likes my work for the sake of the image,” notes the artist, “on a larger scale I [still] want people to recognize that I am an Inuk photographer, that I’m Inuvialuit.” For Blechert, whose imagery routinely departs from representations of land and landscape, photography acts as a catalyst for nuanced understandings of identity, culture and perspective. “I realized that I could use photography as a tool to create a discussion around Inuvialuit identity.” These links between image, identity and outlook are only expected to deepen as Blechert has recently begun exploring the materiality of his works through printing. Feeling these images in his hands—moving from the screen to the page—has presented the artist with another perspective from which to analyze his growing oeuvre.
From the sweeping lines of the grill of an air purifier to tender portraits, Blechert’s compelling images require our sustained attention. With each new look they offer a brief chance to see the world from a new and unique vantage. “Art is so powerful, and it really does have the ability to change how you think and feel,” he asserts. “I try to see [different] perspectives all the time, and I hope that what I view can help someone else see something differently as well.”
This Profile originally appeared in Fall 2019 issue of Inuit Art Quarterly.