On Photography (2020)


With On Photography, I focus my attention on the figure and the words of the critic. Borrowing its title from Susan Sontag’s seminal collection of essays from 1977, this series is a collection of quintessential quotes by iconic critics accompanied by altered historical portraits originally made by established photographers. By occupying the portraits, I have “become” 30 critics and, in so doing, twisted the meaning of their quotations to both illuminate and give substance to my own work.

On Photography exploits the decontextualized words of the various critics to construct my own manifesto – one that both justifies my approach and suggests that, if an extract of a critic’s writing can be so easily co-opted, we must reconsider the authority of the quote in the absence of context. In the 30 prints of On Photography, my persistent presence in each of the pieces helps to untether the distinctiveness of each “original” portrait, thus inviting the viewer to reflect upon the power of the critic and his/her words and, consequently, on the nature and authority of photography itself. A nine-minute video, featuring audio recording of many of the critics, their voices slipping in and out of synch with the characters depicted in the video, further explores the use and malleability of the quotation.

On Photography was supported by a Research and Creation Grant awarded by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the series was produced in the framework of a Custom Residency Project at L’imprimerie centre d’artistes. The artist is grateful for the support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and L’imprimerie.


Solo (or duo) shows:

2021 Becoming Photography, an exhibition in two venues: Expression, Saint-Hyacinthe, QC & Plein sud, Longueuil, QC (publication)

2020 After & On Photography, Espaces F, Matane, QC



2021 Chuck Samuels, Becoming Photography, publication with texts by Joan Fontcuberta & Mona Hakim, co-edited by Kerber Verlag, Berlin, Expression, Saint-Hyacinthe & Plein Sud, Longueuil, 2021
Christian Gattinoni, “Portrait de l’homme photographique dans l’histoire de ses chef-d’oeuvres,” LaCritique.org, 24 mars, n.p. 2021
Chuck Samuels, “Scabs, Runny Noses & Wardrobe Malfunctions,” Ciel variable, No. 116, January 2021, Montréal, p. 95-98.

2020 Sevia Pellissier, “Loose Canon; Chuck Samuels, On Photography,” vuphoto.org, June 4, 2020, n.p


On Photography consists of 30 images/texts as well as a short, single channel HD video. Each 35.5 x 28 cm (14 x 11 in) inkjet image is a portrait accompanied by a short a text in both English and French. Each print is presented in a 36 x 28.4 x 2 cm (14.25 x 11.25 x .75 in) black metal frame. The works can be shown as a long line of framed prints using approximately 13.75 meters (45 feet) of running wall space or in two or three rows using roughly 6.85 meters (22.5 feet) or 4.6 meters (15 feet) of running wall space respectively. With the exception of the video, the works are presented in alphabetical order by the family name of the subject (e.g. Sontag before Szarkowski). Each photo should be accompanied by a wall label with the title of the work: each title identifies both the original photographer and the critic (for instance After Hujar/Sontag). The 8m 51s 4:3 HD single-channel video, entitled in the land of the giants the one-eyed camera is king, could be presented on a mid-size flat-screen monitor with headphones or as a small-scaled projection with a modest sound system.

All 30 framed prints fit into two shipping crates, each crate measuring 54.6 cm x 68 cm x 38 cm (21.5 x 26.75 x 15 in) and each weighs approximately 22.5 to 27 kg (50 to 60 lbs).

On Photography has been prepared as an edition of 10 prints/copies of the video. In addition there are 3 sets of artists’ proofs (including one set of exhibition prints). A specially priced complete set of all 30 works can be acquired.


In the U.S.A. please contact ClampArt Gallery in New York. In Canada or elsewhere, please contact the artist.