James Wilson

Social Studies

May 7 – July 3, 2021  |  Port Saint John and City Galleries

Inspired by predecessors ranging from Saint John photographer Isaac Erb to American portrait photographer Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, James Wilson’s recent suite of black and white portraits he calls ‘Social Studies’ is a deeply moving and precious document that embodies the diverse character of New Brunswick. As one of Eastern Canada’s finest photographers, Saint John/Hampton-based Wilson has created what may be the magnum opus of his life’s work. All taken using natural light, these images are borne out of compassion for the subjects, whether a wealthy businessperson or lawyer, or an unemployed streetwalker.

With subjects of all ages and backgrounds, and from the four corners of New Brunswick, these portraits strike a consistency of form and composition that lends a democratic and dignified air to the whole. Although the subjects’ dress and implements run the gamut, the mood is unswerving and confronting. With only a few exceptions, each individual looks directly at us, making ourselves the subject of the gaze and attention. We have no choice but to deal with them and their emotions, whether defiant or demure.

War veterans, artists, writers, professionals, blue-collar workers, musicians, athletes, students, immigrants, clergy, and farmers make up the assembly, among many others. Some we may know, and some we may be surprised to know live in this province on the eastern coast of Canada. In carefully crafting this visual measure of society, we begin to understand ourselves so much more.

Curated by John Leroux and organized by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Presented with the support of Commercial Properties Limited.

Thanks to our gallery sponsor, Port Saint John.