In Focus: Rick Forgo

Rick ForgoRick Forgo looks at the Okanagan with a unique eye, finding meaning and insight behind the idealized facade. Using unconventional methods and subjects the rest of us might ignore, he presents a grittier view of the valley’s urban scenes. This style really shines in his portrayal of his hometown, especially at night. Isn’t Vernon is fascinating in this light?

How long have you been doing photography in the Okanagan?
I started being really aware of the “artistic” aspects of photography and shooting accordingly in 2005. However, I’ve spent about half of these last five years in other locales, returning to the Okanagan in 2010.

Favourite locations in the valley?
I love the classic spots, the hiking trails, grasslands, beaches, and whatnot. But for photography I’m primarily drawn to urban areas. I also really enjoy shooting fringe areas such as urban parks or abandoned settlements, anywhere that natural and human-made environments intersect. If you see someone with a tripod and camera standing in an alley or on a corner in the middle of the night, it’s probably me.

Influences or artists/photographers you admire?
This is a tough one, as I probably don’t spend as much time as I should looking at other peoples’ works. There are quite a few Okanagan photographers on Flickr that I like to follow. I really enjoy seeing widely varying interpretations of the valley. I admire any artist who aims to transcend the perceived limitations of their medium to pursue work that others don’t think of or don’t consider worth pursuing. I also gain much inspiration from music. I feel like some of my best work can be considered a visual interpretation of what certain pieces of music mean to me.

What opportunities and limitations do you see for urban and street photography in Vernon and the valley as a whole?
The opportunities are there for artists to present interpretations of the Okanagan that have gone largely ignored. There is a popular conception that the Okanagan is a virtually unspoiled wonderland, when in reality, it is just as urbanized as anywhere else. Tourist brochures and popular interpretations idealize this place, allowing everyone to sweep social and ecological problems under the rug. There’s nothing wrong with an idealistic interpretation, but I think it needs to be balanced out. When we show the sweeping vistas, let’s not forget about the back alleys.

As an aside, I would like to see some photographers work to present the ecosystem of the valley as the fragile place it is. Last year we were in danger of running out of water. Water tables are being polluted by development. Fragile natural areas are being destroyed by development. These are only some examples. Artists should present these facts to the public so we can all work to address the issues. I’ve grappled with how I best might be able to do this through my own work. I’m not there yet, but I’m coming closer.

You have Creative Commons licenses on your photos — is it something you feel strongly about, and if so, how do you see your photography fitting into the “business of art” (if at all)?
It has to do with my belief in showing an alternate view. I want my work to be easily accessible and shareable, and a Creative Commons license is the best way to go about it in the context of Flickr. I’ve always been good at sharing. As for “business” I long ago decided to stay true to my vision, which meant that many avenues of profit — such as weddings and portraiture — available to valley photographers were closed to me. There are plenty of photographers who have a passion for those things but my passion lies elsewhere.

I’m not sure my photography fits into the “business of art” at all. I’m not sure many people are interested in paying for the subject matter I am presenting. They are interested in looking at it, but not in hanging it on their walls, therefore I suspect that my chances of making a living from my work are pretty slim. I’m okay with that though, and I’ll continue to portray what I am compelled to portray.

More of Rick’s photos:

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