In Focus: Drew Makepeace

Penticton artist Drew Makepeace is used to hearing the word “quirky” when people encounter his photographs. His unconventional views of industrial scenes, back lanes and suburban landscapes tweak your expectations and make you look again to try to figure out what might be going on.

Finding compelling patterns and beauty in unusual subjects is part of the attraction — Drew also brings a whimsical, almost comical sensibility to his images, seeing the interest and humour in places we’d pass by without a second glance. Awesome Okanagan puts Drew’s pictures and process In Focus this week.

How long have you been doing photography in the Okanagan?
I’ve been doing it since I moved to Penticton in 2004.

Favourite locations or subjects in the valley?
My favourite subjects are things that are man-made. Therefore my favourite locations tend to be urban or suburban locales.

Influences or artists/photographers you admire?
Stephen Shore and William Eggleston both come to mind, mainly for their ability to find banal scenes that can be turned into evocative art when photographed. I also admire the abstract paintings of Mark Rothko and the fluorescent light sculptures of Dan Flavin.

What kinds of responses do you most commonly get to your abstract photos?
The most common word people use is “quirky”. I’m not sure what that means, but if it means “unusual” then perhaps they are not off the mark. I try to avoid trite subjects like flowers and scenery, and instead concentrate on back walls, back lanes and the various objects that one finds there.

I’d like to hear about your experience with gallery shows. What are the benefits and pitfalls?
I’ve had a couple of photographic exhibits in small galleries, and also a number of shows in coffee shops. The benefits of shows are exposure, and the potential, however small, of selling a work. There aren’t really any pitfalls, but it’s important to have a clear understanding with the gallery owner of how sales will be handled. I also think it’s important to make your framing and mounting clean, consistent and simple so that it doesn’t upstage your work.

You’ve resisted the pull to DSLRs and bags full of lenses, instead going with a higher-end point-n-shoot — why have you taken that approach to gear, and do you plan to stick with it?
There are two main reasons I’ve stuck with a point & shoot camera. I like the compact versatility of it. For example, my Canon SX-10 has a 28-560mm zoom, which obviates the need for a big bag o’ lenses. The other reason is that I make exclusive use of the vari-angle LCD screen. It enables me to frame extremely low shots without lying on the ground, and very high shots that I simply wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. Recently, some SLR cameras with vari-angle screens have come onto the market, so I may very well upgrade in the future.

Where do you see yourself going with your photography in the next year or two?
I’m starting to feel like I’ve thoroughly mined the back lanes of Penticton and nearby cities of all their subject matter. I want more, which means I’ll need to go further afield. I can also see myself tending towards more abstract work – I think that’s a natural progression for many artists.

Thanks to Drew for sharing his thoughts and his work. Check out more of his stuff online:

In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com.


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