Fresh, pristine walls hold images of beauty in utilitarian surroundings.
A gritty, plain alley is transformed into an artist’s studio, with ever-shifting shadows to complement the portraits.
Morgan “Mo” Whibley is the photographer that makes the mundane magic and the ordinary into something fleeting and original.
“I started shooting the pieces for my own interest. I wanted to challenge myself, see how I could handle the limited light, the changes and different subjects,” Whibley says.
His series contains 71 photos in total, but only 21 are on display at gallery 22, atop Triple J’s Music.
Why 71 photos? “People like round numbers, so as soon as I started, they asked how many I was going to do. Fifty, maybe 100, but I’m comfortable with odd numbers, so when I got to 71, I stopped,” says Whibley.
He is a commercial photographer, at home in studios, and wanted to push creative boundaries, all the while adhering to his rule of not adding anything to the alley portraits.
With severely limited light, Whibley had to work with strangers off of the street quickly, efficiently and with talent. “I wanted to develop my skills, sharpen them, as well as improve my communication with subjects,” he says. The subjects were pulled out of bars, off of the streets, and coaxed into the alley.
The images are black and white and reflect a playful, casual atmosphere. Whibley wanted to make them accessible and artistic, an exercise in light and lines. “I wanted to focus on the aesthetic of the portrait, not the richness of the background. The alley is utilitarian and the changing light made each shot something different,” he says.
Selecting 21 images for display out of 71 shots was not easy. “I didn’t sleep for something like 30 hours. I kept going, and if they didn’t ‘hit’ me within three seconds, they weren’t chosen. That’s my rule,” Whibley adds.
Selections weren’t easy because he has connections with many portrait subjects, and he couldn’t choose portraits simply because he was friends with the subjects. “It was important to do selections based on the flow and theme of the show. I couldn’t bias my view because of my relationships,” Whibley says.
Initially, he had no show planned for the photos; they were merely an exercise in “self-meditation,” until the curator of gallery 22, Dan Bushnell, recommended Whibley set up a show.
Now that his show is up and well received, Whibley is looking forward to exploring more alley shots and expanding on his series. “I’m looking into doing more with ‘thought bubbles’ as props.” In his current show, only one portrait uses a prop: Jerome Stueart holds a thought bubble with a Star Trek character, looking particularly whimsical and fun.
Mo Whibley’s show runs until July 15 at gallery 22, located above Triple J’s Music behind the Hougen Centre. To view images, and for further information, visit www.whibphoto.com.