Vince Federoff kneels in the January snow. He presses brass thumbtacks into the downtown poster kiosk. He’s taken care to cover only an out-of-date poster from New Year’s Eve.
He steps back and we admire the graceful composition of his photograph, simple among the shouting posters. It shows two ravens perched on a Ken Anderson public sculpture.
This is his latest art show.
Most people in Whitehorse know Federoff as the Whitehorse Star’s ubiquitous photographer. Federoff shows up where there’s news, culture or cedar waxwings eating berries off a mountain ash. He brings these things to Star readers in his beautiful press photography.
Federoff dwells in the top floor of the log skyscraper downtown. Lines cross the ceiling of his small “penthouse”, thick with 16×20 digital prints. A music stand supports a thick sheaf of photographs.
December 2007, Federoff acquired an Epson 3800 digital printer. His prints include images of local artists and musicians, many ravens and his small black cat, Penny, with a very large shadow.
“I haven’t had this kind of outlet since I used to share a darkroom with John Hatch. We had a beautiful setup. We used to just go through tons and tons of paper.”
Federoff has moved to digital rather than film photography. His goal is to make pictures of things the way you see them. He uses Photoshop-style effects subtly, to dodge and burn. He can talk about Ansel Adams’ zone system and uses light meters.
As he walks, his camera is out and ready to go. If the light changes, he changes the camera, so it’s ready when the moment comes.
Downtown Whitehorse is an extension of Federoff’s living room. It seems natural for his work to overflow into the streets.
Federoff’s friend, Kennith Coyne, did a show like this once. Coyne went to school for photography. He took all his leftover prints one day and “plastered them all over the kiosks”. He told everybody, “If you see a picture you like, take it.”
Federoff has been installing his signed prints downtown randomly from the beginning of 2008. He installs them one at a time.
“Once I had four up all at once before someone removed one.” He tries to put them up at night so nobody sees him doing it.
He doesn’t mind people taking them, but prefers that they leave them up for awhile first so more people can see them.
A friend of his told him he saw someone rip one of his prints from the kiosk and toss it into the street. He went home, printed exactly the same one out again and put it up. “I can always make another one.”
Federoff could sell more of his work, but working full time gets in the way of mounting shows. He’s also keeping his work off the market to increase demand. Still, he’s planning to donate to more fundraisers now that he has this printer.
Federoff’s ravens form the core of his artistic practice. He has studied them closely for years. He feeds them.
“I give them leftovers. Sometimes I save stuff for them. Like that last chunk of meat that I want to eat, raw red meat with a nice chunk of burnt fat. I might even still be hungry, but I give that to the ravens.”
But for his photographs, Federoff never baits the ravens. “I would never bait any wild animal. It’s not proper.”
Putting the food out for the ravens is a kind of spiritual practice for Federoff. “You’re paying the god, or whatever,” he says. “It’s satisfying.”
The show will continue as long as it seems right to Federoff.