Jorian Charlton Between Us
Straddling the worlds of fashion photography and intimate portraiture, Jorian Charlton’s work emphasizes the beauty and style of her subjects while exploring contemporary modes of Black representation. This expansive solo exhibition by the Mississauga-based artist is grounded in relationships and interpersonal connections, reflecting varied expressions of cultural and personal identity.
Between Us brings together images produced in-studio and outdoors to focus on Charlton’s intuitive and collaborative approach toward portraiture, and the intimate relationship between photographer and subject. Her models are a combination of friends and people she connects with through Instagram. Nyabel & Nevine (2021), for instance, depicts two models who hadn’t met before the shoot, but their gentle embrace emanates the same sense of care and tenderness as the sisters who appear in Georgia & Kukua (2020). Already aware of how her subjects opt to present themselves on social media, Charlton is interested in working with her subjects to explore alternative avenues of self-expression. “The subject I am shooting often provides the spark of inspiration for the shoot, giving me ideas for how to capture the best possible results,” Charlton says. “I appreciate the vulnerable nature of having your photo taken, and each subject is unique in their own way, and this is something I always strive to bring out in my photos.” Through gesture and expression, Nyabel & Nevine and Georgia & Kukua simultaneously convey the intimate space of a relationship and each individual’s inner strength.
While social media is a tool for Charlton to locate her subjects and see how they represent themselves, her photographic process is analogue rather than digital. She uses a medium-format film camera for her photographic shoots, which limits her to 10 images per roll of film, and has a viewfinder that requires her to look down to see a mirrored image of the scene. These challenges serve to help Charlton focus on making the most of each exposure. The process is intentionally slower, more technical, and less immediate—only after the film is processed at a lab can Charlton can see the results of her work.
As if to balance the technicality of her photographic method, the initial phase between selecting a subject and starting a shoot is generally far more fluid and intuitive. Charlton often creates a mood board for the shoot, but the details are left open. It’s not uncommon for her to make spontaneous, last-minute decisions. For instance, Georgia & Kukua is part of a series photographed at a lakeside park in Etobicoke that Charlton happened to notice while driving over to meet her subjects, who are sisters and long-time friends of the artist. This uncomplicated style of preparation allows Charlton to make space for collaboration.
Within this space of collaboration, Charlton maintains an overall tone and intentionality that permeates all of her work. She notes: “In my photography, I’m trying to create a visual style that is uniquely my own. Regardless of the shoot, I aim to capture my subjects in a timeless way that gives the model a sense of strength and evokes intrigue or connection with the viewer.” Rather than collaging or layering multiple images, Charlton prefers to present her subjects through singular, independent images, a method that’s in keeping with her photographic process. At the Art Gallery of Mississauga, large-scale vinyl prints adhered directly to the wall are shown alongside a selection of framed and mounted portraits in order to emphasize the individuality of Charlton’s subjects, and also the consistency of her approach.
Charlton is part of a growing group of Black photographers whose work collapses the barriers between fashion and art, and who use the medium of photography to foreground Black representation in front of and behind the camera. “I hope that my photos provide an everlasting and introspective look at the representation of my community, giving a voice to those who may not have one, and showing the beauty and strength of a diverse group of individuals,” Charlton says. “My goal is to tell a visual story that resonates through my images.”
Curated by Shannon Anderson
Presented by the Art Gallery of Mississauga
Jorian Charlton is a portrait photographer based in Toronto. Her work focuses on Jamaican-Canadian culture through her personal experiences, highlighting beauty and style when it comes to contemporary modes of Black representation. She pursues reflections of identity and diasporic relationships to homeland, while her poetic approach to these themes characterizes her method of visual storytelling.