The feeling that I’ve been there before sweeps over me as I walk through the exhibit, taking in the beautiful images. One photo reminds me of my grandparent’s house, another of a town that I swear I had been through before.

So many are flash backs to a time not so long ago. I feel nostalgic. I feel at home.

A FEELING OF HOME: Orest Semchishen’s Fabyon, Alberta (1978, silver print photograph) from the collection of Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre.
Photo courtesy of Esker Foundation

Welcome to Splendid Isolation, the newest exhibit to be featured in the Esker Foundation’s gallery, showcasing works by Alberta-based photographers George Webber, Olga Chagaoutdinova, Orest Semchishen and Miruna Dragan.

The photos tell a story of home and many of the images are stark, bare reminders of the human condition, something very moving for exhibition curator Naomi Potter.

“The images jump from time and place,” she says pointing out a piece by Olga taken in Russia a few years ago that reminds me of visiting family as a child. “Isolation can cause these weird jumps in time.”

Naomi explains that the whole exhibition spans the years 1976 to 2013 and images from the 70s look very similar to ones taken just a few years ago – isolation has created this connection. Geographically, the exhibition moves from Northern Alberta south and east into Saskatchewan, into the United States, Mexico and Cuba and then to Russia, all showcasing the idea of home and space.

“Each work is connected by a tangible sense of community,” she says. “You can take an image of something that’s in Northern Alberta and it can have a relationship with something that’s taken in Cuba.”

TIME AND SPACE: George Webber’s Thorvald Skaalid and daughter Margaret Anne, Macrorie, Saskatchewan (1993, Gelatin Silver Print, Selenium Toned)
Photo courtesy of Esker Foundation

Hours can be spent looking at the photos, imagining the stories and each photographer brings tangible warmth to their subjects.

I’ve been a huge fan of George’s work for years and many of his pieces show prairie life in a haunting, yet whimsical, light. Olga’s off colour shots showcase life in Russia in an intimate way that breaks through poverty to find warmth. Miruna’s giant collage at the back of the space adds a bit of surrealism to the collection and Orest’s stark photos of small towns – Bellis, Rockyford, Fort Kent, Didsbury – give a sense that you’ve been there before.

If you love photography, the show is worth the trip but give yourself the time to explore. This is a huge exhibition and you’ll find yourself loosing track of time.

SURREAL IN THE REAL: (Left) Miruna Dragan’s Xilitla Forever (2012, Photo collage) and (Right) Olga Chagaoutdinova’s Stack of Books (2004, c-print).
Photos courtesy of Esker Foundation

Splendid Isolation runs until April 21 at the Esker Foundation (444, 1011 9th Ave SE). The exhibition is also part of Exposure 2013: Calgary Banff Canmore Photography Festival and has a bunch of special programming during the run, including an introduction to pinhole photography this Saturday and a panel discussion with the photographers about the politics of truth, appropriation and privacy coming up February 8.