Errol Daniels, Waterloo Arts Best in Show
The Waterloo Arts Juried Exhibition ran this year from June 2 to July 21. The exhibition features recent work from American and Canadian artists, many of whom are from northeast Ohio. Amy Callahan, executive director at Waterloo Arts, noted the importance of displaying the Cleveland artists alongside their national counterparts: viewers familiar with Cleveland art gain a fresh perspective on local works when they are contextualized within national art. Thus, a juror with an objective set of eyes helps push the exhibition outside of the artists that Waterloo might typically work with, offering surprising and juxtaposed art to the viewers.
This year, CAN Journal generously sponsored a Best of Show prize worth $500. The winner, Errol Daniels for his work Brittany Cobb, is an artist who has never been on Waterloo’s radar. The chromogenic print shows the titular transgender woman in her home.
Daniels grew up in Buffalo, New York, and started working with photography while involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago. In the 1980s, he had to stop shooting due to a disease that affected his hands, though he was fortunately able to pick the camera back up in the 1990s. At that time, he started studying under Amy Arbus and John Goodman, who both helped develop Daniels’ documentarian style of shooting. His career has taken him across the globe, from Cuba to Uganda, and then back to Buffalo to shoot trans-Americans in their homes, along with other series.
Brittany Cobb is part of a larger documentary series, Transamericans, which was motivated by the Caitlyn Jenner publicity in 2015. During the media coverage, Daniels, who has always taken on projects involving people who are “challenged by everyday life because of who or what they are,” decided to take on trans-people as his next project. He met with the director of the Pride Center in Buffalo, who helped him set up meetings with the trans-individuals who Daniels would ask to participate in his series.
Those who wanted to be involved were photographed by Daniels in their homes. For Daniels, it was important to photograph people in a space where they feel safe. In the particular moment in which Brittany Cobb was captured, Daniels was hanging out, both shooting and talking with Brittany in the space between her kitchen and dining room. Daniels likes photographing in kitchens because, “People tend to gather in kitchens…that’s the hub of the activity in the house.” Kitchens are where people feel comfortable, safe. After shooting, Daniels picked out the best pictures and sent them to the participants, offering a print if they particularly liked one. Brittany has a print of the same picture displayed at Waterloo Arts. Daniels, who had not been involved in the LGBTQ+ community prior to this project, found that talking to the participants to make them comfortable with the process yielded an important theme of the series: “Except for that one small area of [a trans-American’s] life—their gender identity—we are the same, exactly the same…the same problems, the same loves.”
On using photography as the medium, Daniels thinks that photography can teach and move people through its storytelling power. The highest compliment he can get is to watch people at an opening stop in front of a work, move on, and then come back to it again, slowly realizing in the same way he has that trans-individuals are “not the other.”
Going forward, Daniels intends to continue working on a project about reentry after incarceration. His work is held in galleries and museums across Cuba and the United States. He currently resides in Buffalo, where he also works as an event photographer.
Daniels’s work and the rest of the show was selected by the juror, Anderson Turner, who currently works as the art critic for the Akron Beacon Journal and as the director of the School of Art Collection and Galleries for the Kent State University School of Art.
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