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Current Obsession: the late shutterbug Arnaud Maggs saved his best work for last

Current Obsession: Arnaud Maggs

As an artist, Arnaud Maggs was a late bloomer. Before scoring his first exhibition at the age of 51, he worked as a graphic designer and then as a magazine photographer. Those two strains merge in his fine art photography, which followed a stubborn formula: shoot a subject hundreds of times, then present the results in an orderly grid on a white wall. Edward Burtynsky, who chaired the jury that honoured Maggs with the Scotiabank Photography Award last year, says the artist’s meticulousness rubbed off on him: “He was so demanding about everything being just so.” A show this month at the new Ryerson Image Centre—part of the Contact photography festival, and the first major public display of Maggs’ work since his death late last year at age 86—reveals how his subjects got progressively weirder over the years. He catalogued shaggy German students and art world luminaries in their dotage. Later came death notices and 19th-century French carpentry diagrams. For his riveting final work, completed shortly before his death, Maggs dressed up as the sad sack clown Pierrot and turned the camera on himself. The obsessive cataloguer went out on a high, with a jester’s mix of solemnity and sly smirking.

Arnaud Maggs
Ryerson Image Centre
May 1 to June 2