Photo albums are treasures. They are a safe space where you can preserve your memories and eventful moments of your life. And when you look at them and flip through the pages, you’ll see different faces and expressions of people in those photographs — including yourself. You might even think about who you could have been if things were slightly different in the past.
You can feel this when you visit Vivek Shraya’s current exhibition, I give myself a future, I give myself a past. Her exhibit explores who she might have been and who she could have become “in the absence of homophobia, misogyny and racism,” according to the Mitchell Art Gallery website.
“(This exhibition is like) having this capacity to imagine how your life would be different… by imagining it with an alternative past,” says Zachary Ayotte, a photographer who collaborated with Shraya in this project.
Shraya and Ayotte said they had the idea for this exhibition during 2021, and they knew how valuable the project would be for the Edmonton arts community. Ayotte also noted how exciting it was to see the development of this project.
The installation shows eight photographs of Shraya, which are displayed like photographs you can see in photo albums — it’s nostalgic and gives you a chance to remember your own past.
“(These pictures) feel nostalgic and empowering,” says Barbie Cayanan, a third-year design student at MacEwan University.
Shraya’s exhibition includes a timeline, where it shows her development from her younger self to adulthood.
If you wander around the exhibition and see the image in the farthest right, you can see an image of Shraya running in purple gym clothing. The photo is titled Athlete. This photograph shows a younger version of herself with short hair. While running, Shraya smiles and is excited to cross the finish line, and you feel this excitement with her.
The next image, Bald, shows Shraya as an adult, wearing a green suit. Bald is an image where Shraya shows no expression. This image challenges you to identify her true feelings and emotions. Though Shraya didn’t show any emotions, this image made me feel grief, as her eyes appeared to be longing for something she couldn’t have or something she lost.
Beside Bald, you can see another adult image of Shraya, where she was eating with different people and genuinely laughing. This image is titled Loved. Through this photograph, Shraya shows how it truly feels to be loved by the people around you.
“The picture with the title Loved stood out to me the most,” says Cayanan. “(It shows about) being true to yourself or being loved.”
Other exceptional images in this exhibition can make you feel different emotions as you stare at and analyze them for long. This exhibition lets you imagine different things about your past self, but it also lets you imagine a brighter future ahead of you —- where you can fully accept all parts of yourself.
Shraya advices aspiring artists to “keep going and don’t compare yourself to others.”
Visit I give myself a future, I give myself a past, at John & Maggie Mitchell Art Gallery in Allard Hall. The exhibition is open to the public until Dec. 10 at no cost. Visit now and experience the excitement of Shraya’s own photo album.