Proof Yearbook

2024 marks the 30th edition of Proof—Gallery 44's annual emerging artist exhibition, established in 1994—and this web project shares the program's legacy and archive. The exhibition began as Latent Images in 1987, pulling emerging artists' works from a general call for submissions. In 1993, Gallery 44 held its first call specifically soliciting submissions from emerging artists. Met with an overwhelming response, the gallery's Exhibition Selection Committee created a non-thematic, national forum to platform artists working in unconventional materials and photographic processes to reflect current concerns and practices of emerging Canadian photographers.

Thirty years later, Proof remains true to its roots.  

Lan "Florence" Yee, Proof 28, photo documentation by Darren Rigo at Gallery 44 (Toronto), 2022


In presenting this archive of documentation and printed matter, Gallery 44 is thrilled to unfurl the important role Proof has played in catalyzing the careers of Canadian photographers. Many have maintained decades as practicing artists, educators and curators; some have joined our staff and Board or gone on to exhibit solo projects in our Main Gallery, teach workshops in our darkrooms or become writers- and artists-in-residence. Since 2010, Gallery 44's practice of commissioning essays by guest writers has constellated these artists' works amidst contemporary art and public discourse, urging us to consider the implications of emergent image-making in an ever expanding visual world.

In our dig through the archive, I was delighted to discover that Gallery 44's past Director, Sara Angelucci, was a participating artist in Proof 5 just one year before joining the staff—an anecdote of synchronicities that feels so familiar to the Gallery 44 experience. In her introductory text for Proof 6, Sara commented on Proof's impact on her artistic practice and, as a staff member, its opportunity to encourage and support artists in the early stages of their careers.

My career and Sara's have interwoven through a few connecting threads, and in my current role as Director of Gallery 44, I share her love and affection for Proof and its reflection of G44's core spirit. When I think through the Proof legacy and, more broadly, Gallery 44's enduring commitment to emerging artists, I realize this aspect of our values has endured in forming my own practice and ethos, too. On the occasion of Proof 30, I’ve returned to passages from the text Sara authored for Proof 6—in which she shared thoughts on emergence and becoming—with annotations, to propose how we might uplift and come to know emerging practices today.
The word "proof" conveys several meanings, including the evidence used to establish a fact or, in photographic terms, a test print for a work which is still contingent, in the process of becoming. The photograph itself encompasses both definitions, as it is at once a record of a moment in the past as well as a foreshadowing of a moment about to happen, forever suspended between the two. In describing a historical photograph of an imprisoned assassin, Roland Barthes speaks of the time suspension inherent in the act of viewing an image of a man we know is about to die: "I read at the same time: This will be and this has been." 1
The notion of a "test" prompts belief in a right answer, or a set of criteria that provide measures of progress to an end. But “contingency" offers a more malleable possibility. An artwork's "becoming" depends on all the many variables that orbit its making—the agency of materials, the influence of networks, people, texts, the memories, ideas and sensations that circulate in its environment. If image-making can push beyond a notion of time suspension toward time attunement, the works themselves become single shimmers cast by the prismatic lens of time. Tina M. Campt suggests that one can do more than “watch” photographs, but be attuned to them, “at the haptic frequency of vibration, like the vibrato of a hum felt more in the throat than the ear.” 2
In this suspension between becoming and having been, PROOF provides an interesting interplay of ideas for a group exhibition of emerging artists. For one could think of "emerging" in hierarchical terms, as an earlier stage on the way to becoming known, as a precise trajectory with a fixed destination. However, with the passing of time and the acquiring of experience, I have come to think of artistic production as a lifelong process of emerging, as one moves from one exploration to another.
Becoming sometimes feels like a slow, constant drift—a passage toward an unknown destination or meandering without a guide or a map. To think of “emerging” outside hierarchical terms, one might imagine a more communal passage: a constellatory network where experience unfolds in a field of reciprocal, decentralized beacons and knowledge that builds in its echoes. In this lifelong process of emerging, I picture a cluster of fireflies, with their intermittent patterns of light guiding a network of sinuous paths, luminous as they move from one exploration to another.
I once asked someone how you know that you have emerged. She replied: "When you read about yourself somewhere." Perhaps the four artists featured in PROOF 6— Shinobu Akimoto,Terry Pidsadny, Andrew Wright and Camille Zakharia—will know that they have emerged because their names are written here. But I hope they understand that their work is presented herein because it offers an array of fascinating and refreshing perspectives in the ongoing dialogue with the photographic process. A process inherently encompassing becoming and became.
From my vantage point, I witness alchemy and magic in the field of emerging photographic practitioners. I see their curiosity toward materials and ideas, their bravery in interweaving the political with the communal, their admiration toward mentors and their generosity in working with fellow makers, thinkers and writers. The three artists in this landmark year, Proof 30—Beau Gomez, Michaëlle Sergile and Morgan Sear-Williams—exemplify the enduring curiosity that imbues a life attuned to images. We present their work herein because it holds the many ways that still and moving images give space to refract ourselves, our leaders, and our embodied geographies. Their practices glimpse a future, much like our past, that is alive and forever unfixed.

—Alana Traficante (2024) and Sara Angelucci (1999)
1. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981): 96.
2. Tina M. Campt, Listening to Images, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017), 8.

Latent Images

Proof 1

Proof 2

Proof 3

Proof 4

Proof 5

Proof 6

Proof 7

Proof 8

Proof 9

Proof 10

Proof 11

Proof 12

Proof 13

Proof 14

Proof 15

PROOF 16-30