Wish You Were Here

Say something about yourself?
I’m Avard Woolaver. I live in Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast. I grew up on a farm and moved away to Toronto to study photography. After many years, I’m back in the country, where I started out. I have always carried a camera and like to take photos of everyday life, capturing my surroundings.

What is this series?
The series is titled “Wish You Were Here.” When I was a teenage boy in the mid-Seventies, living in rural Nova Scotia, I spent hours studying the album covers created by Hipgnosis, the London-based design group. This was before I grew interested in photography, but, as LPs like Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” or “Ummagumma” played on the turntable, I scrutinized the covers, trying to penetrate the mysteries of the evocative, layered visual compositions. In these photos I have tried to capture images that have that sense of the surreal yet are readily seen in everyday life.

How/When did you start this series?
I started the series “Wish You Were Here” in 2010. It came from a desire to document the world in a slightly different way. Moreover, I try to capture the sense of whimsy and humour that I liked about those album covers. The images come about through observation, rather than with Photoshop or other manipulations. For me, that’s an important aspect of the project — there’s no manipulation of the image. Reflections, juxtaposition, and scale all come into play.

What message do you want to tell the audience?
I think I want the viewers to think twice when they look at the photos. I want to challenge their perception, in a way. I also want to amuse the audience with subtle visual humour.

Any news or updates?
I just turned sixty and have stopped playing ice hockey. My kids are in high school now, and I’m feeling like I’m well into middle age. The creative urges have not left me, however. And I still take a lot of inspiration from music, art, and photography. The “Wish You Were Here” series was produced as a self-published book in October 2018. It is available through Blurb Books and Amazon.

Avard Woolaver has been taking photos for over four decades. He now lives in Nova Scotia. He’s particularly interested in New Topographics — the documenting of the human-altered landscape — as well as whimsical scenes and elements of surrealism found in everyday life. Photography keeps him in touch with the changing seasons and the passage of time. His images are intertwined with childhood memories and locations around Hants County, Nova Scotia.
He studied photography at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in Toronto and was in business in the commercial photo industry there for a number of years.
In March 2018 he had a solo exhibition at Ryerson University’s Gallery 310. The show, featuring street photos taken from 1980 to 1995, was titled “Toronto Days” and received good critical response.
He has produced four self-published books: Toronto Flashback (1980–1986), No Money Down — Toronto (1980–1986), Toronto Days, and Wish You Were Here.