For Burnaby photographer Barbara-Lynn Pollard, picking up a camera offered a way to refocus her life, giving her a means to get through her panic attack episodes.
“When you have social anxiety and you have a general anxiety sort of like I have, there are situations that I come across that I find very daunting,” Pollard said. “The camera is a way for me to step back, bring up to my face, focus it and breathe through situations that I find very challenging.”
Pollard, of Blip Photography, keeps a sharp eye out for the unusual on her weekly recovery walks. Her subjects lean towards street art — drawing, painting, spray painting, with a special focus on graffiti — across Vancouver.
Growing up in an artistic family, she said that she had always been able to appreciate and recognize art. She gets particular joy, she said, in witnessing art that vibrantly fills spaces that would otherwise be blank concrete walls. She loves to capture these fleeting artworks before they are removed or covered over because “the graffiti is something that gets destroyed or covered over or removed quite quickly in the city.”
Pollard got her first camera when she was 10years old; it was a way to keep her occupied during a family trip to Montreal Olympics.
Her first photos were of family members, historical places and monuments. But Pollard's photography has evolved much over time.
“I would look for things that were more interesting to me, like writings on a wall or a drawing on a wall or something that caught my eye like a colour," she said. "Or old, like old barns, old farm equipment, things that have a history.
“In all my photography, whether it's something historical or whether it's someone else's art that I'm recording for perpetuity, there will always be some sort of historical record of it.”
Pollard noted that graffiti is a polarizing subject. While some value it as art, many people think of it as vandalism.
But for her, it’s a form of creative expression. “It often speaks to a point with pending on what the art is,” she said. “It is someone's creativity. And it's also reflects someone's life and someone's pain, depending on what they put on the wall. So it's sort of someone's personal journey. Some people do art for healing, some people do art to express themselves —and it's all about perspective.”
Pollard served as an arts administrator for over 40 years, but a stomach cancer diagnosis four years ago left her reevaluating her life.
“When you are faced with the possibility of no longer being alive because you're ill, it's kind of a reawakening, in a way, so it's about reworking a cycle of life, living your life to the fullest and finding the reasons why you need to live your life to the fullest.
“I find that reflected in my work a lot as well. I’m looking for that regeneration.”
The pandemic was also a deciding factor in prompting her to switch careers, she explained. After the Vancouver International Dance Festival was closed down, she mulled a transition to health care as she recovered from a third cancer surgery.
However, the time away from full-time career in arts has given the photographer a chance to appreciate art in a new way, allowing her to look at her art more objectively and consider a new direction.
“It's given me a clearer understanding of of my time and where I want to focus my goals and my artistic dreams,” she said. “When I was working in the arts, it was often 14-16 hour days where I didn't have time to take time for myself in my own art. It's given me an opportunity to go back through my hundreds of thousands of digital files and look at old pictures and decide what to do with them and how I want to go forward.”
Her photographs can be found on her facebook page. Her work will also be displayed during the 6th annual Vancouver Outsider Arts festival, which runs this weekend from Oct. 14 to Oct. 16 at Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre.
Pollard hopes that people can visit the festival, get engaged with the art and support it.
Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival
Where: Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver, BC)
When: Oct.14 to Oct.16;
Friday: 12p.m. to 9p.m.
Saturday: 12p.m. to 5:30p.m.
Sunday: 12p.m. to 3p.m.
Cost: Free (Community Arts Council of Vancouver is also celebrating their 75th Anniversary on Friday with a free public event which is sold out)