CARLOS & JASON SANCHEZ at Christopher Cutts Gallery

As the participant of the 2022 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, The Christopher Cutts Gallery is representing Montreal brothers and artists Carlos and Jason Sanchez for their exhibition New Work and release their book The Mystery of. The exhibition consists of the artists’ new photography works after their debut film Allure which was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017. These new images were created in California and Quebec.

South Gallery installation view

The artists are known for large scale photography depicting dramatic and mysterious incidents in familiar real-life or conceptualized places. The brothers would either choose specific locations or meticulously create scenes on set to take photos. Their images usually have eerie or uncomfortable atmosphere and narratives that never fully unfold. In this exhibition, the focus is not so much on people. Human figures are absent or small in the distant of the photographs. The artists often describe their works as “mise-en-scene photography” which means the setting, lighting, people, decorations, compositions, and costumes are all thoroughly made meaningful to the overall image.

In the artwork At a Moment’s Notice (2021), it shows how an image without people can tell a powerful and unsettling story. The scene shows what seems like a deserted party in a luxurious banquet hall. Personal belongings such as glasses, cameras, and coats are left behind to convey a sense of urgency, hence the name at a moment’s notice. The viewers cannot help but imagine what happened at this party. Things must be intense with fallen tables and chairs, dishes on the floor, and unfinished food and drinks. It is interesting that the setting is during daylight, but the chandeliers are turned on and it further emphasizes the fact that people do not have the chance to turn off the lights. It feels like everyone is suddenly gone and this sense of immediacy highlights the feeling of loneliness.

At a Moment’s Notice, 2021, Inkjet Print, 60 x 86 inches

In contrast to the chaotic environment, Border Crossing (2022) portrays the vast ocean with a red suitcase floating in the center. The whereabouts of the owner is unknown and probably very far from the suitcase. Again, the artists produce this unease narrative of someone trying to cross the border by sea, which contrasts the beautiful but also isolated sea.

Border Crossing, 2022, Inkjet Print, 40 x 59 inches

At first sight, Volunteer Search Party (2021) might appear to be a usual portrayal of natural sceneries. But look closely and there is a group of people scattered around the river all having their heads down as if trying to find something. As the title suggests, this is a group of people who come together to search for a missing person in the woods. The dim lighting and sinister clouds establish an enigmatic background. The fact that people are still searching in dark hours demonstrates collaboration and dedication but also an ever changing and unpredictable narrative.

Volunteer Search Party, 2021, Inkjet Print, 40 x 57 inches

I like the play between mirror and reality in Charlotte’s Hallucination (2022). In the real world, Charlotte believes that the curtain is on fire while in the mirror, the supposed reflection of reality, there is no fire on the curtain. In addition, the man is not shown in the mirror, so is he really there or is he Charlotte’s hallucination too? This image again entails an unnatural feeling which perhaps alludes to the broken or concerning relationship between the couple.

Charlotte’s Hallucination, 2022, 60 x 86 inches

The website of Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival writes that “the Sanchez brothers deliberately pull the camera back from their subjects to emphasize the influence that space can have on the telling and the perception of a story, their compositions each creating a somewhat unsettling, open-ended tone.” The quote perfectly summarizes the exhibition.

Zhiyi Fang

Images are courtesy of Carlos & Jason Sanchez.

*Exhibition information: CARLOS & JASON SANCHEZ – NEW WORK, April 30 – May 28, 2022, the Christopher Cutts Gallery, 21 Morrow Ave, Toronto. Gallery hours: Tue – Sat, 10 – 6pm. You can also learn more about the artists on their website here. Part of Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, 2022.

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