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Qendrim Hoti is capping his final year of studies in the Studio Art Bachelor of Fine Art Program with a remarkable enrichment opportunity for his artistic practice.
He is one of three recipients selected from more than 50 applicants for a Nikon Scholarship to attend the 2013 Toronto Magnum Workshop, a master class for professional and emerging photographers interested in photojournalism, street photography and visual storytelling. The five-day shooting workshop, which started Monday and finishes today, provides Hoti with the opportunity to develop a new body of work and improve his visual, conceptual and editing skills while focusing on story formation and visual literacy.
Magnum Photos is a legendary international photographic co-operative owned by its photographer-members. Based in New York, London, Paris and Tokyo, the collective provides compelling photographs to the press, publishers, advertising, television, galleries and museums around the globe. Magnum’s distinguished membership comprises some of the world’s most renowned photojournalists, including York visual arts alumnus Larry Towell (BFA ‘76), who joined the group 20 years ago as the first Canadian member.
Thanks to his scholarship, Hoti has been studying this week in a small class setting with Magnum photographer Zoe Strauss, a photo-based installation artist who uses Philadelphia, PA, as a primary setting and subject for her work. A 2007 USA Gund Fellow, her accolades include a Pew Fellowship and inclusion in the 2006 Whitney Biennial.
“I’m excited to learn from such a remarkable professional photographer,” said Hoti. “Although the workshop is only a week long, it has intimacy and a sense of urgency that really gets your gears grinding to work hard.
“Magnum has a long history of influential photojournalists and artists, and I have a great respect for an artist-run agency with such prestige.”
Kotama Bouabane, the photography studio technician in York’s Department of Visual Art & Art History, wrote Hoti a glowing recommendation for his application.
“Qendrim is hard-working and highly motivated, and he’s shown tremendous growth, both technically and conceptually, in the photography program here at York University over the past year,” Bouabane said. “He’s very versatile, learning how to use a 35mm camera, medium format cameras such as Mamiya RB 67 and Hasselblad, and the 4×5 large format Toyo, while honing his critical eye by focusing on his personal experiences and research.”
Earlier this season, Hoti won the highest award in the photography area at Kunst-o-Rama, the Visual Art Open House held on campus, and was chosen to participate in Disjunct, a juried group exhibition showcasing works by graduating York visual arts students at Toronto’s Propeller Centre. His photos from the Magnum Workshop will be included in a slideshow as part of a public wrap party on Saturday, May 18 at Toronto’s Stephen Bulger Gallery (1026 Queen St W) from 7 to 9pm.
Originally from Kosovo, Hoti said his photographic influences include a suitcase of family photos taken and collected by his father before and after emigrating to Canada. The family was forced to leave their homeland prior to the Kosovo War of 1998/99 and subsequently moved around Canada and the US, spending occasional summers in Europe.
He was drawn to photography as an artistic practice that lets him actively engage with society and his surroundings.
“The ability to go anywhere and meet anyone while expressing yourself has impacted me very strongly,” said Hoti. “There is a way of living with a camera that you don’t experience working alone in a room.
“Many different themes arise in my photographs,” Hoti said. “Most of the time they have to do with a sense of loss, and uncertainty. I often find my family in front of my lens, and I see and capture their moments and struggles. I use the act of documenting those moments as a way to deal with my own life, and the uncertainty that has been with me throughout.”
This uncertainty includes the loss of Hoti’s father, who passed away earlier this year.
“It makes me think about just how much one can experience in a lifetime and that it is possible to feel cheated for not experiencing enough,” Hoti said. “Photography captures experiences and suspends them in time. Issues of memory and loss have become central narratives in my recent work to explore absence and presence.”
While his practice captures the present and reflects on the past, Hoti is very excited about his future. Summer plans include developing new work and planning a winter project in Kosovo and Albania.