Profile: Berkley Jordan Abrams

Double Exposure

When a girl is born to a photographer mother, childhood memories are closely tied to flashes and dark rooms. Berkley Jordan Abrams was exposed at a young age to photography, being raised and educated by artists in a tight-knit creative community. Now the Dalhousie psych student is experimenting with photographic manipulations that expose human dynamics. Abrams sat down with me to discuss double exposures, layering, and the art of memory.

Lauren Pincente: Photography is a physical stamp of a memory. What is your first memory that relates to photography?

Berkley Jordan Abrams: A flash. I have more memories of a lens than my mother’s face. I can perfectly recall her scrunched up face looking through a viewfinder.

LP: You credit your education at Rosedale Heights as being the catalyst for your success in the arts. How did Rosedale Heights help form you as an artist? 

BJA: It was an incredibly creative community. [Students] absorbed ideas from one another and challenged each other to explore their art forms; we dissected everything we could from one other’s style. It was at Rosedale where I developed my style and learned techniques I still use today.

LP: Surely there are challenges you still face as a photographer, though.

BJA: It’s a challenge to keep causing a fuss.

LP: You recently showed photographs in The Memory Project at Alison Milne Gallery. What is the correlation between your subjects and the theme of memory?

BJA: I photographed [Jessica and Emma of The Memory Project] on film with double exposures. The layering of multiple exposures is an appealing metaphor for the way we process a single memory over time in slightly different ways.  The images are a visual interpretation of the journey through memory; how it is recalled, reconstructed, retold and remembered in multiple dimensions and intensities.

LP: The female form seems to occupy your work.  

BJA: I often feel compelled to explore the visual space that a woman’s body takes up in society and how multi-layered it can be to different sets of eyes.

LP: You participated in the Portraits by Women exhibit at The Rectory and your photographs have appeared at Hangman Gallery’s CONTACT Photography Festival exhibit for two years running. What common elements appear in your public work?  

BJA: Most of my photographs are traditional black and white film that have been altered or manipulated to distort the viewer’s perception of the subject. Light is an incredibly useful tool for this type of manipulation. I play with reflections, blurring, layering and shadowing to create this sort of effect.

In these exhibits, the subjects were positioned to appear inhuman or extremely strange. Bodies, figures, and faces express so much and present so much substance to an image. People can be so simple and yet so incredibly complex.

LP: Did you have a particular thesis in mind with the images you contributed?

BJA: I wanted to explore the nature of different kinds of relationships: romantic relationships, friendships, familial relationships and the relationships one has with oneself. The first few shots turned out so abstract, they began to communicate other ideas. The layering and obscurity of multiple exposures reminded me of how we perceive experiences and how these perceptions are manipulated over time. I began to relate my images to repressed, altered, artificial, fragmented and other types of memory.