Started in 2002, Ho Tam’s ongoing Posing series consists of seemingly straightforward photographs of people caught going about their business on the street. Pioneers of street photography, like Garry Winogrand or Lee Friedlander, come to mind. Tam, however, takes his project a step further by applying a consistent approach to the production of the images and by arranging the portraits around specific themes. The photos all have a snapshot quality, and are taken in specific locations on analogue film. Unlike some street photographers, Tam asks his subjects for their permission to be photographed. The entire exchange can last less than a minute as Tam takes only a single shot. For the artist, such encounters are both exciting and nerve-wracking experiences because he never knows what sort of response he will get from the subject.
To date, Tam has shot images for the Posing series in Montreal, New York, Bangkok and Toronto, as well as a number of international airports. In Montreal, Tam captured images of older men on the street all sporting berets, while in New York he snapped photos of men and women wearing similar indigo blue button-down shirts. The images in this portfolio were shot in Toronto during the Canadian National Exhibition, which takes place annually at the end of August. (The theme tying these images together should be obvious.) For gallery exhibition, hundreds of images are arranged in grids with similarly themed images clustered together. In this way, Tam conveys a sense of what it means to be an individual, but also reminds us that we are part of larger communities. Tam also reproduces a selection of the images in limited edition artist’s books, titled Poser.
Ho Tam was born in Hong Kong, educated in Canada and the U.S. and currently lives in Vancouver. Before becoming an artist, he worked in advertising and community psychiatric facilities. His broader practice includes video, painting and print media. His work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Hong Kong and Bangkok. His first video, The Yellow Pages, was commissioned by the public art group PUBLIC ACCESS for an installation at Toronto’s Union Station in 1994. Since then, Tam has produced over 15 experimental video works. He was included in the traveling exhibition Magnetic North: Canadian Experimental Video, organized by Walker Art Center, Minnesota in 2001. In 2007, his feature-length documentary film Books of James was awarded Outstanding Artistic Achievement at Outfest in LosAngeles, and Best Feature Documentary at the LGBT Film Festival in Tel Aviv. As well as Poser, he publishes several other artist’s books and zines. He is an alumni of the Whitney Museum’s Independent Studies Program, Bard College (MFA), and is represented by Paul Petro Contemporary Art in Toronto.