Dianne Bos


Dianne Bos, on her work:

Light. Time. Space. Memory. History. Architecture. Gardens. Art and Science.

These are touchstones for my work.

Is photography really a way to “capture an instant in time?”

My work challenges this view by exploring the history of photography and the science of light. I like to explore how different devices change our perception of time and space: handmade cameras, walk-in light installations, and photo work with sound elements. These tools and devices formulate and extend my investigations of journeying, optics and time.

Viewers have said that my work evokes the memory-image that remains for them long after they have viewed a familiar location. I think this recognizes the importance I have always assigned to time, memory, and capturing the essence of the place. My imagery ranges from architectural icons, classic travelers’ destinations and gardens, to the natural environment and botanical studies.

I have been working with traditional photographic techniques for over 40 years. Various thematic bodies of work have evolved and technical innovations have merged to create new visual hybrids: innovative uses of pinhole, film, camera obscura, photogram, installation, and cyanotype all explore the world around us. The excitement, for me, lies not in photographing and reproducing something I can see, but in revealing the imperceptible (and maybe only the imagined) using the physics of light and time and traditional darkroom techniques.



Dianne Bos was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and received her B.F.A. from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Dianne Bos’ photographs have been exhibited internationally in numerous group and solo exhibitions since 1981. Important national exhibitions of Dianne’s work include: ‘Light Echo’, an innovative installation at the McMaster Museum of Art, in collaboration with Astronomer Doug Welch, which linked celestial and earthly history; It’s You!: Unexpected Photographs from Papua New Guinea, at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Art Gallery, PEI.,; and Reading Room at the Cambridge Galleries, an exhibition exploring the book as a camera. Her work was also part of the exhibition Poetics of Light, Contemporary Pinhole Photography, at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, New Mexico. Recent exhibitions at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery included ‘See Attached’ a photographic dialogue with photographer Sarah Fuller and ‘The Sleeping Green: No Man’s Land 100 years later’.  The Sleeping Green opened at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris April 2017 and traveled to various galleries in Canada in 2018.

Many of Bos’s recent exhibitions feature handmade cameras, walk-in light installations, and sound pieces. In 2015 Bos also created a site-specific installation for Dawson City, Yukon, a work that has continued to be shown as part of the ‘Midnight Sun Camera Obscura’ traveling exhibition. In 2016 one of Bos’ Galaxy Projection devices was part of the exhibition ‘Seeing’ at the Science Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin and is now traveling in the USA.

Dianne Bos has been the recipient of many awards and grants including the Canada Council for the Arts and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Grants. Bos has also been nominated twice for the Scotia Bank Photography Award.

Of her work, Dianne Bos states:

“My work challenges the view of photography as a way to “capture an instant in time. By using pinhole cameras and long exposure times I record, not an instant, but rather the passage of time at a site. Viewers have said that my work evokes the memory-image that remains for them long after they have viewed a familiar location. I think this recognizes the importance I have always assigned to time, memory, and capturing the essence of the place, in my images of architectural icons and classic travelers destinations.”

Bos’ newest body of work – the “Biodiversity” series – uses analog photographic processes to explore contrasts and echoes between the designed worlds of botanical gardens, biodiversity gardens and the natural environment. The use of low tech photographic technologies prevents this from becoming a strictly documentary project, since these techniques heighten the dreamlike, magical or even chimerical quality of the work, sometimes seeming to make the invisible visible.

Plant processes such as exhalation, transmission, photosynthesis, regeneration and decomposition cross boundaries between the human and the non-human, just as plants and gardens negotiate frontiers between the natural and the cultural or artistic. It is timely to investigate how we represent human separation from, and inclusion in, nature. Climate change, biodiversity loss, and now global pandemics are familiar parts of today’s lexicon, highlighting how some aspects of the natural world have already existed within “the anthropocene” for a long time.

In pinhole photography, light passes through a tiny aperture to alter the chemistry of photo paper or film, much as light triggers photosynthesis in plants. Long exposures record a passage of time. By using objects and the photogram technique in the darkroom, I add a poetic dimension to the resulting images, making visible ordinarily invisible transactions such as exhalation, transmission, photosynthesis, and regeneration between the human and natural worlds.

In “The Sleeping Green” series, Bos examines the historic battlegrounds of World War I. The pinhole photography techniques she uses produce still images of a passage of time. She explores how time has changed the landscape of these historic battlegrounds 100 years later. In ways other than the presence of memorials, does a memory of that past persist at these sites? Tens of thousands of people who were killed in that war are part of the landscape. Is there a memory in the soil, water, plants, and trees of their presence? Does an echo of war still resonate in the sky above?

In her panoramic series, Bos takes photographs with a 1926 Banquet Panoramic Camera which produces a 7” x 17″ negative. This type of camera was often used in the past to take large group shots such as company photos or school groups. After the photograph is made, the large paper negatives are scanned. From there, Bos paints them digitally with fields of colour to create new Alberta landscapes that blend old views of the west with a contemporary medium.

Dianne Bos is also one of the featured artists in Eric Renner’s seminal text book: “Pinhole Photography: Rediscovering An Historic Technique.” Her work can be found in public and private collections world-wide, including: National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Photography Institute, Ottawa, ON, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Edmonton, AB, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, ON, Global Affairs Canada, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, AB, TD Bank, Toronto, ON and Kamloops Art Gallery, to name a few.

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