A grayscale image of a hand resting on a wall covered in a floral pattern. The hand is positioned with fingers slightly spread, blending softly with the background of flowers and leaves.

Patrick Close, Untitled, c. 1976, black and white photo. MacKenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina Collection.

About the Artwork

Patrick Close describes photography as, “the simple process of editing reality”. (Close, 2008) In his practice he carefully selects his photographic images to reveal his take on reality and life. He captures his subjects within an atmosphere that suggests an air of mystery or emotion he hopes will speak directly to the viewer. “The work isn’t complete until there is a viewer,” he says of the relationship between artist and audience. (Potter, 2008) 

Many of Close’s works are untitled. He finds that titles, while they can be a means to understanding a work, can also block creative interpretations or push viewers in a direction they may not have gone on their own. Close prefers to select the image for its importance to him, trusting that it will resonate with his viewer in a way that is important to the viewer’s experience. 

Untitled was the image selected to represent a photoshoot Close had with a nude model. Many photos were taken but rather than present explicit images of the woman, he hints at sexuality with this gentle, yet powerful, image. “It is more sensual to suggest than to show,” he comments. (Close, 2008) 

While Patrick Close is best known for his images of trees and the BC rainforest, images of women and sexuality have surfaced in his work over his career. Critic Greg Beattie has noted a connection between Close’s photographs of trees and the human body in a review of his work: “The trees, their barren branches reaching to the sky, resemble people with upraised arms.” (Beattie, 1994) 

Close is fascinated with how human beings comprehend images and illusion. He is interested in how reality is brought into question when objects appear to go back and forth within a space. In this work, Untitled, the viewer is lead to wonder if the hand is going into the wall or if the wall is encapsulating the hand. 

Close works in black-and-white because it brings out the strength of the graphic elements and challenges the artist to carefully think about composition, rather than rely on the realism that color offers.  Black and white images are also easy to print in a home studio and, by their very nature, seem to produce an atmosphere or mood, a sense of mystery or memory. 

About the Artist

As a child, Patrick Close was interested in scientific study and discovered photography athe age of ten. He obtained the processing supplies he needed from a local pharmacy and printed on 3×5 Velox paper. His darkroom was a closet in his Hafford, Saskatchewan home and he burned a candle as the safe-light. The prints he made were from negatives of his family and his father’s adventures in the Army and Air Force during the Second World War. 

Close studied psychology and philosophy at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec for one year and then completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon in 1973. He did not have much formal training in photography but credits his time as a medical photographer at the University of Saskatchewan as the source of his technical skill development. The job demanded quality work whether it involved taking photographs in the operating room, during autopsies, or taking x-rays. 

He left this job for a year to travel and conducted independent art research in Europe. Returning to Canada, he worked a short time as an audio-visual technician before becoming the director/curator of the Photographers Gallery in Saskatoon in 1977. During those three years, he and other gallery members started one of the first collections of Fine Art photography in Canada. 

From 1979 through 1982, Close spent time learning more about museums, cultural conservation and cultural resource management. During that same time, he worked as a Visual Arts Consultant for the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and from 1990-2011, he was the Executive Director of CARFAC Saskatchewan. His knowledge and training are in demand as he is often requested to lecture and share his expertise as a juror, consultant, regional representative, coordinator or guest artist. 

Close has established himself as an outstanding black-and-white photographer and his works are included in many prominent exhibitions and collections around the world. Not content to sit back and enjoy his photographic success, Close decided in his late fifties that he wanted to learn how to paint. He is conducting his own independent study of painting styles and techniques in his studio at Flatlands Artist Studios in Regina, Saskatchewan. 

Things to Think About

  • Photography was invented in the 1830s. Investigate how the first cameras and film were made. As photography matured, some people said that ‘painting was dead’ because of this marvelous invention. Did the art of painting fade out? How did it change as a result of this invention?   
  • How has the classic image of the photographer changed over the years? How have the tools and materials changed? Is traditional photography dead and has digital photography taken over? 
  • Patrick Close has a statement in his studio that he considers daily, “Think less… Paint more”. Why do you think he would have posted this sign? Can one learn through simply doing? 

Post your artwork online using the hashtag #studiosundaysyqr!

Studio Activity

Look at portraits of people who are admired within your community or in the world at large and explore how the photographer uses different methods to convey ideas about the person they are photographing Using that research as inspiration, create a series of photographs that show different aspects of a friend or family member.


What you Need:

  • family member to model
  • Camer(could be a phone or tablet camera)
  • Printer (Optional)
  • Backdrop (Optional)
  • Outfit changes (Optional) 

What you Do:

  • Choose a friend or family member to model for your portraits. 
  • What one word comes to mind when you think of that person?  Use that word as a theme to guide how you will take their photograph. Some examples would be:  power, joy, hardship, perseverance, etc.
  • Think about the background spaces in your photographs and how they can work with your image and supply information about the subject.
  • Think about how you will take the shot. Will it be a close-up image, mid-range photo or a long shot taken from far away? Will you ask your model to pose, or will you capture a selective moment (surprise, distraction, seriousness, joy, anxiety)?
  • Select your best photographand display them. You could print out your photos to display them, or share them through social media.  

Post your artwork online using the hashtag #studiosundayyqr!