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ARTIST PROFILE: LIND A OZROMANO

Author: Yang Lim

LindaOzromano. I Feel Peaceful. 2017

Based currently in Edmonton, Linda Ozromano is a self -taught photographer whose artistic

sensibility is shaped by a convergence of various interests and experiences that have, in turn,

cultivated her interest in other cultures. This convergence can be summed up by her comment: “My

passion for travel as well as community development combined with curiosity over ho w art

influences our political, social and emotional realities had the biggest impact on my artistic

practice.”

Ozromano has been significantly involved with the local and international community in the areas of

public advocacy, human rights, humanitarian aid, and sustainable development. For example, she

has been involved with non-profit organizations for many years. This included working with
organizations such as Operation Groundswell in Toronto and volunteering in Uganda in 2011,

followed by a return there in 2014, during which she participated in educational and international

initiatives. Furthermore, she has collaborated with artists on community art projects to address

societal issues.

As such, her photography is shaped significantly by her social conscience as well as her engagement

with social and cultural issues. As Ozromano states, she is attracted to the photographic medium

because she can use it as “a tool to see the world,” through which she can uncover “the ordinary and

the mundane” as well as the unknown and unfamiliar. She feels that people do not pay enough

attention to the ordinary in urban cities such as Toronto, Montreal, and Edmonton. Therefore, her

depictions of ordinary people and street life aim to humanize its inhabitant s and represent them as

three-dimensional, complex individuals. Ozromano hopes that her works will encourage people to

recognize and foster mutual connections among each other:

I think the best moments are the ones that we think are mundane and ordinary. There is a certain

beauty in what is usually not exposed or captured. I like to seek for those moments. I also think if we

allow ourselves to fully experience emotions in a healthy and open way, we may discover so much of

what we didn’t know about ourselves as well as each other - and this is where all the wisdom comes

from.

The development of her artistic practice begins with Project Maisha , which exemplifies her keen

interest in capturing the humanity of people and their respective communities. While fundraising

for her volunteer trip to Uganda in 2011, a friend gave her a piggy -bank that is shaped like an

orange elephant and suggested that she name her. Ozromano decided to name the orange

elephant “Maisha” which means “life” in Swahili, and to bring it along on her trip. Consequently, the

elephant became a means for Ozromano to experience and reflect on her journey through different

communities, during which she used photography to document the places and people whom she

met. The elephant would often generate curiosity and interest among people and serve as a starting
point for generating conversation, particularly among young people. Ozromano likened her

photographing of the elephant to the movie of Am élie, in which the main protagonist Amé lie would

take photos with a garden gnome—so that it seemed like he was travelling around the world.

Through this photographic series, Ozromano explores the ways in which storytelling can function as

a means to connect people as well as create a sense of home and belonging through the generation

of a shared narrative of experience. The elephant itself could be said to function as a metaphor or

focal point for the interpersonal connections among the people. Furthermore, her photos convey

the humanity and individuality of the African kids, which differ significantly from the homogenous

images of impoverished and starving African kids that circulate in the mainstream media. Although

poverty and hardship certainly exist in Africa, these are not the only condi tions that impact people’s

lives there; however, the mainstream media has tended to focus on these characteristics, which has

resulted in a reductive representation of the continent that does not adequately reflects the diversity

and individuality of its people. Through Project Maisha, Ozromano challenges and deconstructs that

image.

Her subsequent photographic series reflect a continual interest in Africa and with capturing images

of people’s everyday lives. For example, she depicts images of street life in Memoirs from Istanbul

and evocative images of Iceland’s landscape, architecture, and community life in Getting Lost in

Iceland . In Zanzibar Unveiled , she depicts everyday life in Zanzibar, juxtaposed with some scenic

imagery. Through this, Ozromano appears to ask audiences to consider the actual lives of

inhabitants beneath the attractive beach, water, and scenery that typically attracts tourists. Mama

Land, East Africa includes posed and candid shots of children and adults.

Ozromano’s sense of herself as someone with a hyphenated identity also informs her work. As a

Turkish Jew, she is part of a minority population in her home country, so he r self-identity is informed

by a variety of different layers. Having immigrated to Canada twelve years ago as an international

student, she has made Canada home ever since. As a result, her interest in home and belonging can
be seen in her work, including the photographic series that she exhibited at this year’s The Works

Art and Design Festival. The series Colour of Emotions explores how people wear emotions as

masks and, more specifically, how colours can convey or respond to particular emotions as wel l as

how objects may represent certain emotions.

In each photo, Ozromano positions herself in the middle by facing the camera and holding a

particular object, besides which she has also painted her face a certain colour that acts as a mask. In

one photo, her face is painted green and she is holding her passport, whereas in another her face is

painted red and she is holding a National Post issue that has the front -page headline “Vegas

Gunman’s Body Found Amid 23 Guns.” As a result, the photos invite audiences to think about what

emotions they associate with certain colours, consider how they feel about her and the objects

being portrayed, and assess their own relationship to those very objects. Indeed, Ozromano’s face

mask in each photo appears to function as a metaphor for people’s emotions and the ways in which

these can impact on the choices that one makes, whether negatively or positively.

Reflecting on her artistic practice and relationship with her audience, Ozromano strives to evoke

emotional responses from people through her work and to encourage a sense of connection and

mutual recognition of each other’s humanity:

I like to see myself, not only as a photographer, but more so as a visual storyteller and story activist.

I certainly like to convey a message: however, I think most importantly it is how my artwork makes

the audience feel rather than think or perceive. Feelings like melancholy, nostalgia, grief and longing

are not easy to approach but I like to give people space to feel vulnerable and help them see

humanity in all the stories I try to depict.

Currently, Ozromano is working on a documentary series based on her recent photography of her

grandmother’s house in Turkey, through which she will explore topics such as her herita ge,

hyphenated identity, and sense of home and belonging. To learn more about Ozromano’s art, visit
her website at https://www.lindaozromano.com/ or follow @lindaozromanophotography on

Instagram.