Cobourg photographer wins Colborne Art Gallery Juried Show

Article by Bill Hornbostel

“I’ve always done art in some form,” says Cobourg photographer Ciara Ward. “In high school, I did a lot of painting and drawing. And at York [University], I did a lot of printmaking and drawing and sculpture, which was really different for me and challenging.”

“I also felt I didn’t have the drive to do it as a career; I didn’t love sculpture or printmaking so much that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life,” continues Ward. “I ended up switching to a different program, studying art history. I was studying art, I was making it on my own, but just not in a formal setting.”

Ward’s career path led her to become a librarian, through a master’s degree in library and information sciences, and her art also followed a new trajectory. “After my first paycheck on my first career job, I thought, ‘I’m gonna get myself a decent camera.’ My first camera was a Nikon.”

“Then I found Brooke Shaden; she’s an American photographer, she does conceptual and fine art photography,” Ward says. “I started following her and I thought that it looks fun. So then I just kind of it just sort of evolved from there.”

When asked how she would describe her work, Ward jokes, “Other than weird?” She says, “It’s really different because when I when I go out to shoot, I always have an idea.”

“For me, I don’t know a whole lot about the basic principles of actual photography, I just have an idea in my head of what I want the end picture to look like,” continues Ward. “And then I just shoot the components as I need them, and I use Photoshop and post processing to put them all together.”

Ward’s techniques have proved effective; she recently won the Juror’s Prize at the juried art show at the Colborne Art Gallery for her image, Of Dangerous and Noble Things.

Ward talks about how she put that image together as an example of how she works. “The forest is actually Northumberland County Forest and it was from the Fall of 2017,” says Ward. “I try to shoot all my own stock photos, so I’ll just randomly be taking pictures of bugs or birds or forest or weird trees or things that I think are interesting that I might want to put in a photo later.”

“I actually shot the main part of that in my dining room back in January,” Ward says. “I moved everything out of the dining room and I shot those photos.” She adds, “If I’m going to put myself or an element in a photo, that I make sure I have a blank wall. Because I have darker hair, it’s easier for me to do it on a lighter background, because then you can, in Photoshop, cut it out.”

“The mask was something I had made; I just wanted to make something really simple,” Ward continues. “My daughter loves this Netflix show, but also graphic novel, it’s called Hilda. One of the characters, his name is the woodsman, his face kind of looks like the mask. We just made it for fun, and I thought this would be neat for a photo.”

“I don’t have any of the bells and whistles,” states Ward. “I shoot with my camera: a remote trigger and a tripod and that is it. And bedsheets, a lot of bedsheets, it’s ridiculous!” she says with a laugh.

Ward continues, “When I travel, I my tripod is small enough that I can shove it in a suitcase, Then I always pack extra bedsheets, but then I’m worried about what airports are going to think, that I have all these bedsheets. But you can loop them over tree limbs or something and then shoot against that, and you have like a nice, neutral background.”

Ward finds the inspiration for her work all around her. “Sometimes it’s scene in a movie, sometimes we’re walking in the forest and I’ll just think, ‘That tree is really cool!’ I’m mostly really inspired by the natural environment and just being outside and quiet. I have a five-year-old, so I don’t get a lot of quiet anymore!”

“My brain is a super-strange place,” adds Ward. “I really admire people like Tim Burton, his aesthetic and his movies, and Guillermo del Toro, I love all of his stuff. I saw an exhibit of his at the AGO a few years ago, it was called ‘At Home with Monsters,’ and it was just so inspiring. It was stuff like that; I tend towards a darker aesthetic.”

You can check out more of Ciara Ward’s work on her website,, or follow her on Facebook (@ciarawardphotographer), Instagram (@cwlibrarian), or Flickr (

The juried show at the Colborne Art Gallery will be up through October 31. For more information about the Colborne Art Gallery, you may visit their Web site,, or call 905-355-1798. You may also follow the gallery on Facebook (@colborneartgallery).


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