Intersection: Philip Jessup

September 23-October 31

Opening September 23 6pm-9pm | Artist demos and talks September 24

Intersection is a four-person photographic exhibition with two artists from Ontario and two from Quebec. This bringing together of artists from the two provinces aims to expose each artist to a new photographic community.

Ginette Clément | Claude Dagenais | Raul Rincon | Philip Jessup

Philip Jessup

Atoll: The Sky Above, Lagoon Below

Low Tide 3, Laura copy.jpg


Where are you from and what attracts you to colour?

I grew up in Washington D.C. For me Washington wasn’t so much a city of monuments as a cluster of villages surrounded by forests and streams. Living with my divorced mother as a rebellious teenager, I often drifted into Glover Archbold Park, a sliver of green that stretches north-south more than two miles from Cathedral Heights to the Potomac River. The city’s woods offered secluded hollows of serenity, a powerful salve in my life at that time.

I purchased my first camera, a Nikon Nikkormat FT, with money I earned as a paperboy. Photography courses at the now defunct Corcoran Gallery School of Art engrained some technique. During summers I documented long canoe trips in northern Maine, photographing pristine woods and gorges, wild rapids, and teens horsing around the backcountry. Luckily I chose Kodachrome to record those adventures, slides that even today retain their fresh, saturated look and provoke guffaws when I show them at high school reunions.

My love of Kodachrome led to an infatuation with Technicolor and Cinerama films, which dominated the Saturday double features at the local neighborhood Calvert Theater. When I intentionally pursued photography later in life, I was already addicted to the visual intensity and sensuality of color.


What themes do your images explore?

I am a landscape photographer. I am particularly drawn to places where humans and wilderness battle it out, embedding economic, social, and environmental tensions to discover. My HIDDEN WATERWAYS series is a comparative survey of cycles of change in urban rivers and creeks in Toronto, Beijing, Shanghai, and London. The waterways in these cities, after extensive civil engineering, are now reverting to some wilderness, either due to neglect or deliberate municipal investment.

Since 2006, I have been photographing landscapes and communities that are being devastated by climate change: the Arctic, the mangrove wetlands of Hong Kong, Melbourne’s wilderness watershed, and most recently, the low lying atolls of the Marshall Islands. This survey grew out of my professional work over 25 years to advance worldwide solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of cities.

Many photographers are already addressing the mounting damage due to climate change. They are doing that terrifying job very effectively. So I’m more interested in recording the natural beauty we can save . . . if we act in time. I also believe it is imperative to document what we might lose if solutions don’t pan out. We owe that to our grandchildren. They should know what their forbears lost.




What are your major influences?

I avidly collect landscape photography books and regularly pour over images made by William Fox Talbot, Gustave Le Gray, Carleton Watkins, Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Fay Godwin, Robert Adams, Toshio Shibata, and Ed Burtynsky. I’m particularly drawn to landscape images that not only tell me something unique about a place, but also invoke a meditation spirited by a singular abstract arrangement of lines, shapes, textures, and colors. Eliot Porter, a pioneer of color landscape photography, is a vital inspiration.

Porter’s images of lichen not only take me to Iceland, but they convey a sense of an ancient and everlasting life form. His photography books for the Sierra Club helped to build popular support for wilderness preservation in the U.S. I’ve learned a lot from him: photography matters.

Rainstorm, Arno Lagoon Blog



 My long career as an environmental advocate led me to photography. While promoting solutions to reduce urban carbon emissions, I realized that photographer could deepen public awareness of environmental threats to the planet.

A 12-page Canadian Geographic Magazine photo essay, Secret Hollows, published in 2003 got me started. The article probed the tensions between wilderness and urbanization in Toronto’s ravines.

Winning the Royal Photographic Society’s International Print Exhibition Bronze in 2005 gave me a real lift. Someone out there liked what I was doing! Toronto Community Foundation’s Vital People Award then sent me to Pond Inlet, where my Imperiled Landscapes project crystallized on a melting Baffin Bay ice floe. Since then I’ve attempted to document other wilderness landscapes and communities on the front line of climate change, most recently the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The sea may inundate these low-lying Pacific atolls in the coming decades, sadly forcing the Marshallese to relocate and lose everything.

Prior to taking up intentional photography, I served as the Executive Director of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund. I co-founded several international networks of cities devoted to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Most recently I accelerated LED streetlighting in major cities. I’ve kept in touch with practical solutions by consulting for the World Bank, which informs my now full-time photography with deeper knowledge of the issues.

I’ve exhibited my work in Toronto, London, U.K., and Indiana—and soon, Montréal. The Victoria and Albert Museum and international corporations such as Unilever have collected my photographs.