I need to connect to Newfoundland; to belong to its landscape; to understand its isolation, harshness, history, and its inability to provide for me. I long for this land. To trace its history with my footprints; for it to become a memory on the soles of my feet. This island knows me. It knows my presence. I want it to consume me, to own me. Newfoundland has a magnetic core that draws me in yet pushes me away. I want to walk all over its history; to stomp on it; to rewrite it. By being present to places that history has tried to erase, my intent as an artist is to challenge globalization and its lack of consideration for the local. I am unsettled and I am resettled.
My background in photography allows me to explore, document and understand my cultural heritage as a Newfoundlander and the connection between place and identity. Through my work, I create immersive narratives that invite the viewer to escape urban society and contemplate the importance of remote places. Inspired by the landscape paintings of the Romantic Era and their emphasis on the sublime which alludes to a rejection of globalization.
After leaving Newfoundland in 2004, I began to notice the subtle ways in which I rejected and erased parts of my own identity, such as my Newfoundland accent. In Resettlement, I documented the erasure of communities that were relocated as a way to understand to the gradual disappearance of local Newfoundland identity. Resettlement Acts were implemented shortly after Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949 and forced residents to move to urban areas in an attempt to modernize the province. These resettlements happened, and continue to happen, under the government’s conclusion that the communities in question have “no great future.”
In defiance of these Resettlement Acts, I have returned to the resettled community where my grandmother was born and raised. Over a series of journeys with my grandmother and extended family, we’ve built a cottage to reclaim the landscape of this forgotten island, which I’ve documented through large-scale photographs and video installations titled Pinchard’s Island. I also created a long term solar powered camera system, Cloudberry, which captures a photograph of of the Island every hour and uploads the image to a website accessible from anywhere. I am interested in reawakening local traditions, challenging the definition of presence, and encouraging Newfoundlanders to reclaim aspects of their culture that have disappeared. The contrasting themes of displacement and longing with perseverance and survival in my work suggests that there is a viable future.
Adam Simms is a Montréal-based visual artist whose practice is rooted in contemporary landscape photography. Inspired by the identity and landscapes of his Newfoundland origins, his work often constructs narratives that attribute to the understanding of culture and place-based identity.
Adam has produced several photographic projects such as Unsettled (2013), Where Did you Come From To? (2008),Washed-up (2009), Sublime (2010), and Newfoundland (2011). He has participated in solo and group exhibitions, as well as public art installations across Canada. Adam is currently working on a project focusing on the 1965 Resettlement Act of Newfoundland and how the abandonment of outport communities shaped and strengthened the sense of identity in Newfoundland.
Alongside his exhibition record, critics have written about his work in publications such as Riddle Fence, Photographer’s FORUM, The Montreal Gazette, The Montreal Mirror, Nor’Wester, and Fugues. Adam is the recipient of several grants from The Provincial Government of Newfoundland and The Federal Government of Canada and was selected as a finalist in the Best of College Photography 2011 by Photographer’s Forum.
Adam holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University.