David Miller, a former photography instructor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge, has won the Canada Council for the Arts Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography.
Miller’s photography explores the concept of photographs as memorials. For his projects, The Museum, Visitors and Conservators, he travelled to Central Europe to photograph memorial sites, particularly those devoted to Jewish heritage, such as Auschwitz. With support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Miller will continue this work, focusing his lens on visitors’ engagement with the sites and the work that goes on behind the scenes in archives, conservation labs and offices.
Miller says his photographs at these sites are only possible due to the generosity and grace of people like directors of museums, scientists, preservation experts and visitors at the sites.
“On a hot, sunny August afternoon, I met a Polish man in his mid-30s. He told me that his grandfather had been imprisoned at Auschwitz. Though he lived in a nearby village, the day we met was his first time visiting. He offered that it would also be his last. His eyes teared and reddened as I made his portrait. During several minutes I made more than 200 images with him and each one is now part of a work titled Michael,” he says.
Miller has an exhibition of new works scheduled for the fall in Prague, Czech Republic.
In addition to working with students at the U of L, Miller has taught art, photography, open and extended media, drawing, foundation studies and the history of photography at various institutions in Canada, including the Alberta College of Art and Design and the Banff Centre for the Arts. Internationally, Miller has taught in the Czech Republic, Amsterdam and Mexico.
He was born in Montreal and says he grew up exposed to art and ideas. His mother studied with Arthur Lismer, a member of the Group of Seven, and his father always talked about current events. He recalls being curious about photographs from an early age.
“By 13 I had saved enough of my earnings from various jobs to purchase a good camera. I used that camera for more than 25 years,” Miller says. “Photography is a conflicted, quixotic medium. It intersects with every human activity. Whether or not we can see them, light transmits images. In photography, as with human sight, light joins the inside to the outside. This dichotomy is perpetually fascinating.”
Miller began his formal training in photography, filmmaking and media arts at Sheridan College of the Arts and Technology in Oakville, Ont. He undertook further studies in photography, interdisciplinary studio and art history at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. He also studied at Simon Fraser University, at Jan Van Eyck Akademie in the Netherlands and did graduate research at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.
The Duke and Duchess of York Prize, worth $8,000, was established by the Canadian government in 1986 to commemorate Prince Andrew’s marriage. The annual prize is awarded to the best candidate among all those who received project grants for photography during the year.
The announcement is available online at Canada Council for the Arts.