Arts & Life

From broken Pentaxes to John Paskievich: Winnipeg’s FLASH Photographic Festival

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Leif Norman, pictured, is the founder of Winnipeg’s Flash Photographic Festival.

Have you met Leif Norman?
You should. He’s very approachable, with a let’s-chat blend of humour and sincerity. And all this despite his intimidatingly creative sense of dress. He’s a man about Winnipeg. He’s a photographer. And he’s the first mover behind Winnipeg’s upcoming FLASH Photographic Festival.

The festival runs from October 1 to October 31. And it’s taking place in venues all over Winnipeg and Manitoba.

The concept: based loosely on Toronto’s Contact Photography Festival, a summertime event where the works of local and international talent are exhibited in a diverse swath of venues, galleries, and businesses across the city.

Photographer Ian McCausland’s work will be showcased at the social service organization Wahbung Abinoonjiiag, Inc., on Dufferin Avenue. And John Paskievich, a man widely known for his “poignant, funny, angry at times” photographs of Winnipeg’s North End, will have his work displayed at Neechi Commons on Main Street.

“This festival is for everyone and anyone,” said Norman. “It’s for the punk kids with broken Pentaxes. It’s for the bat-shit crazy, the vaudevillian, the people who would have an audience nowhere else.”

The entry processes is simple: contact Leif Norman, first, before the festival’s August 1 submission deadline. Pay the $150.00 entrance fee, second. And then find a venue willing to take part in the festival by showcasing your no doubt interesting, worth-seeing work. Then, lastly, you get the privilege of meeting with Leif again to let him know the venue. He will add you and the chosen venue to the program. Done.


Winnipeg’s trolley car drove by. We talked about that for a bit. It was a long digression. Norman knew a lot about it. Parlour Coffee is a surprisingly comfortable place for its size. We were lucky enough to get window seats. And overlooking Winnipeg’s Main Street is never not interesting.


“The purpose is to bring together people,” said Norman. “Photographers are like alley cats. They don’t come together too much, and when they do, they  sometimes hiss. This festival will help build an active group.”

Photographer Bruce Monk will be putting on a platinum palladium printing workshop on October 26 as part of the festival. Others, too, will be hosting workshops. “There is an educational aspect to the festival,” said Norman.  “Cinematheque is hosting a photography-related movie night on October 15.”

Norman, under pressure to give himself a title, uncomfortably settled on executive producer. But he’s done it all, from, “Why don’t we do this?” to building a festival app and website, to now having nearly 30 exhibits scheduled to appear across the city.

“It gives younger artists an opportunity to show their work,” he said. “And it draws from many communities across Manitoba.”

There’s a festival venue in Oakbank this year. And Norman hopes the number of participants grows across the province, as the festival evolves.

Winnipeg’s Cake-ology is going to make birthday cupcakes in celebration of 175 years of photography. And the chocolatier Constance Popp will be selling chocolate cameras for the duration of the festival.

So, come. Pick up a limited-edition festival program for the first ever Winnipeg Photographic Festival. Meet Leif. Explore your city. Learn about photography. And be a part of “a drunken debate on digital versus print.”

“Yeah, drunken debates,” said Norman. “I want those to happen.”

See you at the opening night reception at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on October 1.