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Sophie Hogan and Kate Wilhelm: Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks
Sophie Hogan and Kate Wilhelm

Curated by Phil Irish

People are not always what they seem – and their true identities are often the reward of struggle, belonging, and even aggression. These two photographers, Sophie Hogan and Kate Wilhelm, have each developed an interest in a subculture and, by seeking connection there, have found compelling relationships and insights about the struggles and strength of identity.
Teenagers develop the art of keeping parts of their lives secret, yet they are strikingly candid when Sophie Hogan is working her camera. Her series Night Shots is an investigation into the sociology of teen culture, including the emotionally turbulent terrain of friendships and exclusions, love and crushes, lust and loss and “the raw energy of uncertainty of being young.” These works are created with the co-operation, perhaps even collaboration, of a circle of teens who have accommodated Hogan into their hidden lives. These images are not documentary in tone, but employ lighting and gesture to narrative effect, immersing us in the nocturnal emotions of adolescence.

Kate Wilhelm is hooked on roller derby, in part because it “throws and received, cultural notions of femininity in your face.” The Derby Girls adopt performance names and wardrobes, building alternate identities as they engage in one of the few contact sports available to women. Wilhelm’s striking portraits of Derby Girls don’t place them in the aggression of a bout, but in their private domestic spaces. The incongruity of setting a Derby Girl persona in a quiet moment, or with family members, or nursing a baby, calls our stereotypes into question. While these formally posed images may seem like a “scientific” catalogue of a social type, Wilhelm’s eye for suggestive detail provides a unique set of clues and questions within each portrait. We puzzle through the clues in search of the Derby Girl’s complex identity, finding an unconventional freedom and strength in the lives these women have constructed.


Sophie Hogan studied Photographic Arts at Ryerson. Her practice as a portrait photographer extends into conceptually rich series, including the exhibition and book My Elora: The Grace of Belonging. The recipient of a Canada Council Grant, she also won first prize at the Insights exhibition last year. Her work will be featured at the Gladstone Hotel again for Contact 2011 (Toronto) in May.

Kate Wilhelm holds a B.A. from the University of Guelph. Her work has been exhibited locally and internationally, including The M Word: Real Mothers in Contemporary Art (New York), and New Normal (Colorado). Oshawa’s public gallery, the McLaughlin Gallery, will feature her work in 2012. Wilhelm was born in 1976 and lives in Guelph, Ontario with her husband and son.