Jonah Samson’s Dream Distortion

Repurposed images printed with plant-dye yield a haunting effect in this new show, opening today


In addition to being a CH contributor, Cape Breton Island, Canada-based Jonah Samson has long collected jarring imagery, redefined its usage and sought out unique photographic processes that match his inspiration. With his latest solo exhibition “Dream Distortion,” opening today, 2 April 2015, at Vancouver’s Macaulay & Co Fine Art, Samson delivers Absurdist Theater-inspired works, tinged with anxiety but calling upon the power of nature. And beyond the peculiar visuals and their dark humor, the core of Samson’s innovation occurs by way of process.


“I think when you look at the pictures, they are a little difficult to understand in their entirety because they are really about the process,” Samson shares with CH. On the surface, “These are not abstract pictures. They are very clearly something. I sourced them all off of eBay. Once I get them, I use them to create digital negatives,” he continues. With these digital negatives drawn from vivid, eerie vintage imagery, Samson then takes to printing and it is here the process shifts from curation to creation.


Over the last year and a half, Samson has been developing a way to involve the plant life from his island home into his work, beyond simply snapping images of them. “I wanted to figure out a way to incorporate nature into the photos I was making. Really, to make photos using the plants I was growing. I went back to photographic history, to the very beginnings, when people were making salt printings. The very first photographic processes were made using nature. I wanted to develop a form of alchemy with sunlight. That’s the basis.”

Using salt from the ocean, sumac, wild blueberries, maple leaves and more, Samson derives coloration based upon old time methods. “You get this very organic mix of colors and patterns and drips and blotches into the pictures,” he says. Additionally, he employs kozo paper from Japan, which is very thin, but hyper-absorbent. “When all of these dyes and the photo chemicals enter the paper, they bleed and distort a bit.” It lends an edge, new dimension and deeper meaning. The pictures in the show all have a slight unease to them, which the artist refers to as, “The anxiety that comes with living in a remote location.”


Samson has begun to rethink photography: what it can be and where it comes from. In doing so, layer upon layer of personal nuance reflects something that he found stimulating or interesting. Samson’s photography is process and it’s an intricate, informed one.

“Dream Distortion” runs through 2 May 2015 at Macaulay & Co Fine Art, 293 E 2nd Ave, Vancouver, BC V5T 1B8, Canada—coinciding with Capture Photo Festival, the city’s annual celebration of photography.

Images courtesy of Jonah Samson