Though most widely known for her music, Patti Smith is in the spotlight for her photography starting this weekend at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
The new exhibit Patti Smith: Camera Solo features approximately 70 black-and-white gelatin silver prints created from photos she captured over the years with her vintage Polaroid camera, as well as personal objects and a short film she produced with filmmaker Jem Cohen.
"Photography is another way that she's kind of forged a connection with her heroes, kind of delivered a sense of her life, what's important to her, how she feels about living," Sophie Hackett, the AGO's assistant curator of photography, told CBC News.
The snapshots — "I call them poems as well," Hackett said — "deliver us some sense of a creative life, of a creative vision."
Organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., the show makes its Canadian debut in Toronto when it officially opens Saturday.
The images featured in Camera Solo — tactile, dreamlike and often invoking the past or departed figures — offer a somewhat intimate glimpse into the world of the punk rock pioneer also known for her poetry.
"For her to be making photographs now using an older technology is very much about how there is still validity in that, about how there is still life in that way of seeing, even today," Hackett said.
Hackett likened Smith's images to relics that people once carried around as reminders of special places they've left or of loved ones.
"[Smith] is very much about a physical thing, but at the same time she has a link to what happened beyond or has a sense of the spirituality of objects," she said.
The 66-year-old Smith has created visual art since the late 1960s — in addition to her photography, she made drawings and has more recently created installations.
Though acclaimed for poetry and music such as her influential album Horses and hit song Because the Night, Smith has drawn increased attention in the past decade for her other creative pursuits. She won the 2010 U.S. National Book Award for Just Kids, her memoir of her defining relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and has seen her artwork exhibited across the U.S., Europe and Japan.
"I think she's very much in a category of her very own. She's always forged new ground. She's always had a very distinctive presence," Hackett said.
Smith will travel to Toronto for two live performances at the AGO on March 7. Patti Smith: Camera Solo runs through May 19.