The Projection Project exhibition in Vernon, BC

Silmara Albi - photo by Ester Bueno

Remembering the ‘reel’ days of movie houses

Published: June 07, Vernon Morning Star.

Silmara Albi likes to think of herself as a visual artist. Brazilian-born and raised, she now lives in Vancouver with her Canadian husband.

“I miss a lot of things about Brazil, of course, but I absolutely love this part of the world,” said Albi, who is coming to Vernon for an exhibition of her photography.

“I love how the seasons change here, and I’m crazy about maple syrup and Leonard Cohen.”

In São Paulo, she worked as a graphic designer for more than 10 years before coming to Canada to immerse herself in photography, which remains her biggest passion.

When asked what kind of photography she does, Silmara pauses thoughtfully. “I do the kind that tells a story or preserves a memory as I explore the world.

“Visually I like to work in series and I’m drawn to details. I try to have a calm, warm approach to my subjects, which are mostly people and places.

“I’m also drawn to the vintage and analogue. It’s where my fine artwork comes from. One complements the other, just like the two sides of a vinyl record.”

Albi’s upcoming exhibition, Motion Picture Projection, certainly reflects these interests and approaches. The series explores areas of movie exhibition traditionally off-limits to the average cinema-goer, while preserving the all-but-totally vanished craft of feature film projection.

Most movie theatres in Canada have traded in their traditional 35-millimetre film projectors for digital counterparts.

“Some of these old projectors were 50 years old and still in perfect working order when they were retired or thrown away,” said Silmara. “I became intrigued by how quickly such a reliable form of technology was being replaced. And since many in the audience won’t even notice the difference (on screen), I wondered if these old machines would eventually be mostly forgotten.”

She has spent much of the last two years travelling the province, exploring movie theatres from Powell River to Hope; Vancouver to Vernon’s very own vintage movie house, the Towne Cinema. Every movie house was as unique as the people who own and staff them.

“My work isn’t about change, but rather the moment just before change,” said Silmara. “I’m interested in capturing places and situations that have survived for a long time, but are only now on the verge of vanishing.”

While purists might decry the coldness of digitally-screened movies compared to the warmth of occasionally scratchy film, advocates of digital projection point out the consistent sharpness of the image on screen and the absence of distracting jumps during reel changes. Albi’s series doesn’t take sides in the debate, however. Whether the replacement of the traditional with the new is regrettable or represents progress is left to the viewer to decide.

Motion Picture Projection opens at Gallery Vertigo (Suite #1, 3001-31st St., Vernon – above Krause Jewellers) on 15 June 2013, and runs until 20 July.

Albi will be in attendance at the opening reception, Saturday, June 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

About The Author

Silmara Emde is a photographer and graphic designer, and Curtis Emde is a writer and teacher. They are based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and together they form the Projection Project - a multi-media venture that documents the changing nature of movie-going as the 35mm film era ends and the digital era begins.