Fern Helfand, Artist – Kelowna

Fern Helfand is a photo-based artist whose work most often reflects and comments on the environments and cultures in which she has lived and traveled. Since receiving an MFA from the University of Florida she has held positions as Assistant Professor at the University of Western Ontario and Visiting Professor at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang. After teaching photography and digital imaging for twenty years at the University of British Columbia in Kelowna, she recently became a UBC Professor Emeritus and is currently embarking on new exciting adventures in art making, travel, and life!

1. Log piles

Okanagan Log Pile at the Kelowna International Airport with details

My latest work¬†Okanagan Log Pile¬†is at the¬†Kelowna International Airport¬†until February 2019. It speaks to the duplicity of wood commerce in BC by representing the vast forests of the province, a renewable resource, and the lumber industry, one of the major economic foundations of the region and a historical livelihood for many. Contrarily, it also speaks to the loss of the forest through widespread logging, the devastation caused by pine beetle infestations, and the annual, growing threat of wildfires. Furthermore, it represents the transformation of our environment from forested hills and valleys ‚Äď traditional home to Indigenous Peoples ‚Äď to lands cleared of their natural habitat that then make way for shopping malls and real estate developments with monster homes partially constructed from the trees that once stood in their place.

2. Darkroom magic

Photogram on discontinued fibre based paper

Lately I have been excited about experimenting in the darkroom again. There is nothing like watching an image magically appear in the developing tray while you stand in the atmospheric amber light of a traditional darkroom. Because we are so totally surrounded with digital pictures of absolutely everything, my interest has evolved away from recording reality to working with light to create abstract imagery. This current series uses antiquated materials to make photograms of moiré patterns rendered with discarded lithography dot screens and printed onto discontinued, beautifully surfaced fibre-based papers.


Fans photographing movie stars on the Red Carpet at TIFF 2018

For my first September not going back to school in my whole life, I wanted to do something totally different, so I volunteered for the¬†Toronto International Film Festival. It was such a great time, meeting so many people from all over the world, talking about movies, and watching great films ‚Äď nine of them!

4. Dad

Out for bagels and coffee with my Dad at 96

My Dad is 96. I live in Kelowna and he in Toronto. I get home as often as possible. Recently he has started to go downhill as the cancer that he has had for the last year is starting to take its toll. He has been blessed with many years and a happy mood even as his health deteriorates. I am so glad to be able to spend this month of September with him in Toronto.

5. Volunteering

Jessie on the trampoline. Photo taken by one of the children.

In 2017 I had the opportunity to volunteer at Families for Children, an orphanage in southern India where I have been supporting a child for a number of years. My difficult and heartbreaking assignment was to help feed very severely disabled children, but I was also able to do a photo voice project with some of the teens using the donated cameras I brought with me. It was an amazing and rewarding experience.