Rosedale resident Arline Malakian has earned global renown for her fashion photography. More recently, she began turning her gaze inward, as will be the case when she showcases her latest exhibit, Impressions.
The Beirut-born Malakian grew up in Paris before moving to Canada 27 years ago. While she had a background in French literature and interior and graphic design, she found her niche almost out of necessity upon arriving here.
“My coming here was a determining factor in my career,” she said. “The lack of language pushed me to express myself in a more visual way.”
Malakian tried living in Montreal for a time but found the French there was far different than in her home country. She wound up settling in Toronto, but kept an apartment in Paris for years. She continued a writing career overseas while focusing on photography in Canada.
“Having one foot in Europe helped me because in my early days here, Toronto was so conservative and always a step behind,” she said. “Now, it’s moved forward a lot.”
Her European sensibilities helped her land her first big fashion photography gig with lingerie line Natori. For the shoot, she gave the models a Goth look, which was certainly a strange advertising decision at the time.
“I soon learned that not every project was as easy and forgiving as that one, and not every project gives you that freedom,” she said. “I went back to Paris to think and then I decided, ‘yes, I’ll be flexible. This is my path.’”
Malakian has long been interested in fashion, even writing articles about fashion as a child.
“Style and personal presentation are just second nature to me,” she said.
Throughout her career, which spans some 25 years, Malakian has contributed editorials and photos to several major fashion magazines, designers, brands and advertising agencies.
Through experience, she found she was always most inspired by those who take risks.
“In general, I’m inspired by a person working with authenticity,” she said. “Trends come and go, but they’re strongest when they show a transformation in society. People who make an effort to be brave and propose new things, that’s what inspires me.”
Impressions marks another stage in her own evolution as an artist. Her previous show, The Gaze, was far more personal, with her photos delving into dreams.
In Impressions, Malakian manipulates the photos by separating their layers, creating more abstracted versions of the original images.
“What’s captured in a photograph is a moment and a connection with someone,” she said. “I worked at deconstructing a picture and reconstructing it to find a vibrational energy and connect with the potential in the picture.”
The longtime Rosedale resident fell in love with her neighbourhood almost instantly, to the point where she gave up her apartment in Paris.
“There’s everything around here,” she said. “It’s so close to everything, but there’s also so much nature here.”
Impressions will be on display at the NeubacherShor Contemporary art gallery at 5 Brock Avenue from Wednesday, Nov. 28 through Saturday, Dec. 22.