Max Dean and Collaborators Still—Your Bubble

Itinerant Photo Studio ⁠ not_accessible
35 Polson St
Oct 30–30,  2021
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    Max Dean, Andrew Savery-Whiteway, McAlister Zeller-Newman, Still Portrait Studio – Abe’s Bubble, 2021. Courtesy of the artists and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

Referencing the travelling itinerant photographers of the 19th century, Toronto artist Max Dean and his cohort have generated a contemporary mobile photo studio, installed within a well-ventilated trailer. Animatronic figures liberated from the decommissioned Wilderness Adventure Ride at Ontario Place in 2016 have been remobilized here as fully automated photographers, who bid patrons to have their portraits taken and then process them on the spot.

Questioning how the future will look and how to move forward, both culturally and artistically, Dean and fellow artists McAlister Zeller-Newman and Andrew Savery-Whiteway, as well as writer Chris Hampton, present this socially distanced public performance as a photo-based installation.  Documenting social bubbles encircled by actual massive soap bubbles, the collection of photographs they generate reflect a unique moment in time. The animatronic figures, otherwise known as Andy and the lads, here describe the project in their own words:

Hey, CONTACT! It’s been some time since we last connected. It was back at the old Unilever Soap Factory—remember?—when our gang from the mothballed ride at Ontario Place devised that giant bubble machine and exhibited some photos with our good buddy Max Dean. Well, that led to a few other gigs around town. Since then, things have become a little more … complicated. Max has been dealing with cancer and he’s enlisted our support to explore treatments and capture our findings in photographs with Max and Andrew for a show at Stephen Bulger Gallery. Hopefully, that will be happening when our newest project, an itinerant photo studio, hits the streets. We needed to find some way to respond to this difficult moment. This is what we’ve come up with.

Apparently, in the early days of photography, the portrait was something incredibly precious: an heirloom, an occasion. Some people would save for months to have their picture taken. Some could only dream of it. A portrait, at that time, was so special it was reserved for just your closest relations.

This past year and a bit, you’ve likely been thinking a great deal about the people closest to you. How we’ve been kept tight, or how they’ve been kept away. It’s also a time, we’d wager, when your recent photo albums include very few portraits.

Well, we’d like to photograph your bubble. (Bubbles are kind of our thing.) In collaboration with our good friend Max, we’ve built a mobile portrait studio. We will be travelling around the city to make pictures of you alongside the people in your bubble. Since we are mannequins, we pose little threat. We only wish to give you something special, like those original portraits: an heirloom, an occasion.


Max Dean and Collaborators
Still—Your Bubble

Hi, welcome. This is Still—Your Bubble: An Itinerant Photo Studio. Let me explain. My name is Max Dean, and with two associates, Andrew Savery-Whiteway and McAlister Zeller-Newman, we have been asked to help our friends with their latest project for CONTACT.

Andy and the team have asked me to say a few words about their project. Our friends happen to be the former animatronic figures from the Wilderness Adventure Ride at Ontario Place. In 2016, they collaborated with Max and McAlister and produced a large-scale installation for the In Future exhibition. Well, after the exhibition, they decided to leave the park and have had quite an adventure.

But more to the point, here we are in 2021, a year into COVID. And we thought, what can we do that others can’t do? Being essentially moving mannequins, we are immune, safe, free to interact. We thought, why not take photos, family snaps, portraits?

So we created Still—Your Bubble: An Itinerant Photo Studio, in which we, the safe guys, take your photo. No human contact, you step into our well-ventilated studio, we take your photo, we print you a copy and off you go, photo in hand, no contact. We plan to set up the studio around town and are looking forward to taking your photo. Be well, be safe. Have fun.