Journalist Bruce Deachman brings ghosts to life in a Perth gallery

Ghosts of the Highway features 16 photo amalgams of abandoned buildings in and around the Ottawa Valley, as well as old black-and-white photographs of people Deachman collected as they “strewn” through thrift stores and antiques.

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“By heaven, I will make him a ghost who will let me.” — William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

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For years, Postmedia journalist Bruce Deachman has found and told stories in the pages of the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun. This month, the veteran writer and photographer invites you to discover your own stories at his solo photo exhibition at Concave Gallery in Perth.

Ghosts of the Highway features 16 photo amalgams of abandoned buildings in and around the Ottawa Valley, along with old black-and-white photographs of people Deachman collected as they “strewn” through thrift stores and antiques. The images mix the present – ​​crumbling plaster, broken windows, peeling paint and broken furniture – with the past. A couple in love kissing on a broken down armchair. A young woman sitting seductively on a filthy mattress. A couple prepares a meal in a ruined kitchen.

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“To me, both sides suggest untold stories,” Deachman said. “These abandoned places, you look at them and think, ‘Someone used to live there….’ And with the black and white photos, I don’t know anything about these people, but there are stories there too.

Deachman studied commercial photography before joining the Citizen in the mid-1990s, first as a freelancer for the arts section before being hired full-time as a senior reporter. He started photographing abandoned buildings over 12 years ago. Several featured on the show are near Norway Bay, Quebec, McDonalds Corners in Lanark County, and along Ontario Route 2 in the St. Lawrence Valley. One is an exterior of the Gibbs gas station on Highway 7, featured in the 2014 documentary The Lost Highway.

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The Kiss, one of the photos in Bruce Deachman's Ghosts of the Highway exhibition at Concave Gallery in Perth this month.
The Kiss, one of the photos in Bruce Deachman’s Ghosts of the Highway exhibition at Concave Gallery in Perth this month. Photo by Bruce Deachman /Bruce Deachman

Several locations were filmed while Deachman was on assignment for the newspaper in the former Rideau Regional Center in Smiths Falls and in the abandoned buildings near the Zibi redevelopment in Chaudière Falls.

“I was there for the newspaper, but I liked it so much that I asked the site manager if I could come back on my own,” he said. Deachman spent three or four days wandering the compound, exploring and taking photos, walking “until I couldn’t walk any more.”

The black and white photos he buys for a pittance, often by the box.

“I hate the idea of ​​these old photos being thrown away. I’ve always lamented that these stories were lost.

The idea to combine the two images came to him about six years ago on a hot and humid Canada Day, when plans with a friend fell through.

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“I was like, ‘What am I going to do now? It’s way too hot to go out. And I just had the idea, ‘I should put some of these people in these places.’ ”

Deachman scans the black-and-white photos, decides which should go in which scene, then carefully scales the people to the right size and layers them using Adobe Photoshop. It can control opacity to give people their spectrum quality.

The 16 pieces of the show are printed on aluminum sheets, 24×36 inches or 18×24 inches.

The Gas Station, one of the photos in Bruce Deachman's Ghosts of the Highway exhibition at the Concave Gallery in Perth this month.
The Gas Station, one of the photos in Bruce Deachman’s Ghosts of the Highway exhibition at the Concave Gallery in Perth this month. Photo by Bruce Deachman /Bruce Deachman

Concave Gallery owner Keith Busher met Deachman last summer at another artist’s show and heard about the Ghosts of the Highway project.

“As soon as I saw them, I knew he had something,” Busher said. “These are really fascinating pieces. The simple combination of the two (pictures) creates these stories and you can’t help but put yourself right in the picture. They are absolutely gorgeous. They are fascinating. They are intriguing. I said, ‘We have to put on a show.’ ”

This is Deachman’s first gallery exhibition and he admits he is uncomfortable being considered “an artist”.

“Saturday there’s a ‘Meet the artist’,” he said. “I’d rather they just say, ‘Meet the guy who put these things together.’ ”

Ghosts of the Highway runs from August 3-31 at the Concave Gallery at Code’s Mill, 53 Herriott St. in Perth. On Saturday, August 6, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., you can meet the guy who put these things together.

For more information, visit concavegallery.com Where brucedeachman.com

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