Scott McFarland

Scott McFarland – A Leader in Contemporary Photography

Scott McFarland is a contemporary Canadian artist renowned for his innovative approach to photography, blending elements of documentary and staged imagery. Born in 1975 in Toronto, McFarland’s work often explores themes of memory, time, and perception, capturing everyday scenes with meticulous detail and a nuanced sense of composition. His unique style involves creating complex narratives within single images, inviting viewers to delve into layers of meaning and interpretation. With a keen eye for subtleties and a mastery of photographic techniques, McFarland has established himself as a significant figure in the contemporary art scene, garnering critical acclaim for his thought-provoking visual storytelling.



Key Takeaways

  • Scott McFarland is a recognized Canadian artist specializing in complex, conceptual photography.
  • He employs a distinctive technique of layering multiple exposures to create hyperrealistic images.
  • His works are included in prestigious collections and have been exhibited at major galleries and museums.



Biography and Career

Place of BirthToronto, Canada
Genre of WorkPhotography

Scott McFarland is a Canadian visual artist known for his meticulous photography that pushes the boundaries of the medium through complex production techniques. Based in Toronto, he has established himself as an influential figure in contemporary conceptual photography. McFarland’s work captures the attention of viewers with its hyperreal and intricately constructed imagery, often necessitating a second glance to unravel the layers of his visual storytelling.

Emerging from the third generation of artists associated with the Vancouver School, McFarland’s expertise was honed during his formative years studying at the University of British Columbia and subsequently while working as a studio assistant for Jeff Wall. His large-format photographs are the result of a laborious process that blends multiple analog exposures into cohesively composite digital images. Through his distinctive approach, McFarland creates photographs that are not just reflections of reality but also commentaries on the nature of perception and the act of picture-making itself.


Early Life and Education

Born in 1975, Scott McFarland honed his artistic skills through formal education. He completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honors at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he was exposed to the thriving Vancouver art scene and influential peers.


Photographic Evolution and Style

McFarland is celebrated for his photographic technique that results in hyperreal composites. He meticulously merges multiple large-format negatives, a process that sets his work apart as a modern synthesis of painting and photography.

His style signifies a shift from single-shot photography to complex, layered narratives within an image.


Major Works and Themes

Notable pieces by McFarland include A Cultivated View and the Coastal Cabin series where he captures the essence of man-altered landscapes. These works feature recurring subjects like gardens, cabins, and boathouses, which serve as metaphors for the interactions between cultural and natural environments.


Current Career

McFarland currently lives and works in Toronto, where he continues to refine his craft and contribute to the global art scene. His photography can be found in respected institutions like the MoMA, the National Gallery of Canada, SFMoMA, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Recent exhibitions, such as Photo London and group exhibitions at Regen Projects, uphold his relevance and influence in contemporary art.



Artistic Techniques and Mediums

Scott McFarland is recognized for his meticulous approach to photography, which often involves blending multiple exposures into singular, thought-provoking images. His work is grounded in traditional techniques yet explores the junction between photography and digital manipulation.

Scott McFarland Photography Scott McFarland at Monte Clark Gallery (2007); Megan Cole, CC BY-NC 4.0, via Flickr


Approach to Photography

McFarland employs a large-format camera to capture his subjects, relying on analog exposures to craft the foundation of his art. This attention to detail is seen in series such as Sugar Shack and Sans Souci, where the outcome is not just a single moment but a constructed narrative. His process includes:

  • Use of film: Despite contemporary trends, McFarland sticks to film, particularly favoring the clarity that a four-by-five view camera affords.
  • Digital montage: After the initial capture on film, he transfers his work into the digital realm, overlaying multiple images to create a composite that tells a more complex story.
  • Creating narratives: His works on paper transcend traditional snapshots, inviting viewers to explore the layers of reality and fiction mingled within each piece.


Collaborations and Influences

McFarland’s artistic progression was shaped by his connections with other Canadian artists. His influences are especially evident in:

  • Educational period: While completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of British Columbia (UBC), he absorbed the ethos of the Vancouver School of artists.
  • Mentorship and assistance: Working as a studio assistant for Jeff Wall, McFarland honed his skills and expanded his conceptual understanding of photography.
  • Peer learning: Collaborating and studying with contemporaries such as Roy Arden and Liz Magor, he refined his techniques and developed his own distinctive style within the Canadian art scene.



Notable Exhibitions and Collections

Scott McFarland is a visual artist recognized for his meticulously assembled photographic works. His pieces often explore the interaction between humans and nature, and have been displayed in prestigious art institutions worldwide.


Selected Exhibitions

  • National Gallery of Canada: A significant repository of McFarland’s work, which has hosted several exhibitions including one specifically showcasing Scott McFarland: A Cultivated View which ran from April 11 to September 13, 2009.
  • MoMA: The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) featured McFarland’s work in a group exhibition that took place from September 30, 2007, to January 1, 2008, focusing on recent landscape acquisitions.
  • Regen Projects: Situated in Los Angeles, Regen Projects is a contemporary art gallery that has exhibited McFarland’s art, furthering his presence in international art circles.
  • Vancouver Art Gallery: This gallery has been instrumental in spotlighting artists from the region, including McFarland, whose work has been included in past exhibitions.

McFarland’s work is regarded for its technical precision and thematic depth, situating him firmly within the landscape of contemporary photography.



Recognition and Contributions

Scott McFarland’s artistic endeavors have garnished him esteemed positions within public collections and recognition in the art world, reflecting his contributions to both Canadian and international art scenes.


Awards and Achievements

  • Public collections: Works by McFarland are included in prestigious public collections, affirming his recognition on an international stage. Notably, his works are part of collections at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the J. Paul Getty Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), the Walker Art Center, and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
  • Exhibitions: He has been featured in significant exhibitions, such as These Days and Vancouver Collects at the Vancouver Art Gallery.


Impact on Canadian and International Art

McFarland’s contributions have played a prominent role in shaping the photographic landscape of Canada. His connection with the Vancouver Art Gallery and inclusion in their collections underscore his impact on the Canadian art scene. His presence in institutions such as the MoMA and the J. Paul Getty Museum demonstrates his influence crossing beyond Canada, showcasing his relevance in the broader realm of contemporary art. Publications like Artforum have also contributed to his international profile by featuring his work and providing a platform for critical discourse.

Scott McFarland Style Scott McFarland Exhibition at Monte Clark Gallery (2019); roaming-the-planet, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, via Flickr


Scott McFarland’s artistry transcends traditional boundaries, offering viewers a captivating blend of reality and imagination. Through his meticulous attention to detail and innovative narrative techniques, McFarland invites us to reconsider our perceptions of the everyday world. His work serves as a testament to the power of photography as a medium for storytelling and introspection, leaving a lasting impact on the contemporary art landscape. As we continue to explore the intersections of memory, time, and perception, McFarland’s contributions stand as a testament to the enduring relevance and creativity of photographic artistry in the 21st century.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Notable Themes Explored in Scott McFarland’s Artwork?

Scott McFarland is recognized for creating intricate composite landscapes that often blend different temporal and spatial elements. His work frequently questions the boundaries between nature and artificiality.


How Has Scott McFarland’s Technique Evolved Over His Career?

Initially shooting on film with a large-format camera, Scott McFarland’s technique has transitioned towards digital montage. Since 2002, he has been known for crafting composite images that have become a hallmark of his unique artistic style.


Which Galleries Have Featured Scott McFarland’s Exhibitions?

His works have been showcased in prestigious institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the J. Paul Getty Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), the Walker Art Center, and the Vancouver Art Gallery.


Cite this Article

Isabella, Meyer, “Scott McFarland – A Leader in Contemporary Photography.” Art in Context. May 17, 2024. URL:

Meyer, I. (2024, 17 May). Scott McFarland – A Leader in Contemporary Photography. Art in Context.

Meyer, Isabella. “Scott McFarland – A Leader in Contemporary Photography.” Art in Context, May 17, 2024.

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