The SPAO Centre is home to the SPAO Centre Gallery, the Ottawa region's only independent and critical gallery space dedicated to photographic and video art. Located in the heart of Little Italy, within SPAO, the Gallery is close to Ottawa's new Light Rail Transit system, Dow's Lake, and the Arboretum. The Gallery is a short walk from other arts hubs, small businesses, museums, restaurants, nightlife and entertainment.

The SPAO Centre Gallery produces seven exhibitions per year celebrating the work of regional, national and international artists working in lens-based media. Four of these exhibitions pay CARFAC fees to professional exhibiting artists; the remaining three exhibition opportunities are provided to the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa as an opportunity to celebrate the 3 facets of its mentorship structure: the Photographic Arts and Production Program, Part-Time Studies, and International Artist Residency.

For inquiries or partnerships, contact; for programming and submission details, please contact


The SPAO Centre Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, 12-5, or by chance. Holiday exceptions apply, and hours are subject to change without notice. There is no admission fee and the gallery is wheelchair accessible. 


 image by Dina Goldstein

image by Dina Goldstein

Join us on Friday November 16th at the SPAO Centre (77 Pamilla St.) at 7 pm for Fabricated Visions, the latest event in our Parfocal Lens series. This panel discussion, moderated by Jonathan Hobin (Creative Director at SPAO), will include renowned photographers and photo-based artists Dina Goldstein, Diana Thorneycroft and Whitney Lewis-Smith. They will present on art practices that use props, sets, and carefully constructed environments to reflect on our everyday world.

All three panelists create dreamlike tableaux in their photographs that comment on aspects of contemporary culture. In Thorneycroft’s “Group of Seven Awkward Moments,” she fabricated sets that contrast with iconic Group of Seven paintings in order to point out complex issues confronting Canadian society. Goldstein’s “Fallen Princesses” created tableaux featuring Disney heroines in realistic situations that underscore the negative consequences of the perpetuation of illusory goals. Lewis-Smith’s still-lifes, on view in the exhibition Ontogeny at SPAO, explore the impact of consumerism on the environment. An experienced set designer, Jonathan Hobin will moderate a discussion which will undoubtedly give attendees insight into the construction of images.

Panelists’ Bios:

Dina Goldstein is a photographer and Pop Surrealist with a background in editorial and documentary photography. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, she now lives in works in Vancouver and shows internationally. Her work stages narrative compositions that expose the underbelly of modern life, challenging the notions of beauty, gender, sex and religion.

Diana Thorneycroft is a Winnipeg artist who uses photography and drawing to explore the darker side of supposedly innocent objects like dolls, toys and cartoon characters. She received a BFA from the University of Manitoba in 1979 and her MA from the University of Wisconsin in 1980. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.

Whitney Lewis-Smith is a Canadian photo-based artist. Her work uses a combination of historic and modern photographic processes as a means to speak on contemporary topics. Her work is in many prominent collections, including the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the City of Ottawa Art Collection, and the private collection of Sophie and Justin Trudeau. She is represented by Galerie St-Laurent+Hill.

Jonathan Hobin is an award winning photo-based artist from Canada. Hobin’s work draws from iconic literary, cinematic and historical references and popular culture to explore the darker aspects of childhood, storytelling and politics. Considered a controversial figure and “one of Canada’s most polarizing visual artists” (CBC’s Q), Hobin’s work is exhibited internationally.

On November 2, 2018, from 5 to 11 pm, join us at the SPAO Centre (77 Pamilla St.) for SPAO’s Annual Open House and the opening reception of the 2018 Lineage Exhibition, Ontogeny, featuring the work of the Canadian photo-based artist Whitney Lewis-Smith. We are opening our doors to the public to celebrate the expansion and ongoing evolution of Ottawa’s only arts facility dedicated to photo-based art and video work.

SPAO’s Annual Open House is our largest event of the year. Visitors to the SPAO Centre can tour the facility and learn more about our space, a purpose-designed arts facility and Ottawa’s innovative photo hub. Meet faculty and students, see the work of current diploma students, tour the gallery, studio, and darkroom facilities, and get a sneak peek at the 2nd floor expansion that will house the Media Lab and Library. Speeches and special announcements will take place at 7 pm.

The SPAO Centre Gallery’s annual Lineage Exhibition showcases work by members of the immediate and extended SPAO family and celebrates artistic achievement while highlighting its connection to our community. The 2018 exhibition presents work by Whitney Lewis-Smith, an alumna of the SPAO diploma program who has gone on to become an instructor at the School. Her new work uses heliogravure printing to translate photographic images into copper plate etchings. During a recent residency in Mexico City, she has just completed what may be the largest heliogravure photographic etchings to date worldwide. One of these etchings will be on display in the exhibition, along with glass plate negatives and prints, to give a full sense of the processes involved in Lewis-Smith’s artistic production.

Whitney Lewis-Smith completed her photographic education at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa and her work is in many prominent private and public collections, including the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the City of Ottawa Art Collection, and the private collection of Sophie and Justin Trudeau. She is represented by Galerie St-Laurent+Hill in Ottawa, Canada, and Subject Gallery NYC in New York.

Whitney Lewis-Smith is a Canadian photo-based artist. Her work uses a combination of historic and modern photographic processes as a means to speak on contemporary topics, most recently discussing consumerism, commodity accessibility, and globalization’s impact on the environment. By referencing dutch golden era floral tableaus, Whitney highlights the evolution of humanity’s relationship with the planet. A painting from the 17th century displaying various flora and fauna that could never have existed together has now become a reality to almost anyone at the tap of a button. Her seemingly living moving scenes are made predominantly using insects, animals, and plants that have died, but this only becomes apparent upon close inspection. The result is a subtle tension, engaging the viewer’s fascinations and fears. Lewis-Smith challenges viewers’ distance from the ecological; her pieces evoke childlike curiosity while simultaneously directing us to consider the profound environmental changes we are giving rise to.

Lewis-Smith works predominantly in Canada. She attended the Studio Arts program at Concordia University where her focus was in painting, drawing, and sculpture. She completed her photographic education at the School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa where she is currently a full time college instructor in Studio and darkroom techniques. In 2014, Lewis-Smith was awarded a one-month production residency at the Arquetopia Foundation for the Arts in Mexico in tandem with the museum of natural history there. Her work sits in prominent private collections in Canada, the United States, England, Spain, Mexico, and Chile, as well as in the private collection of Sophie and Justin Trudeau, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery of New Brunswick, Maison Simons collection, SUMMA Contemporary Art Fair's permanent acquisitions, and in the Ottawa City’s Public Art collections of 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015. 

She is represented by Galerie St-Laurent+Hill in Ottawa, Canada, and Subject Gallery NYC in New York.



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On September 28, 2018, from 6 to 9 pm, join us at the SPAO Centre Gallery for the opening reception of the 2018 SPAO Artist Residency Exhibition, featuring the photo-based work of India d’Scarlett and Neeko Paluzzi. The SPAO Residency is designed for artists who have completed formal training and are ready for an intensive focus on an aspect of their career or a specific project. It is a self-directed residency that affords the time and environment needed to research, experiment, and produce a new body of photo-based work.

This exhibition is the culmination of the 2017-18 Artist Residencies and features work created by the artists during their tenure at the SPAO Centre. d’Scarlett’s photo series Melt looks at the relationship between a queer couple while exploring the photographer’s own queer identity. Using experimental techniques, she blurs the boundaries of the two lovers’ bodies, depicting oneness, intimacy and connection. For "TONES, This Place is a Shelter," Paluzzi has used darkroom equipment as a musical instrument to visualize a minimalist composition by Olafur Arnalds by creating exposures that match the tonality of the music, note for note. Presented together, the works by these two artists represent the range of experimentation and exploration offered by the residency.

India d’Scarlett is a photographic artist from Cairns, Australia. d’Scarlett received a BFA in Photography with High Distinction from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. d’Scarlett’s work uses experimental in­-camera techniques to blur the lines between women, their environment, and preconceived notions of their sexuality. Her work has been exhibited throughout Australia and Canada.

Neeko Paluzzi is an Ottawa-based artist and educator whose images blend the possibilities of traditional darkroom processes with contemporary photographic techniques. He is a graduate of the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (2017) and holds a Master of Arts from the University of Ottawa (2013). Neeko is the recipient of the 2017 SPHINX bursary from the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (in support of the residency) and the 2018 Project X Photography Grant from the Ottawa Arts Council.

The SPAO Centre Gallery is honoured to present Roger Ballen: There Is No Outside, the first exhibition in Ottawa of work by the internationally acclaimed South Africa-based photographer. Known for his inspired use of black and white film, Roger Ballen has sparked controversy through his exploration of the shadowy depths of human consciousness. Developing a style he describes as ‘documentary fiction,’ he has collaborated with people living on the margins of South African society to create powerful psychodramas. 

Curated by SPAO’s Creative Director Jonathan Hobin, the exhibition presents a selection of photographs and videos that capture Ballen’s signature mix of raw and surreal imagery, inviting viewers to enter into an uncanny dreamworld. Roger Ballen: There Is No Outside is the first in SPAO’s new series of annual exhibitions that feature an international artist. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Roger Ballen is one of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21st century. Born in the United States in 1950, Ballen has lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa since 1980. By integrating drawing into his photographic and video works, Ballen has made a lasting contribution to the field of art and produced a powerful commentary about the human condition and its creative potential.

Jonathan Hobin is an award-winning and internationally noted photo-based artist and art director. He is currently the Creative and Executive Director of the SPAO Centre (School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa).

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L-R: panellist Patrick Lynn Rivers; panel moderator Monica Patterson; panellist Charles Reeve; panellist Jennifer Dickson.

Join us on Friday, September 14th at the SPAO Centre (77 Pamilla St.) at 7 pm for Debating Ballen, the next session of our panel series, Parfocal Lens. This panel will focus on the issues and concepts brought forward by the current exhibition on view in the SPAO Gallery, entitled Roger Ballen: There Is No Outside. Based in Johannesburg, the American-born artist Roger Ballen is a controversial figure whose work often depicts people and spaces that exist on the margins of South African society. 

SPAO has invited three panelists to respond to Ballen’s work, including the way in which it intersects with their personal histories. The acclaimed photographic artist Jennifer Dickson was born in South Africa but left to pursue an art career that ultimately brought her to North America. The art historian and curator Charles Reeve organized the 2009 exhibition of Ballen’s work at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Roger Ballen: Boarding House. The social scientist Patrick Lynn Rivers, whose design research practice is partly based in Cape Town, will speak to Ballen's work with reference to apartheid South Africa and the present moment.  

The panel will be moderated by Dr. Monica Patterson, an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University. A scholar, curator, and activist, her work explores the intersections of memory, childhood, and violence in postcolonial Africa, and the ways in which they are represented and engaged in contemporary public spheres. 

In conjunction with the dark and troubling images of the exhibition, this is a conversation certain to be both challenging and illuminating.


On May 11, 2018, the SPAO Centre will launch the SPAO Centre Gallery with the exhibition CANADIANA - Selections from the Art Bank Collection.

Featuring the work of Ed Burtynsky, David Craig, Denis Farley, Chris Gergley, Lorraine Gilbert, Angela Grauerholz, Mary Longman, Shelley Niro, and Greg Staats, this exhibition will be the SPAO Gallery’s inaugural Canadiana Exhibition, an annual showcase of artists from across the country presented in partnership with the Canadian Tulip Festival.

Where: 77 Pamilla Street, Ottawa (Little Italy)

In recognition of the fact that the Canadian Tulip Festival was created by the photographer Malak Karsh, the SPAO Centre is partnering with the festival for this important exhibition. An official Launch Soirée for the festival will be held in tandem with the Gallery launch at the SPAO Centre. The event is free and open to the public. The exhibition continues until July 1, Canada Day.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the SPAO Centre has commissioned Deborah Margo to create an Artist’s Garden on site, starting on May 11. It will grow and develop over a six month period as a part of Ottawa’s Garden Promenade. Inspired by the gardens in Little Italy, Margo’s installation will change configurations and heights as it is adapted to the growth of her selected palette of plants.

"Often associated with memorabilia or literature, the word Canadiana signifies that something is symbolic of this country and its culture. This term is problematic at best, especially in the current moment of intense debate about how we choose to define ourselves, which stories we choose to tell, as well as determining who speaks for whom.

The photographers in this exhibition have each turned their attention to the land - as a site of interaction, of conflict or of contemplation. They seek to trouble the notion of Canadiana by upending old mythologies and by telling new stories in their place. They invite the viewer to see the ordinary as extraordinary or to think about place as a continuum rather than as a location at a particular time and for a particular purpose. Each in their own way is interested in point of view, rather than a point on a map, or a line from the anthem.

We are extremely grateful to the Canada Council Art Bank for this opportunity to explore their collection. Canadiana is the first in a new series of annual exhibitions at the SPAO Centre." – Johanna Mizgala, Guest Curator


Join us on Saturday, June 16 from 5-7pm at the SPAO Centre for Parfocal Lens: Challenging Canadiana, the second session in our 2018 visiting artists’ lecture series. Enjoy refreshments, good company, and gain a deeper appreciation of the art on display in the exhibition currently on view (until July 1) in the SPAO Centre Gallery, CANADIANA: Selections from the Art Bank Collection.

The curator of the exhibition, Johanna Mizgala, will join exhibiting artists Denis Farley, Lorraine Gilbert and Angela Grauerholz in a far-ranging conversation about contemporary Canadian photography and sense of place. In her curatorial statement, Mizgala claims that the artists in the exhibition have turned their attention to the land “as a site of interaction, of conflict or of contemplation.” The conversation will redefine the terms of what constitutes Canadiana.

Lorraine Gilbert is currently the Graduate Program Director for Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. Her works have been featured in solo, group and two-person exhibitions such as Global Nature and The Tree: From the Sublime to the Social.

Denis Farley lives and works as a professional artist and photographer in Montreal. His work has been exhibited in Canada, the United States and Europe, and is part of several private and public collections.

Angela Grauerholz is a German-born Canadian photographer, graphic designer and educator living in Montreal. She was won numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2014, and the prestigious Scotiabank Photography Award in 2015.

Johanna Mizgala, curator of the House of Commons Heritage Collection, is an educator and art critic who has lectured and published extensively on contemporary and photo-based art. She is committed to dialogue and interpretation of art and photography to a wide diversity of audiences.

 L-R: Lorraine Gilbert, Deniz Farley, Angela Grauerholz, Johanna Mizgala

L-R: Lorraine Gilbert, Deniz Farley, Angela Grauerholz, Johanna Mizgala