Gabrielle Tyrie

Award winner Gabrielle Tyrie: “Being an artist is important to me”

Toronto photographer Gabrielle Tyrie is the only artist in her immediate family. “I have three older brothers who are not artistic. Both my parents are what you call artistically inclined – my father is a businessman and my mother is a Grade Six teacher,” she says. “But my grandfathers were painters, sculptors, and model builders.”

Tyrie is the recipient of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto Foundation: Jack Gilbert Image Arts Award for 2020.

She discovered photography as a student at Rosedale Heights School of the Arts. “I was not focused on visual arts at first. I was doing drama, dance, and ceramics,” she says. “I was on track to study dance at Concordia but realized that path wasn’t making me happy. I only started photography in Grade 12. So I applied late to Ryerson and got in. I do like to plan ahead so switching to photography was an impulsive decision that’s worked out well. After first semester [in the Image Arts program] at Ryerson, I knew I’d made the right decision.”

Tyrie is grateful to be graduating now. “This year was hard, but at least I didn’t have to graduate last April. To go from eight to ten hours a day working collaboratively to the isolation of the pandemic must have been really difficult. And I don’t have to face another potential year online.”

Honing her craft during a pandemic has taught her many things. “I have a very domestic developing set-up at home. Creating art [in a pandemic] has impacted what I’m doing.” She used to do portraits and due to pandemic restrictions, she is not doing those as often.

The pandemic has also led to unique encounters, what Tyrie calls “the silver linings”. “We were working on a collaborative project and had to drop photos off in peoples’ mailboxes. I also handed off a cyanotype at a TTC turnstile. I’d only seen this woman in a mask. That was strange.”

One advantage of studying this past year was the curriculum was changed so that, for example, shorter projects were combined into a single project over a longer period. “My thesis was the most challenging. I worked on it from September until April. That project gets me excited about what I’m going to do next. I know I can spend more time on a project and maintain my focus. It gave me confidence which will serve me in the future.”

What are Tyrie’s plans for the future? This summer, she will continue to work on her craft and build her portfolio and website ( Then she is looking to combine her photography training with a graduate degree in archive and records management. As part of her course this year she had to interview professionals whose career paths she might want to follow. She chose to speak with Alison Skyrme, librarian responsible for Art, Photography, Integrated Digital, New Media, Digital Media, Documentary Media and Film & Photographic Preservation as well as Special Collections at Ryerson and Amy Furness, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Rosamond Ivey Special Collections Archivist and Head of Library & Archives.

“To live both lives, as an archivist and, at the same time, as an artist is difficult to imagine. When I talk to recent grads who say their professional life has taken off but their art has fallen by the wayside, I think that’s sad. Being an artist is important to me.”

Photos by Gabrielle Tyrie

The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto Foundation: Jack Gilbert Image Arts Award goes to an exceptional fourth-year graduating student who is under 30 years of age and from the Greater Toronto Area. Recipients receive a $500 award and a year-long complimentary membership to The Arts and Letters Club. The goal is that award winners will also attend a future meeting of the Club’s Hot Shots Group and their work will be displayed in the Club’s photography show. The award is provided through a generous donation from Club Member Jack Gilbert.

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