Peter Coffman

#CouncilSpotlight – Peter Coffman

Jennifer Clark

Peter Coffman: Documenting the Stories Places Tell

The Ottawa Arts Council supports artists and arts organizations through leadership, guidance and the provision of opportunities to advance our local creative potential.

Our series #CouncilSpotlight presents stories and experiences of Arts Council members and art award recipients.

Peter Coffman received the Project X Photography Award in 2017.

Peter Coffman

Where are you from? Are you from the Ottawa area?

I’m from Toronto originally, although I’ve also lived in Québec’s Eastern Townships, Kingston, Halifax and France. I arrived in Ottawa in the summer of 2010, and am here to stay.

How did you get involved in the Ottawa arts community?

I moved to Ottawa to take up a job in Carleton’s School for Studies in Art and Culture, so right from the start I had colleagues who were art historians, curators, musicians and so on. I became more closely connected to the Ottawa photographic community when my friend Jake Morrison ran a series of informal talks in which photographers discussed their work.

How would you describe your artistic practice/discipline?

I am a photographer of places. By that I mean I love places – their beauty, their meanings, their auras, the stories they tell – and I try to capture these qualities in photographs. It took me a long time to realize it, but the thread that runs through all of my professional work is the love of place and the desire to evoke it.

What impact has your involvement with the arts/the Ottawa arts community had on your life?

Working in a vacuum is very demoralizing; it’s really important to have a community of people who get excited about the same kinds of things. And they don’t have to work in the same medium. I have been as inspired and uplifted by musicians and writers as I have by fellow photographers.

Peter Coffman

Is there a specific moment/situation in your art career that you remember fondly?

I can’t really single out one moment. Whatever I’m working on next is always the most exciting thing.

Do you have any advice for artists in the Ottawa community or artists in general?

I wouldn’t presume to offer advice; everyone’s path is different and that’s how it should be. All I can say is that what works for me is to keep it personal. My projects grow from deep personal journeys; I try to capture and communicate those journeys, and hope that doing so enables others to come with me.

What are you currently working on?

Many things – probably too many! I am still finishing my project Gloss, which won the Project X Award. I published a book last fall called Camino, which is a photographic and written evocation of my experience along the ancient pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela. I will be showing some of the prints from that collection this summer at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, so I’m busy putting that show together. I’m also working with another photographer (Diane Laundy, who is also my wife) and the poet Lorna Crozier on a book of images and poems that will be launched in the fall of 2019. So, I have lots on the go.

Peter Coffman

What was it like to receive an award from the Ottawa Arts Council? How did it impact your career?

It was wonderful! It’s very gratifying to get the recognition, of course, but the instant credibility the award bestows on the project is also really helpful. « Ottawa Arts Council Award Winner » is a great calling card!

Want to learn more about Peter? Visit

The Project X Photography Award has closed for 2018, but the Young Artist Award deadline has been extended until April 15th. The Awards Presentation evening will take place May 29, 2018.

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