Meryl McMaster is a Canadian photographer who uses self portraiture, elaborate costumes, performance, and the Canadian wilderness to explore her mixed cultural heritage.

woman in a feathered tophat
Meryl McMaster uses elaborate costumes and Canadian landscapes to explore her mixed cultural heritage. Meryl McMaster

A new video offers viewers some insight into the work that goes into staging her portraits. The video shows McMaster working in her studio on the costumes that she will wear for her new portrait series that will be shown during an exhibition at Ryerson University during the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival this May. She says that the intricate, handmade costumes are a way for her to explore her mixed heritage as Plains Cree and Dutch and English. She plans to photograph herself wearing the costumes in remote areas of her country.

woman painted red with giant nest on her head
The photographer is Plains Cree, Dutch, and English. Meryl McMaster

“In my more recent work I’m interested in having the landscape also speak as an equal subject with the image,” she says in the video. “I’m traveling to site specific locations that hold meaning, not only to my personal family, but to Canadians as a whole.”

woman balancing many books on her arms
The new body of work will be on display at Ryerson University during the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Meryl McMaster

McMaster says that through shooting the new body work she has learned a great deal about how important the land was to her ancestors.

Meryl McMasters studio
The photographer at work in her studio. CBC

See more of McMaster’s work on her website.