The visual art of Gary Harvey

The visual art of Gary Harvey

Gary Harvey is no stranger to visual storytelling. He is, after all, one of Canada’s foremost television directors and producers – television being very much a visual medium – and his work has resonated with fans of multiple iconic series, including Arctic Air, Robson Arms, Cold SquadGodiva’s, and Murdoch Mysteries.

But in recent years, Harvey has expanded his visual storytelling beyond television and into the realm of art photography – and what he’s discovering there is impacting his work in the director’s chair.

Gary Harvey. Contributed photo

Gary Harvey. Contributed photo

If there’s a whiff of déjà-vu about all of this – Harvey and directing and art photography – it might be because we first interviewed the BC-based director back in February,  for an article entitled Gary Harvey’s before and after. In it, Harvey reflected on how the operation he underwent on his tongue in 2014 impacted his life, career, and art (“They saved my life, and they saved my career,” he told us. “That little tiny 10 per cent of my tongue has now pushed me forward into where I am today”).

At the end of that first conversation, Harvey described art photography as one of the ways in which he was amplifying his experience of life. 

Since that winter interview, Harvey has accelerated his explorations in art photography – regularly populating his art-focused Instagram account with new work; launching a web site,, through which he’s displaying his artwork and selling prints; and mounting his first solo exhibition (a private show for friends and colleagues) this past June – while directing episodes of Murdoch Mysteries and BritBox’s first original drama series, the locally shot The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco.

“I know that there’s a correlation between the photography and my directing,” says Harvey over coffee one morning in early July.

“I know that one cannot help but affect the other one,” he continues. “My creative output right now has grown so much that I go home after directing and work on my art for five hours. It doesn’t feel like work, and my directing work doesn’t feel like work now. All my work is far more satisfying.”

And the directing work, in Harvey’s opinion, is stronger than it was before the surgery and this immersion in art photography. “I don’t know why, but I feel stronger now on set than I’ve ever felt before,” says Harvey. “I know that part of that has come from the fact that I have to overcompensate for my speech. But I also see that my ideas on set have more symmetry.”

Abscape . Artwork by Gary Harvey

Abscape. Artwork by Gary Harvey

In June, Harvey took a bold step forward in his artistic journey when he mounted his first-ever art exhibition. The invitation-only house party – entitled “Gary Harvey’s Photographic Art Debut: Bending Light” – marked the debut of two of Harvey’s collections: the black and white, subject-based HUMANS/NATURE, and BENDING LIGHT, the culmination of Harvey’s year-long, 20,000-photo odyssey into the abstract.

Harvey’s proclivity for storytelling is particularly evident in the HUMANS/NATURE collection.

“For the most part, if you look at those black and white ones, there’s at least one story, and it’s normally around people,” says Harvey.

As for the abstracts, Harvey says he “looks for the unexpected and the unusual.”

Buttons 17 . Artwork by Gary Harvey

Buttons 17. Artwork by Gary Harvey

He begins with real-world photographs: “I find more and more that bad photos make better art,” he says, chuckling. While he holds the specifics of the process close to his chest, he does disclose that he moves each image through a 3-to-5-stage discovery process; that he works on four or five at a time; that at a certain point, he leaves them for a few days until he’s ready to view them with fresh eyes; that his newer work involves fractals.

“I realized when I was preparing the exhibition just how much I was able to bring to the table here, both with my black and whites and my abstracts, from my film career, and what I’d learned about visual aesthetics along the way,” says Harvey.

You can peruse a selection of Harvey’s work – and purchase prints – at

Harvey directed the first two episodes of The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco. The series – which hits Citytv next month after launching on BritBox this summer – is a spin-off of the popular ITV series and follows an elite unit of female code-breakers who reunite in the 1950s to solve crimes.

“What I love about this [show] is that the gender roles aren't forced or manufactured,” says Harvey. “These women did this work, and I love that they’re in the forefront.”

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco represents the first time that Harvey has directed a series set in the 1950s – and while he notes that “it’s a fun era to direct in,” he describes the way that many women were treated following the war as “appalling.”

“Women entered the workforce when the men went to war, and when the war was over, the women were expected to go back home,” says Harvey. 

“Imagine if all those women who’d worked outside the home during the war had been allowed to stay in their jobs from that point forward," adds Harvey. "Our culture would be entirely different. Instead, they dismissed an entire gender."

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco will begin its Canadian journey on Citytv this fall. Murdoch Mysteries returns to CBC for its 12th season on September 24.

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