Toronto Spring 2013

The following is an ongoing series of images I’m working. I post to the site so I can get comfortable with things and then edit them.

 

May 19th, 2013. Took the bicycle out to the Bloor and Bay area. On the way I stopped at the school across Bloor from Christie Pits. This is the view from the lower courtyard of the school across Bloor to the trees in Christie Pits.

Deeper inside the school complex is a covered courtyard. It’s pretty decrepit being used mainly by kids and skateboarders and of course being a public school they have no cash to fix it up. It’s dated and slightly dark under the canopy where the next shot is taken, but I’ve always been drawn to this spot. I’ve visited 10 or 12 times in the past 15 years. Both these shots depict the relatively rough but functional aesthetic I associate with Ontario Public Schools.

Just south of Bloor on St Thomas and Charlers is an empty Condo sales office. It’s for the Minto building called the St. Thomas. I think empty it’s probably vastly more exciting than the building they plan to construct.

I’ve been peering in the window of the old Escada retail store on Bloor for weeks. I was rewarded Sunday by the deconstruction below. I love the hanging fluorescent lights that have been left on. It’s like a found Dan Flaven that he put together when he was drunk.

Directly across the street from the abandoned Escada store is the old Louis Vutton store. Hoarding went up this week. I’ll probably ditch this image but it’s interesting in a way. There’s something I definitely don’t like about it though.

I’ve been stopping at the Club Monaco store at Bloor and University every now and then for years. I finally caught something I liked. That’s a bit of an understatement, I really love this shot. The reflections in the windows, pine tree, empty pack of smokes, scantily clad mannequin and the classically inspired conservative architecture all work nicely together.

The neighbouring window isn’t quite as cool but I still like it.

Previously…

The shot above and below were taken May 9th on my ride to work.

It’s taken through a window of what was once a very dodgy variety store on Pape a few blocks north of Danforth. I’m always surprised by the refusal of this entire road to gentrify. I’m not quite sure why this is. In the last 15 years nothing much has happened but I’m sure a whole whack of people with money have moved into the area. I don’t think everything should be subject to crazy gentrification, but this street is just sad for some reason. That said someone has laid a new floor in this place since I last shot it, removed the ceiling and in general cleared the whole thing out. Me thinks something cool will go in here.

This image also gave me another idea. I was thinking I might emulate the leaning plywood in a studio setting and see if I could start to “construct” images like the one above but with echos of famous geometric paintings in the way the panels of plywood are arranged. I may even just simply build constructions against a white studio backdrop like the one above. I simply love the way the plywood works like layers of paint.

I really like the image below, It wasn’t intentionally shot to be funny, but when I think of it in terms of Joshua Jensen Nagle’s wonderful polka dot work it makes me smile. My fascination with concrete, concrete block and emptiness is unbounded. Note the wonderful piece of crumpled material on the floor. I didn’t notice that until I processed the image.

The shot following appeals to my sense of the square geometric space again. Here the picture plane is sweetly dissected into four relatively equal panels, each with their own uniquely simply subject matter. I’m also making a dig at one of my favourite photographic pet peeves, black and white.

Friday the 3rd of May I took my sweet ass time getting to work on the bicycle. It was so amazing out. The first day of t-shirt and shorts riding. One of my stops was Bloor. Thanks goodness there’s a new Tiffany’s going in. The old one was so ghetto. The ring they’re advertising on the hoarding looks like a good buy. I love the fact that even Tiffany’s has to do construction and use hoarding. Hoarding is the great equalizer.

A very obscure self-portrait in an vacant Bloor shop. You can just make out the yellow t-shirt. I find the interlaced corner of this empty window display engaging. There’s something pin-wheel in the overlapping nature that I’d like to explore further.

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Hamilton

Hamilton was not what I expected. I visited the downtown on Sunday morning from about 7:30 till 10:00 a.m. I think it will take me a little while to get use to it again. The last time I spent any serious time there was about 20 years ago. Maybe 25.

I grew up there. In truth I grew up in Burlington, but I spent a lot of time in Hamilton. My grandmother lived there when I was a kid so I’d take the bus in every Saturday morning to visit her and walk the downtown. That was pre Jackson Square time.

When I got older I lived there for about 7 maybe 10 years. I worked on the strip I use to hang out on when I was a kid at a place called Book Villa that sold porn and had a baseball bat for security behind the counter. It was 24 hours. It’s no longer there. I worked at the AGH as a security guard, the McMaster Art Gallery before it was moved into it’s present location, I did construction work and I worked at HMV. I lived in a warehouse in the steel manufacturing area of town and drove my motorcycle into the building’s elevator and down the hallway into my unheated room.

The last time I was living there I had a place in Hess Village and commuted to Toronto. It’s where I started taking pictures.

James Street North is transforming. The artistic community has sort of taken over which is very sweet. It resembles the Parkdale strip of Queen. The streets are clean and there’s weirdly no Graffiti. I find that sort of suspect in itself. Either there are a lot more shelters, and Community Centres than I ever remember and way more people that rely on them, or I remember poorly. I have a sneaking suspicion that as Toronto gets more unaffordable and gentrified the less fortunate get pushed somewhere and Hamilton’s downtown core seems to be where they’ve ended up. Indeed the central area around where all the buses meet is teaming with people on a Sunday morning, but they just seem to be walking around waiting for stuff to open. It’s unsettling.

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame is still there, and I still love the building. It’s on the right hand side of the frame above. It’s got to be 50 years old and it is definitely still a cool mod building. The concrete mass that surrounds it on the two sides above is a court house of some sort. Directly behind me as I take this shot is Hamilton City Hall which is another beautiful building. Below is the wall and vacant lot beside a spectacular block of restoration work called the Lister Block. I’ve thought about this image a lot since I took it. Today I thought it would be cool to revisit this location with a glass end table and vase of finely arranged flowers. I could place them in the middle of the frame and re shoot. That thought got expanded and I found myself elaborate floral arrangements that I could drop into inaccessible and garbage strewn corners of the city and then photographing them. I Could come back to re shoot them as they wilted or became unkempt. If only I was a man of unlimited income. I’d quit the day job and start doing stuff like that.

Just a 1/2 block away from the Lister Block is the side of a building that had a nice reflection on it. I think it’s the glass from a neighboring structure. I’m standing in a very small grass parkette between the two buildings. I like the totemic nature of the reflection and the underlying colour schema of the wall is pretty cool.

Finally the wall below was in the same block as the other images. It really sums a lot of Hamilton up for me. It’s unpretentious and practical with a solid utilitarian charm but a bit rough.

After thinking about it Hamilton was impeccably clean. It seems to be prospering with the exception of around the Bus Terminal area — which is really just part of the John Street strip. I imagine if I was to go to downtown Toronto and hang around the bus terminal on a Sunday morning it would be pretty sketchy too. Hamilton’s core may be actually worse than Toronto’s because this city is completely unaffordable and Burlington and Oakville are just to damn boring. I think I’ll be happy to go back and explore some more. Hopefully I can make it out to Burlington Street and areas of the more industrial sections of town. I bet Stoney Creek is still pretty dodgy.

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