Photographer Laureate

So Toronto city council has approved a new “Photo Laureate” position to echo that of the Poet Laureate, but I think Photographer Laureate is the correct title that they want to bestow. Their intention is surely to honour the artist themselves not just one of their photographs.  I’ve consciously used the word honour here because the only way they motion was passed was by amending the motion so the position came with no monetary prize. There was another caveat, that the work of the honoured artist has to be made available free to the public. You can see the way this all went down here on the City of Toronto site.

So without sounding like a party pooper there are a few things wrong with this well intentioned motion and now newly created position. First, I’m pretty sure they want to create a Photographer Laureate, not a Photo Laureate as mentioned. This is coming from someone who considers themselves to be functionally illiterate. Second, they’ve really narrowed down the playing field to include only old people who no longer rely on an income or the income of their photographs. That’s the upshot of them qualifying the honour by stating that they create the position but “provided that there be no cash prize and the photographs be forwarded to Toronto Archives to be made available to the public.”

So we look forward to the City honouring some old person based on their previous financial success. There are probably quite a few Photographers like this and maybe I’m just a bit envious of the person who will eventually get the position in 2015 prior to them even being appointed. It would be nice to get more people interested and in love with the city, and it’s a neat idea to do it through photography. I just wish they left it open so some younger, gifted person could get the honour. So despite my criticism, congrats to City Council for passing something that wasn’t Crack-Asshole-Ford related. Honestly Mr. Mihevc good on you.

In celebration I went out and shot today.

This was taken on the west side of Keele at the lights that take you into the shops at the Stockyards. Not the new monster mall, but the old big box area with Rona, Home Depot and Crappy Tire. This is a staircase that takes you up to the top level of the industrial mall right on Keele. I’ve looked at it for years but it photographed well today.


The following two images were taken along the back service area of the Dufferin Mall. This place really shows its age along here. I originally ventured down the narrow access road to shoot the walls of the high school athletic field. They’re pretty cool, but today they had a lot of shit graffiti, or should I say “tags” on them. Tags. Graffiti has merit, tags are by assholes.IMG_1571

Back in the day I use to do do store visits to the HMV that was located in here. I worked at Outside Music, a distributor for various labels from around the world. I also remember a story from one of the HMV workers about how notoriously crime filled the mall was. They related an episode where the previous manager had been burgled and held by assailants who brandished and threatened with a shotgun. It’s cleaned up a bit since then, but I imagine its still rough although what were once low income houses that back onto this service corridor are now probably worth more than then average workers can afford. IMG_1577

I walked from Edwin avenue and Dupont to Dundas West and University which is about 7 kilometres. This place on College has been vacant for years now. I don’t really like this photograph–and I’ve never been able to capture it in a way I want too–but it reminded me a bit of Lynne Cohen who died this week. So-long to a great and influential artist that I never met, but would have liked to.IMG_1588

Near the end of the day’s walk I found this empty retail place in Chinatown–on the north side of Dundas West just before the AGO and before I stopped in at Bau-Xi Photo to say hi. The detailed dirtiness of the electrical switches, and their missing sliders contrasts nicely with the framed attempt at decoration. I really like the bad framing of the print, which is probably not even a print, but something pulled from a book. The print itself reminds me of Art History classes and Jeff Wall. This pinkish, flesh-coloured paint is also prevalent in a lot of restaurants of a certain age. Shot through the front widow.IMG_1590

I’ll try and do twice the distance walking today which is Saturday the 17th of May.

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Lately I love/hate Toronto. It’s definitely my home and I really love where I live but I’m not so keen on the politics. I’m old enough to understand that people generally become more conservative when they get older but to me the more “conservative” someone is the more selfish, mean-spirited, bitter, materialistic and paranoid they are. At one time I identified as liberal, but lately I identify more with the New Democrats. I still don’t like any of the parties because at heart I’m a socialist and happy about it. Lately I wish I could just live and let live a bit more. If I’m not careful I’ll become an embittered old man.

Toronto to me is rough and refined. It’s beautiful and ugly at the same time. I don’t want some generic suburb of perfection to live in. Maybe that’s why the Junction Triangle is so great, although even it’s changing quickly. So far it’s pretty good after ten years, and hopefully, if I’m lucky, by the time we don’t like it anymore because it’s just too affluent we can get lost and be old radicals in some obscure place.

Right now I love things like this empty intermodal transport container. It’s sitting on a chunk of land that use to be McBride Cycles back in the day, when that got ripped down it was an empty, brick strewn wasteland surrounded by a frost fence, then it was sort of cleaned up and became The Junction Flea Market (aka Hipster Central) and now it’s the parking lot for the soon to be constructed Duke condominiums. In the background to the right of the frame on Dundas Street West just before Keele Street you can see the cool building that’s a Salvation Army shelter. To the left of the frame is a residential neighbourhood. This is sort of our neighbourhood’s Parkdale. This part of Dundas Street West contains a whack of low-rent, sketchy apartment buildings as well as a few weird store fronts for various whack-job religious sects, some cool old and new legitimate businesses like Dog Lounge and Cool Hand of a Girl, some used appliance stores, a strange aquarium store that we’re sure is a front for some other illegal business, laundromats, and a shit-ass bar called Shox. Despite it’s sketchy overall look and feel I really like this stretch of road. I’m 100% comfortable wandering along it and I usually find something pretty interesting to look at.


The shipping container is something I’m drawn to. I think it’s because of several factors but the sculptural work of Kim Adams and the Photography of Robert Polidori are probably my main reference points. I’ve also been relatively interested in them since people have begun to make houses and stores out of them. These containers are also–like most of everything I’m truly drawn to–rather pedestrian and utilitarian. I still think about carving, photographing, constructing, performing, and setting up shop inside one of these every time I see one. This one is interesting because it was used as a booth during the Junction Flea and someone took the time to finish the interior off a bit. It’s even better empty and derelict in this mysterious space.

This place below is located in front of the small mall that use to have Zellers in it on Dundas West just after it heads north at Roncesvalles. Now all that’s in there is a liquor store, a really crap Loblaws store, and the carcass of the Zellers. Target decided it was too skid row to move into. This is the back of a tire dealer that’s in a separate building closer to the actual street. It also contains a really shitty donut store… but hey, is there really any donut store that’s not shitty? It was once Firestone and I took pictures of it then, but now it’s something else. This is the slightly American feeling colour scheme of that business. Orange, white and blue. The orange is approaching cadmium, so to me this is reminiscent of the American flag. I’ve shot this wall many times over the last ten years. In fact I’ve probably posted about it before too.IMG_1328

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