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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