Wander January 2017

January 2017 and I’ve started to wander again. It’s been too long but life sort of gets in the way sometimes. It’s not that I haven’t had time,  I just haven’t been motivated.  I’ve decided to go back to the beginning and that means exploring the city slowly on foot and letting stuff just sort of happen.

I’ve also started to remove myself from social media. Its just counter productive for me. I’ll start to write about the things here on my website. I use to do that religiously and I miss it. If you need any info or have any questions about anything please contact me at info@chrisshepherd.net

The following were taken over a period of three days as 2017 was ushered in. Each day I wandered for a few hours with no distinct destination planned.

Below is the back of the U of T Medical Sciences Building. You can access the spot via a modest little driveway called Discovery Lane. I’m not sure if you still call this style of architecture Brutalist because it’s embellished with these vertical aesthetic elements, but it looks interesting. It’s an eight story structure and all the deeper vertical members on the left hand side of the frame hide the windows on this south facing wall—at least from this angle. I’ve done a bit of post production tilt-shift to make the image work better for me using the Photoshop Lens Correction tool.


I’ve taken pictures of the Toronto Spiritualists Temple on College around the Mod Club for years, but never with any success or never that ever resonated with me. It’s a very modest little church like building. In truth it’s more like a cottage with a few coloured windows. This frame shows a section of the front window unit and I’m pretty sure that’s just coloured glass, or even just plastic-coated glass you’re looking at. The building must be over 50 years old. It has a distinctly 50-60s feel to it. I like the rectangles within a rectangle thing in this shot, and the border that’s created by the white window frames.


These next two images were taken close to home, adjacent to The West Toronto Rail Path. Both were shot through the clear acrylic fences that stop people from crossing the train track areas. This is probably a good thing because the corridor is very busy now with the Go, Via and UP trains all passing through at regular intervals.

The community had wanted green-living walls to be built to separate us from tracks and noise, but the powers–that–be thought these were the best solution. They sold us acrylic barriers and assured us they were graffiti proof. They must have tested them with water colour paints because they are now favourite targets for middle class taggers. Their paint has no problem permanently adhering to the acrylic. We can live with the tags no matter how lame they are but the real sad reality is the cleaning contractor uses a cheap-ass-toxic solvent to remove the tags and it doesn’t work and ends up creating the mess you see below. The smudgy parts are where tags have been melted off with some bargain basement solvent.

Looks sort of cool on a cold grey winter’s day. These two images are no-filter, colour photographs.

We love this neighbourhood, although the 10 years of construction is a bit tiresome.
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Small note on the Wander process. I use a Canon 5Ds with a 55 mm Sigma Art lens. I shoot on aperture priority with an ISO of 200. I rarely change lenses, but when I do I have one other and that’s a Canon L series 17-35mm.

I’ve taken photographs of this Hydro Building Roof Access Ladder at Ossington and Dupont on a previous wander. On this occasion I simply positioned myself to capture the opposite angle. I was also a lot closer. I’m not sure why but these ladders are the same on almost all hydro buildings but I like them, I love the circular handles and how they stand out against the sky.

0m6a2781These pipes are across the street from G&H Furniture on Dupont. I have trouble taking pictures when I’m looking up or down. I’d rather be straight on. This is beyond my comfort zone, but the central straight vertical line is helping me to accept it.0m6a2777This is a weird little still life inside a weirder still display of another window. Located along the east side of the block the once was Honest Ed’s. Seriously—when is the last time you used the yellow pages? This forgotten gem must have been stuck in this space a long time ago. Although it’s rather specific, I have shot forgotten yellow pages before. I think that’s because the city is so big and I wander so much.

Everything about this weird window is engaging to me. It’s also the one picture I took of the Honest Ed’s block the day after it closed for good to make way for condos. I couldn’t help thinking that although it seeing the past disappear is sometimes a drag the change will be good for the Annex. The whole area has been pretty ghetto for as long as I can remember. The sad part is that this means a lot of people will be displaced. Gentrification happens and some parts of it certainly suck. As a weird aside I think there may be less interesting stuff to see when I wander because of this. Gentrification and the sanitization that accompanies it is not necessarily engaging.

I’ve always loved these huge memorials to U of T students, faculty and alumni that were killed in the world wars. I’m assuming these are the list of the war dead. The font is amazing and the craftsmanship is truly wonderful to behold. Whenever I see these I think I want to take graphite rubbings of them on some huge pieces of paper.

0m6a2693There’s a Salvation Army Shelter for Women in the Junction. It’s across from what once was McBride Cycle but is now the almost complete DK Condos on Dundas West. It always makes me think about the relationships between men and women, because I imagine that most of the reason for these women to end up here is that men fuck them up. Maybe that’s unfair, but as I get older I really do think that men are basically irresponsible children that never grow up and that a huge portion of them cause a lot of grief and anguish to others.

I took this because the scene was simple and reminded me very much of Thomas Demand. I really love that work and because of it I see “Found Demands” everyday. 0m6a2647Crane cables form the construction area beside our house. I’m terribly sick of this construction cycle that literally began with the remediation of the land about eight years ago. But I’m also aware that it’s quite a first world problem.


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Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Feature Exhibition 

May 1st-31st, 2015
Opening Reception & Artist Talk May 2nd, 2-4p.m.
Bau-Xi Photo
324 Dundas Street West, Toronto

Julie Watt

Nell Crook




Bau-Xi Photo preview images for the show.

As a continuation of his acclaimed subway series that began with ‘Transitions’ in 2007 and ‘Waiting’ in 2010, Underground is an exciting revival of the subject that introduced Shepherd to the Canadian art scene. Encompassing imagery from his most recent exploration of both the Toronto and Montreal subway systems, the work is unified by the artist’s signature approach to lighting, composition and form.

Submerged from view in both Montreal and Toronto, the subways of each metropolis weave, burrow, anchor and nourish the structures and urban life aboveground. Montreal’s metro is the third busiest network in North America — behind only New York and Mexico. Toronto’s subway is a close second in size to Montreal, moving fewer people but reaching more stations than it’s Francophone sister. Underground is an exploration of both city’s subterranean networks, but rather than capturing the frenetic activity of each system, Shepherd instead turns our attention to the fleeting moments between the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures; the ignored hallways, staircases, platforms, mezzanines, tunnels and inanimate skeleton of the transit lines. Each image depicts quiet details of the everyday, resonating with a silent beauty that transforms the utilitarian spaces into painterly tableaus of contemplation. Shepherd describes his compositions as ‘”temporal blips in the consistent hustle and bustle of everyday life.” As part of an ongoing study, the images are inherently bound to the archives of each city, serving to document and re-document the chronological life-span of the spaces as they continually adapt to the changing needs of the urban-dweller.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Chris Shepherd began his artistic practice as a painter and studied art history, film and artistic practice at Ryerson, Waterloo and McMaster Universities. After moving to Toronto, he turned to photography as a means to familiarize himself with his new city. It was this process of exploration that piqued Shepherd’s interest in urban landscapes and led to a long-running fascination with the often passed-over or under-appreciated elements of metropolitan life. The serenity and reserve of Shepherd’s photographs often contrast with the locations they are depicting. Shepherd captures fleeting moments in time, whether they be a brief moment of quiet in the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures in the subway, or the fallow vacancy between tenants in commercial buildings.

Shepherd’s art has been exhibited across North America, and is included in major corporate collections in Canada including Seneca College, TD Bank and Bank of Montreal.


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Maquette is a concept I’ve been thinking about since August 2nd. I’ve been obsessed with it. I find when I fixate on things it’s a good sign, usually it means the idea has some potential. In short the more something sticks in my head and it adapts and expands, the more valid it seems.

I’ve been shooting interior spaces through the glass of their front windows for years. Lately the work feels a bit underwhelming. I rarely find compelling new locations anymore. I get less and less exited about what I’ve shot or have been shooting. Typically in the last few months I head out and shoot and shoot for hours and then come home and delete everything.

As an alternative to this I could build what I want to take pictures of. Below is a perfect example. I like this image but I’d rather see it as a series of lines and planes than actual structural, representational elements. I’d like to distill this into a geometric sculpture by removing the reference point of the room. I think I could build a maquette that would be less narrative and more compelling than the interior spaces I’ve been shooting for Vacancy.

I think this has awesome potential. The first project could be painted foamcore. I’ll build a structure like the diagram below, only using subtle shades of grey gradation. Maybe my first attempt will be based on the lines of a hallway. The furthest surface inside the hallway will be white, the closer I get to the top our outer edge will be black. In between hand-mixed shades linking the two. I can do a series of these constructions using different primary colours. I better get the studio finished. I think I’ll make this really small and shoot with the macro lens. If I think I’m insane I might as well start acting the part.

Further to this idea I went out today on Simcoe Day for the last chance I”l have in a while to shoot. I found 2 places and a new idea close to home. Below are the early stages of the new idea. I’ve taken my standard shot and then closed down the aperture as small as possible to increase the exposure time and used the zoom on my lens to distort the image. I like this effect and it sort of makes the interiors unreal and somewhat x-rayish. I like the technique and was also surprised with the simplicity and line of the subject.

I think this is a nice step in the right direction. Now the plan could be to revisit the favorite boring locals and reshoot with this technique. I’ll experiment with underexposing to even further increase the exposure times and hopefully allow me to get some more solid ghosting. I could possibly do this with multiple exposures as well or even layer specific individual images in Photoshop to act like multiple in-camera exposures. There’s also the possibility of combining this multiple shot technique with the aforementioned maquette versions of the interiors and experiment in a studio setting with flash, other lighting and the macro lens.

For me the image below is just a nice surprise. like this interior as a possibility for the Vacancy series… just when I was close to giving up. This is a sweet ending to a pretty laid back vacation. New inspiration and new ideas make me happy.

Finally I think this is a project I could execute over the course of a month or 2 in an artist residence somewhere. I was further thinking maybe I could research one in Paris or London where I could also work on a new subway series as well. I might even be able to take a month or 2 leave from work.

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Transitions Redux

Transitions-Redux or simply subway photographs from back in 2008. These images were part of the shoot that made up the body of my first organized solo show Transitions. It was at Centennial College at the campus near Pape Avenue in the east end. I found this subsection of images in my archives and realised I had never looked at them as square crops. So I’ve re-worked them here. I’m sort of liking these all over again. A nice surprise.

Included above are images of St Claire, Ossington, Bay, Spadina, Bathurst, Islington, Lawrence, and St George stations.

Transitions was a big deal for me. It didn’t draw a lot of people, and nothing sold but if I hadn’t produced the work I would never have gone anywhere, never had a gallery. I can actually thanks David Mclyment for the kick-start. He was the one who offered and organized the show. He’s also a very nice man as well. I always meant to give him one of the images but I never got around to it. Despite my disappointment at the time that show was the beginning of everything. It’s nice to have the benefit of hindsight.

Someday maybe I’ll print some of this Transitions-Redux stuff. I’ve often thought about creating a book. If I could get it together and organize access to the Paris and London subways, I’m sure I could compile a book. I’ve even thought about doing a book of short stories by Toronto writers that at some point reference a subway station and the images would be like illustrations. Or a tourist guide based on subway travel. Maybe I should just self-publish. Although I will always hope to get to London, Paris and maybe Moscow to shoot their subways. What I really need is someone who can organize that sort of shit for me and then they take a cut of any sales or money I make. I wonder if artist do that sort of shit?


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Vacancy 3

I made it down to Queen Street West on Saturday for another Vacancy shoot. I took the bike down for about 6:30 in the morning. It was so nice and quiet and I had the chance to stop in front of Convenience Gallery to check out Roula Partheniou’s show “five o’clock shadow”. I’m very glad I did. Despite the fact that it was way closer to 5:00 a.m. I’ve wanted to see this show since I saw the amazing picture that Tony Hafkenscheid took of the gallery from the street. If I can find a copy of that not taken from Facebook I’ll gladly post it. Anywho, her piece is awesome. It’s slightly scientific, but slightly whimsical. I really like it a lot. If you get a chance to check it out do so. You can walk by the gallery anytime because it’s basically an old convenience store window = accessible all the time. Lansdowne Avenue & Seaforth a block or two up from Queen.

I ended up locking the bike up in front of the crappy looking Bohemian Embassy building which is just across the street and in between The Drake and The Gladstone. I walked over to University then turned around and got half way back before hopping on a streetcar.

If there’s one thing I like about the Bohemian Embassy it’s the vacant stores. They’ve been trying to rent stuff for months, if not close to a year. It’s perfect subject matter for me. Empty, nondescript rooms in a modern boring building. I’ve shot them a couple time now.

Drywall Bohemian Embassy 2012

I love the floor of drywall dust and the straightforward lines and crosses of the mudding in the drywall shot. The following were taken in the same strip of retail attached to The Bohemian Embassy.

These 3 images are basically black & white, without being black and white. Colour images that become ostensibly black and white just because of the nature of the material being shot. I have a thing against contemporary B&W. There are a ton of photographers who use it well, but there are thousands of photographers that just think for some reason it makes their work more artistic. I’m probably being a jerk, but I figure we progressed to colour over time, why shoot in B&W? The real problem I have is that the technique and style is overused. You could tie this conversation back to Roula’s show at Convenience, although I’m sure it wasn’t her intention, five o’clock shadow could thematically touch on that colourization vs black and white film discussion and how it pertains to contemporary photography.

The following images are from King Street, east of Jarvis taken June 5th on the way to work. Again these could easily be B&W. At the very least if Vacancy becomes a show there could be a series of monochromatic shots as one element of the whole. The complete show may simply be a series of high colour shots, monochromatic shots, and drastic contrast lighting shots. It’s not rocket science.

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I had written this up under the title Demolition. I think flattening is better.

This project could be thought of as a form of deconstruction or the act of taking a 3 dimensional building and flattening it out into 2 dimensions. This idea was inspired by years of staring at the Hydro building across the street from us.

Take a photograph of each portion of the elevation around the exterior of a building from straight on and from the same distance, i.e., 6 feet away from each section of wall. Shoot the entire building Starting at a fixed point and ending at the point. These would also represent the building a t a specific height in it’s elevation, at approximately 6 feet off the ground or eye level. In a traditional building this would equate to flattening out an elevation drawing. each of these shots could then be stitched together in Photoshop to “flatten” out or make 2 dimensional the contours of the surface.

Riff on Alan Paiment’s series of building floor plan photographs taken from the bird’s eye perspective.

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Waiting was my first show at Bau-Xi Photo. It ran in the summer of 2010. I got a bit of press including this nice little piece in Eye Weekly by David Balzer.

Here’s my artist statement from way back then.

I’m interested in the potential or possibility of places and objects. His fascination is with things—not for what they are or what they’re proscribed to be—but for what they could be and how they can be seen.

In Waiting, different parts of the Toronto and New York subway systems are captured in various stages of flux. Bereft of people and purpose, these utilitarian spaces are re-imagined and assigned a different aesthetic value. Waiting transforms hectic spots into serene, contemplative sanctuaries.

Waiting itself directly refers to hanging around long enough for foot traffic and people to disappear. It also calls out the converted state of the spaces. No longer intersections of movement or places of mass congregation, the locations now wait to be refilled. Finally, waiting calls out patience and a desire to slow the normal day to day down and transform purposeful but sometimes mindless action into equally productive contemplative silence and peace.

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Learning was my most recent show at Bau-Xi Photo in November of 2011.

20120510-220121.jpg Learning focuses on educational spaces in and around the Toronto environs. Here students have either left for the day, gone for the summer or abandoned the buildings permanently. This work continues to explore the aesthetics of public institutional architecture while at the same time contemplates the artist’s scholastic history and contemporary education into the professional art world.

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