May 1st-31st, 2015
Opening Reception & Artist Talk May 2nd, 2-4p.m.
324 Dundas Street West, Toronto
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.
Subway 2014 is new work shot in the TTC over the turn of the new year.
The first two days of shooting were rather unproductive. I might look back and change that opinion. On the first day I took this shot of Osgoode Station platform. I love it. It captures the slightly tired and well worn station in a light that clarifies but doesn’t over romanticize the space. Part of the charm of this shot is the two colours of lighting that alternate in the fixtures above the safety line. I think the bluish, cooler fluorescents are more contemporary bulbs, the yellowish are older. The blue is also brighter and stronger. In the image below those bulbs are the portion of the frame that are slightly over exposed. The odd lighting, varied wall slats of the tunnel, weird green columns, incongruous yellow line, terrazzo tile and odd more contemporary tile filler strip all combine to unify this image for me. After all my initial disappointment I’m actually so pleased with this shot it didn’t really matter if I captured anything else.St. Andrew Station has had a redo. The awful slats that you can see in the Osgoode photograph above have been replaced in the St Andrew Station with spectacularly classic metal panels that echo the old original panels of the station. They look awesome. The only problem is they reflect the light from the platform in an irritating way that I could only fix by getting a higher vantage point for the tripod which just wasn’t going to happen. Most of my older work is punctuated by these sort of reflections, I’m not sure why they bother me so much now.Wellesley Station has always been a favourite but it’s also proven a bit hard to photograph. The lighting in the station itself is very subdued. It might not be so bad on bright sunny day, but on this visit it was hard to capture anything without the tripod. There’s something super utilitarian about the image below. It’s not really like my other images, but for now I like that it captures a station that’s been so illusive to me. The roundhouse feel of this mezzanine and bus corridor is quite spectacular.The last day of shooting on this permit was a bit more successful. Maybe because I planned to shoot three stations I’ve been to and photographed a lot over the last ten years. I see these three stations in a different way. I’m sure it looks like the same old way, but to me the shooting felt good and I’m very happy with the results. I’m not quite sure which images are my favourites, but I’ll live with them for a while and decide. Below are two shots from Keele Station.I’m not 100% in love with the photograph of the old mesh style telephone alcove. This is an original phone area. In other stations these are frequently covered over by small orange tiles and particularly shitty looking public phones. These wire cages are not super attractive but the there’s something endearing about them. One thing I particularly love about this image is the crumpled telephone directory. It’s really a photograph of a disappearing culture that has been supplanted by smart phones and the internet. Who really uses telephone directories anymore? This little alcove foreshadows a not too distant future when public phones have disappeared.
The image below is from the east end of Keele Station. It’s no longer manned by a person, or maybe it never was. This is a view of the interior of the collectors booth. The most amazing thing is the steam punk clock on the desk.High Park is now my favourite stations. I could have spent more time there, but it was also a spot where people just hang out and because of that it’s was more difficult to shoot. The first two images have a different coolness to them as they are taken with predominantly daylight that floods into the street level foyer through large banks of windows.There are a few reasons why the shot above makes me happy. There’s the oddly wonky “To Trains” signage, that’s messed up by the curve of the ceiling. Then there’s that curve of the ceiling itself. Also slightly odd is the weird handrail that angles out on the right hand side of the service panel. All of these little things make the straight on shot a little eccentric which is a word I’m becoming quite fond of now that I’m 50.
This is the same main floor foyer but to the right of the above shot. Natural light is streaming in from the right hand side of the frame which is a set of floor to ceiling windows. The area to the left of the railing is the staircase and escalator to/from the mezzanine.The ubiquitous orange title that blocks off old telephone booths and serves as the call out for the newer more contemporary pay phones. Below is the view if you were talking on the phone above and looking to your left. There’s another identical exit if you were to look to your right. This exist takes you up to Parkview Gardens on the north side of the tracks. The other would pop you out on a street between Clendenan and Quebec south of the tracks. Both exists are on the west end of the platform. From here you’d and you’d go South to Bloor Street.Below is the area just at the top of the stairs if you’d just walked up from the west end entry to the station. Of course at this end you’d have to use a Metro pass or token. There’s nobody manning the booth. This is typical of every station. One end of the station has a manned booth, the other is all automated. A shot of the wall in the mezzanine of the High Park station. To the left is the phone booth area and the magazine/crap store. The right side of the frame would take you to the entrance to the subway proper, directly behind me at this point is the ticket booth and entry point from the street level foyer.I just liked the confluence of lines below.Runnymede Has a great mezzanine. I’m not 100% sure what you call the level that’s one below street and one above track. I’m thinking it’s mezzanine or entresol. In fact now that I’ve Googled it I’m sure that’s what this area is called. All three of the following shots are from the Runnymede mezzanine.
The first shot actually has a person in it. You can see their shadow on the wall to the right of the column. They’re sitting on the bench drinking a coffee. In fact they sat there waiting for a friend for about ten minutes on this bench. Then when the friend showed up I thought I’d finally get a chance to shoot more without them, but that new arrival really needed to sit down.
I’m not quite sure what the hoarding is for here. Maybe this station is slated for upgrading. I’m not sure why that would be the case, this station seems very functional and quite spacious.I turned around 180 degrees from the shot of the bench above this is what I saw. There’s another stair/escalator combo across from this one. Both lead up to street level.A detail, straight on shot of the above of the above. I love the expression Please Hold Handrail
Today I found glory on Broadview through the windows of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I went to take pictures of the satellite dish that sits in their parking lot but ended up peering through the windows into the foyer of their church. A foyer that looks like it might not be used too much. I’m glad nobody was around because I guess I was technically trespassing on Mormon land. I don’t know any Mormons, maybe there not bad folks.
Just a reminder to see a bigger image than below just click on the image itself and it should open in a larger widow so you can see more detail.
Anyway the satellite dish ended up being not so interesting because it was behind a fence and I couldn’t get a clear shot. While I was looking though I realised that the entire parking lot was completely empty and by extension the building was probably vacant. I plucked up enough courage to look through the windows where the vertical blinds were not drawn and I saw this. Iw as smiling when I shot it.
The most remarkable thing is that i’ve passed by here on my bicycle and on the bus at least 1000 times and I never thought to explore this block on foot. IF I had I might have discovered that at least during the week in the mornings there’s no one around the building and no one to get all bent out of shape when I take photographs. I think that’s one of the most amazing things. We all pass by so much stuff without ever giving it a second thought. If I could stop doing that I think I’d discover a lot more exciting stuff to shoot.
The image below was shot earlier this same morning on the the Danforth east of Donlands subway stop. Today instead of getting off at Broadview and busing the remainder of the trip to work, I went five or six stops further on the subway and then walked and took photographs as I made my way back to Broadview. I shot the image below of an empty retail window. I’m not sure if someone is storing the pianos in here, trying to sell them or they are left over from the last occupant. Regardless this piano and chair had a nice casual and natural composition that I like.
Purple was someone’s favourite colour.
I’m not sure what this place was but apparently it was closed because the block at this particular place in the city has been sold to make way for condos. This is just north of the North East corner of Yonge and Davisville. The building is on the corner of Yonge and Millwood. Just south of this place is another huge empty retail place that was an LCBO. Weird that the LCBO up there has been so nomadic.
The light in here was brilliant. I’m going to return tomorrow and see if perhaps I can get crisper files. Right now these images are quite grainy because it’s all low, available light. I’d love to shoot them on large format film, but that’s not going to happen soon and I bet this place is torn down before then. That’s even more likely because it will be a while before I get my act together with the large format. I should get a new bellows for the thing in a week and that’s a good step in what I’m sure will be a long journey of discovery.
It’s definitely a lot of purple. It also has the feel of a financial institution on the exterior. It’s very TD-Canada Trust looking but I doubt I’ll ever know what it was. It’s also been empty for a very long time. The Google Streetview image doesn’t give anything away, but you can see it was a bank at one time.
The light is truly spectacular. There are a lot of windows on two sides of the building. It also helps that there is nothing too tall in the area surrounding so the morning sun can make it’s way through the glass despite the crazy sunrise angle.
The shots I got today will be uploaded tonight, and they are much more subdued. There was no sun this morning but as I expected they are way more crisp, which i like for the possibility for printing large which has become sort of a habit. Although I love the sunlight, I like the images without it way more. See below.
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.
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.
I’m working on the Vacancy photo series. Saturday was pretty successful for me. I got up at 5:30 and went exploring on the bike to St Clair Avenue. I found some stuff I liked so I’m calling this Vacancy 2. I’ll continue to shoot in batches and name them in sequence. I wonder if it’s just me and this series. It’s not very accesible.
I wasn’t inside most of these rooms. I simply take these shots through the glass of the front window or door. I have this complicated and awkward set up with an old tea towel that I have to wrap around the lens where it hits the glass. If I don’t do that I get a reflection of the lens barrel and parts of the street because of the sunlight and the typical construction of double pane glass. One day I’ll get a proper hood built that can attach to the lens and makes things efficient but this works for now.
I’d like to do more black work. A favourite from the work above is the piece that shows a set of partially obstructed windows surrounded by the darkness of the interior space. This uber-contrast is interesting me.
There’s also an image with a checkered floor. I’m a sucker for abandoned chairs in empty rooms, especially when they have checkered floors. I’m off again this first of June to find other forlorn strip of Toronto retail and some new Vacancy subjects. I imagine it will even be more deserted today. I might as well try Queen. It’s been a while since I shot down there. Usually when I venture to a place I haven’t been to for a while there are a ton of new Vacancies. I’m sure Queen street will be no different, however it’s more successful than St.Clair so there tend to be fewer empty places.
These are a little darker feeling than I thought they would be. I like them, but I can see why someone might not. It’s an ancient space. I think of Cuba, or at least images I’ve seen of Cuba. A real sense of this place has seen better times. The ceiling looks tin and the back wall is a testament to how old the place is. Lathe and plaster construction was predominantly pre 1930s in Toronto after that plaster board came into widespread use.
I happened upon this on my way to work the other day. It’s on the lower portion of Pape just a few blocks above Bloor. Curiously the whole strip of retail and residential that is Pape has changed very, very little in the 15 years that I’ve frequented it. This is truly the land that gentrification forgot.
I keep coming back to these images. I’ve just decided these will make up the new Bau-Xi Photo show. I’ll shoot over the next few months and hopefully have 15 to 20 solid images for a show. I’m thinking of getting up very early tomorrow and trying to catch a new Scotia Bank on Bloor around Ossington before it opens and is completely finished. the colour of the redish orange ATMs and the blank empty walls should look pretty spectacular.
I shot this series of images at a small rural hospital in Seaforth, Ontario. I have a very nice relative who is a Dr. there and she was nice enough to get me access. I loved it and would really like to continue this series someday but I think getting into other hospitals is going to be mind-numbingly difficult. That’s my problem in general -getting access to photograph places. The subway was super hard to negotiate. It took me years. Schools were difficult as well. Hospitals will be very hard to get into. Sometimes I think I should just grow some balls and shoot without permission, but I find I’m uncomfortable doing that and when I’m uncomfortable I don’t shoot well.