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.

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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.

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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.
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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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Canon 5Ds

The new Canon 5DS behaves very much like the old camera. It just has a massive file size and a lot smoother shutter action. Both things though are immensely important to me for creating huge prints. It seems my minimum print size now is 36 inches square. The files from this 5DS can get me that large with a lot more clarity and a lot less resizing than the old 5D Mark II ever could. But the old camera certainly served me well.

The other nice thing about the camera is that I’m interested again. I’m starting to slowly see things I haven’t been seeing for a few years. Investing in the new camera has pushed me outdoors to explore and I’ve begun wandering endlessly. Sometimes I walk for hours and don’t get a single image worth keeping, but I’m exploring and that feels important.

The first two images below were taken in The Junction which is a ten minute walk from my immediate neighbourhood, The Junction Triangle. The first photograph is an interior shot through a window. This part of the Junction is west of the cool and gentrified area, c loser to Runnymede than High Park Avenue. There’s not a lot happening on this stretch of Dundas West close to little Malta. That’s echoed in the remains of the business shown here. The really pedestrian chairs smack of the 1990s while the improvised pegboard door and cheap handle are a handyman’s special.

The second shot is east of the popular Junction. This image is of a strange little amphitheatre adjacent to a school. Think slightly west of what is perhaps the most dangerous and confusing intersection of the city where Dundas West meets DuPont, Annette and Old Weston Road. The light filtering through the leaves was wonderful and the dappled burst of circles make me smile. In what is an otherwise depressing and forgotten little nook of overgrown and decrepit space this sunlight is positively beaming. I also think this image will look very wonderfully abstract when viewed from across a room.

0M6A0330 0M6A0290At the bottom end of the Toronto West Rail Path is a Toronto Employment and Social Services office. This is the entrance railing in the underground parking area that looks like it’s simply a staff lunch area now. I may retake this so the bottom of the semicircle of railing is lifted either above or below the horizon line in the background.

I think of type faces or fonts the more I look at this. There seems to be a shift to thinner lighter weight fonts lately in the design world and for some reason this railing reminds me of that change.0M6A0221Gas meters are always a fascination. I’ve loved these things since I was a kid and they still fascinate me to a degree. Likewise there’s a weird draw to plywood and construction in general. Probably a result of years of doing construction work. Many street photographers are intrigued by decay and abandonment, I’m more interested now in transition, rebirth and building. Perhaps that’s just a latent optimism.

This was taken on Yonge Street across from the Toronto reference Library where a block of century buildings is being gutted to create a new building on the edger of Yorkville. 0M6A0166 I can’t remember what this place was. How weird is that? The refurbishment has taken a  few years now and they’ve not made a tremendous amount of progress. For some reason in my head this was a hotel that was big in Film Festival patronage. But I could be wrong. I want to say the old Sheraton, but I’m completely unsure. 0M6A0009 This piece below is a bit more conceptual.

Over the past ten years the square has become ubiquitous in my work. Most of my output is created with a digital SLR. My camera’s frame and viewfinder ratio mimics an analog 35 mm format. The sensor and architecture of the device always produces a rectangular image in the ratio of 2:3. Somewhere in my process I became uncomfortable with this rectangular ratio and started to think and crop my work in a 1:1 ratio. The square. I’m obsessed with it’s simplicity and beauty. I love the confinement that shooting is square dictates. I’m comfortable with it. Everything I shoot now I think of in the square. All my initial shots are still done with a digital SLR and the files start off as rectangles, but for anything I print or share I always crop it to square. I’m uncomfortable and feel conflicted working in anything other than the square.

About five years ago I also began experimenting with made photographs. Until that point my process focused on walking and shooting what I saw as I explored. I still love that way of working and that is still a big part of what I do, but I wanted to work differently. I wanted variety so I started working ideas that were planned interventions. Set up photographs. These ideas focused on the camera as a tool and instead of exploiting found imagery I began to create the subject matter.

There’s a whole bunch more explanation coming in here… that will end with…

I have two 20 inch wooden panels that I bought to paint on. I’ve primed and sanded them down, all ready to create work but never had the nerve to wreck the wonderful blankness. I take these out into the area and shoot them in various situations. This panel was simply placed on a clay pile that will become the newest Junction Triangle housing estate. I think these places will start at about 700K and I’m sure they’ll be built out plaster board and shitty finishes and people will flock to buy them because they’re new.

It’s fascinating that there are basically 2 types of home buyers. Those who need something new and those who prefer something lived in. Are their people out there who don’t care if they live in a  new or an old place?

0M6A0036I’ve always taken photographs through the windows of empty or closed retail stores. The shot below is from a Driver’s Education place on Dundas West around Le Gallery. I found this very funny and the photograph works in a humorous way for me for several reasons.

Such a 70s image. The car is literally a Corvette from the 70s. My Brother in-law had an orange Corvette around this time. I remember it being fibreglass. I also remember my sister was so short that she couldn’t really see out the front window because the hood was so long and she got really nervous driving it. Obviously the hood was so long because it was housing that huge engine. I also remember that they sold this car, but before the actual sale, somebody came by their house and stole some of the chrome engine parts. So that story always make me smile.  but the other funny thing for me is the personification of stereotypical old-school social culture and the importance of sports cars. To me the sports car is all about 14-15 years old and men that never grew up and an entire industry that hopes these men never grow up and keep buying these weird penis-on-wheels type vehicles.

This also works because it’s a photograph of a photograph. It’s also a bad photograph meant to sell cars and as a “picture” it has little to no value. Especially now that’s it sat in the sun for 40 years and is completely colourless. I love these sort of photographs when used to promote a business. It’s particularly poignant to me when they are photographs in a window used to display either an actual photographers skill, or a hairstyle that might be particularly stylish. Both things just can’t be true. Any self respecting photographer would never display images that had faded to a mere shadow of their former selves. Also if it’s a photo in a salon, that salon is obviously going to provide you with stylish upgrades based on the fashion from 20 or 30 years ago. This makes me laugh. I’ve just decided that I can print this for my October Bau-Xi Toronto show. It fits with my general concept of showing this/photographs about photography.

Finally the rippling print in the frame is testimony to how many years it’s been hanging around. It must have been water damaged at one point and then dried all ripply.

To think this hangs on the wall as something that could relate to taking a drivers education course makes me smile as well.

0M6A9955So the biggest thing about my new camera is that is has motivated me to start long walking again. I’ve missed over the last few years. I never made a conscious decision to stop wandering and taking photographs, it just happened unfortunately. Those last two years have felt like they’ve been missing something. That something was walking. The photograph below was taken on the beginning of one of those long walks. Routinely these walks last 2 – 3 hours and I can travel around 10km at a time.

The image below is also after a much needed rain. This summer his past the halfway point and we’ve had very little rain. It’s super dry. We did get a bit lately and week or so ago I and as I ventured out I found this nice puddle beside the patio at the Farmhouse on Edwin at Dupont. I’ve been relatively obsessed withe power lines lately. In our neighbourhood, at this part of the Junction Triangle there are a lot of overhead power lines.

This is also reflecting—no pun really intended—on the penchant for contemporary artists to use a lot of mirrors lately. 0M6A9879

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Long Walking

Long Walking finds things. I’m feeling good about starting to long walk again. It’s been too long since it seemed like my second nature. The trick to get back into it is to start smaller, with hour-long treks. It feels like I’m seeing things again slowly. This upcoming weekend the focus will be on a two-hour journey, hopefully in some new, strange neighbourhood I’ve never been too. This should help shake things up.

Over this first weekend in June my camera got out exploring a few times and the photograph below is a closer view of a staircase I shot last year. The frightening truth however is that I just looked that image up and it was actually taken two years ago. There’s a lost year in my head somewhere. That not too surprising. Despite this weird space mess up what matters is that I liked the original image from 2014. This one is even more pleasing to me. I’ve revisited the same place but I’ve changed and this new photograph seems different, more abstracted. It took a long time but I’m pleased with the abstraction achieved.

IMG_0583 Before the walk and the shot above, we met friends at a gallery opening at Angell Gallery for the Adam Lee show and while leaving noticed this cool patterning in the parking lot lines. I shot it then with my iPhone. In an effort to get a better quality shot I went back three times over the course of the weekend and finally captured this image which was taken after a thunderstorm in the early evening. I think I prefer the iPhone image slightly, but that’s just a shitty quality file that I can’t do too much with. The shot below makes me think I might have found a small series that I can continue. These could also be images that turn into paintings. IMG_0545I have a great photography supply place right around the corner from my house. FilmPlus has been good to me over the years. I’m pretty sure I bought a lens from these folks. I’ve bought a bunch of little stuff from them and rented a bit. It’s a no fuss, professional shop that deals predominantly with the many studios in the neighbourhood and rents almost anything. Last thing I rented was a Canon 5Ds. This shot is taken on a Sunday as I walked by the store front on my way from taking the parking lots lines above. I’m guessing this is some sort of large reflective diffuser for strobe flash of some sort. It’s huge at about 1 meter across and decidedly steampunk looking. I don’t do much artificial lighting so it’s a bit of a mystery to me.IMG_0560 Sometimes I’d like to be less geometric and get more organic.

Like many people I’ve always loved power lines but this is the first time I’ve shot them that feels like a potential print. Usually power lines just get in the way of what I’m shooting and these were doing the same thing until a slight switch in perspective made them the subject of the shot. Just before a thunderstorm hit while shooting the clouds for another project it became apparent that the camera could be lined up to make the power lines seems perfectly straight and become a somewhat painterly incursion into the background. This shot is a continuation of the vertical window blinds shots from a few years back. Again this feels like a bit of a man-made, found, hard-edged, abstract painting piece and again this is feeling like a potential series.
IMG_0572 The one below feels like a bit of a throw away, the colours and textures are interesting though. Taken under the very dark and depressing Keele Street rail bridge just above Dundas West. The iron work is quite stupendous though.IMG_0598All of this feels like a good start to the idea of longer walks. I’m getting back to the idea of being a flâneur and think maybe a new camera is in store as well. So if anyone is reading this and feels like taking the plunge into a used, full-frame DSLR I’m going to be selling my present Canon 5D Mark ii. I think I’ll offer it up at a good price. It’s been a pretty damn fine camera. It is however time for bigger file sizes to accommodate bigger prints so the 5DsR is on the horizon. I’m also looking forward to the idea of setting the 5Dsr  up to show square crops. I’m so tired of the 2:3 ratio of the typical SLR.

 

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Sliced

New show just might be Sliced, Crumpled, Shredded, Folded, and Scored photographs.

The only problem I’m having is why.

Initially this process of manipulations was about the willful destruction of a photograph. This is something that feels a little sacrilegious to me and I’m sure to others. Despite the nature of the digital image the physical photograph has an inherent value to me. Not just because I sell photographs, but also because of the history of the image itself and the memories it holds. One of the reasons I’m doing this is that it feels slightly wrong and that in itself feels strangely right. I’m destroying memory, or at least reconfiguring it.

This process is also about rebirth and redefinition. By taking an existing thing I’ve done and re-inventing it I’m creating something new out of something old. Without the pretentiousness or the mythology–this is sort of like the story of the Phoenix.

Repetition is soothing. I like endlessly cutting things into strips or shredding things. I like doing this manually when I could very easily use a machine or do the manipulation in Photoshop. There’s something deliberately archaic and anachronistic about the process. These are physical objects.

I’m also thinking of making these as 1 of 1s. The physical objects/subjects are 1 of 1s. Those physical objects are also sculptures. So I’m using photography to record a temporal sculpture.  The photographs are reminders of what was created. I was going to mount each of the sliced pieces, but the more I think about it the more I like the idea of them being fleeting. I may just pile all the strips in bags.

These photographs are also paradoxical. I’m re-arranging or reconfiguring memory by manipulating the original photographs and creating temporary sculptural pieces but I’m also recording those manipulated pieces of the past in new photographs. I think that explanation will have to be re-worded to make any sense. Hopefully when I re-read this I can figure it out enough to re-write.

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The aesthetic I’m very happy with–the what and the how. The more I write, the more I answer the why somewhat but maybe not enough to balance out the power of the aesthetic creation in my own head. I keep thinking that this work somewhat arbitrary when the images I’m using have a personal history but not a relationship to the process of manipulation. It’s half-baked. Without being cliche, perhaps there’s subject matter that I can specifically shoot then manipulate that will tie the aesthetic and the why together better. In a basic sense, clocks, or calendars might work. Something that represents the passage of time or the temporal. I’ve also thought of doing this with clouds. I like how the natural, or pseudo natural works in this process, better than how the architectural or man made does.

IMG_71248I think the answer lies in creating photographs of water, sky, forest, and nature, then re-imagining those photographs by folding, shredding, scoring, slicing, and folding.

Now, can I figure it out so it works completely in my head?

 

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