October 2013

October 2013 is shaping up to be my favourite month this year. Mainly because it’s the Fall and lately it’s the only really fall month we seem to get. Fall suits me.

October 20th – I wandered around the Yonge/Bay and Bloor area. On Yonge just north  of the unattended subway entrance there’s a Jack Astor’s. This is the south wall of the a Starbucks that is facing the fence of the Jack Astor’s patio. I’ve shot this weird little patch of colour on other occasions and I revisit just to see if it’s been painted over. The original exposed brick can be seen underneath the layers of paint and plaster. I think this used to be a cool old bookstore before it became a Starbucks. On Bay the new Four Seasons Hotel/Condo building is approaching completion. There’s work being done however on the actual streets; Bay, and Yorkville in particular. This is looking onto the Four Seasons from the middle of Yorkville.

and the view below is from the Bay Sidewalk looking out onto Bay Street where half the road is being worked on. This is a concrete layer of under layer that I guess they’ll either pave over or actually cover with more concrete. I think the circular patterning was caused by a forklift or other small construction vehicles wheels.October 19th – I wandered up to Keele and St Clair in the rain to investigate The Stockyards If you haven’t seen it, try to avoid it and you’re might be the better for it. In this square kilometre area there is already Canadian Tire, Rona, Home Depot, McDonalds, Harvey’s, Shoppers Drug Mart and other cookie cuter retail stores. Now there’s a new half-a-million square foot, big-box, glorified-strip-mall going in that will contain a Target a, Pet Smart, Best Buy, Second Cup, Subway, and you can guess the rest. Here’s a pic of one of the stores and I bet it’s more interesting now than it will be with second rate, poorly made goods stocking the shelves. Take note, when this place is open I wouldn’t recommend going anywhere near this part of the city, the streets are still built to accommodate industrial and low density residential, not the 250,000 people in cars that will drive here from the surrounding 5km area. We’ve walked on surrounding roads in summer over the past ten years and you can’t breath because the car exhaust is so dense. Think about how ghastly it will be when it’s wall-to-wall grid lock and 35 degrees outside.October 16th – I revisited the weird transitional area between Thorncliff Park and Leaside. I wandered up Laird from Overlea, then across Eglington over to the DVP where my day job office is. It’s the Laird area I find I’m strangely drawn to. I made my way back to the self-storage place where I shot a photograph that was in the first Wandering show at Bau-Xi Photo. The whole complex is being painted. I’m not quite sure what the final colours will be but the interim hodge-podge is appealing. Note the following is not straight-on or at a forty-five degree angle.

When I did a complete circle of the building I also realised that the image I shot the previous year can be shot again this year but it will look even more like the Canadian flag. Just south west of the storage place on Laird there’s been a lot of development to service the suburban/urban area that is Leaside and Overlea. I can’t say that any of this is good development. I think if I say Smart Centres you’ll get the gist. It’s turning into one parking lot after another with generic, chain retail offering poor quality goods and services for a community of convenience. But I don’t live there and I’m sure 90% of the residents love this stuff.

Before the transition happens completely the west side of Overlea has been relatively untouched. It’s still home to lots of businesses that focus on the automobile, and some weird old school looking light industrial. Attached to an old school indoor carwash was the vacant retail place below.

This image is getting printed. I’m liking the simple, virtually black & white look that the space has and it’s slightly tired and imperfect construction. I also really love the weird placement of the door and the window frame leaning against the back wall. They contrast wonderfully with the whiteness that surrounds. I’m not quite sure why but I find this image very mysterious and somewhat otherworldly. To me it’s as if the frames are placed against the wall for some specific unknown and somewhat fantastical purpose rather than simply placed there for storage.I also made my way back into the pseudo park lands that make up the no man’s land of the highway cloverleafs beside my office building. I love these colours and the weird, pastoral nature of these shots. For the last few years I’ve thought  this can be a series in itself that might be inexhaustible. This image relates again to others I took last year, but now I’m looking at the scene with a more literary reference after reading Sebald whom I’ve been told is rather bleak and depressing. Funny, but I didn’t read it that way. I’ve enjoyed both Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn.The shot below is taken from the parking lot of our office building, and beyond the trees is the DVP. The building beside us is getting new stairs poured in concrete and they ripped out the old ones and stuck them at the back corner of the existing parking lot.

The idea of Urban Pastoral may seem absurd, but areas like those below are quickly becoming the only natural green spaces in our city. I like capturing what looks like the edge of the wild with elements of urbanity in this absurd manner. It’s sort of like public parks having parking lots. 

When I actually got into work and came up the stairs i shot this on the third floor of our building, then rotated the frame 90 degrees. The larger white area is actually a wall, at it’s base is a recessed fluorescent light, then the lip of a ledge and the front edge of that ledge, and finally the dark area is the carpeting of the floor. I like the echoes of James Turrell, Mark Rothko, and Dan Flaven.October 14th - Just off Bloor, West of Bay slightly down from the Ugg store is the empty condo sales office for some new building. It’s been there for a few years. I like the simple depth in this image. I also love the incredibly high ceilings and the suggestion of a library that the empty shelves provide.

October 8th - Yonge Street north of Bloor beside the Bay. Sad attempt at landscaping but never the less a welcome bit of greenery on a dated and unimpressive corner. I’ll work more on this entry on my lunch hour today at work. It’s pretty rainy and taking photos on lunch will most likely not be a good option.October 6th
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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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