Wandering Images

These are the Wandering images and brief descriptions of what each of the photographs represent. Little blurbs about what I was thinking when I took each of the photographs or what the subjects each mean to me.  These are informal snippets of thought.

Opening – Dundas West Roncesvalles

The more I live with this photograph the more it becomes one of my favourites. It’s also took me months to shoot, if you can believe that.  I had initially left this un-cropped in a standard landscape ratio. It was OK in that 2:3 ratio but something bugged me about it. After a while of staring at the shot I figure out that when the frame of the picture was rectangular it battled with the portrait oriented rectangle of the opening. It wasn’t until I made it square like all the other images in this series that the image was a success.

On the east side of Roncesvalle if you’re heading south, just before the lights that separate Roncesvalles proper from Dundas West there’s a driveway that takes you back to the most decrepit auto shop you can imagine. It’s like something out of another century. The gravel in the photo is the driveway back to this shack. The opening itself is the side wall of an apartment and strip mall building. I’m standing in the ramp that just to the left of the frame leads down to the underground parking. I’m not quite sure what this little openings purpose is. It might actually be a thoughtful modification to the building to allow light to pass through and naturally illuminate the area where I’m standing which is shaded by the overhang of the actual building.

It’s the absurdity of the opening,  the colours and shapes of the walls and the yellow post and how they sit within and around the rectangular space of that opening that I love more and more. It just feels good.

Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay

This image was  taken on what became a pivotal day of wandering. I’d been unable to capture anything I liked day after day. Nothing I was shooting was striking me as interesting or printable until I came upon this.

The photograph captures the architectural space being constructed inside a new condo building. The lower floors on the Grenville Street side end of the Murano building make up a glass room to be used at some unspecified date in the future as a restaurant. Inside this space the Italian fresco painter Sandro Martini has installed an ambitious, commissioned, public art series of abstract panels on the walls and on floor level glass partition walls. At the time that I took this image the room was bereft of everything except this fan, a table, small fire extinguisher, news paper (on the floor) and Martini’s paintings. My guess is that the fan was used to dry the paint required to join the preprinted wall panels together that make up the finished installation piece.

This photograph was taken by resting the lens ring on the exterior of the buildings glass wall/window and shooting through into the expanse of what will be the restaurant. There are a bunch of things I like about this image.

First the composition conforms to a structure that recurs frequently in my work. Here the picture plane is broken into three relatively equal horizontal strips creating an internal triptych. This compositional style attached itself to me through a series of horizon photographs I shot about six or seven hers ago on the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. in those photographs the three horizontal strips of composition were typically made up of beach, water and sky.

The colours and complexity of the fresco painting contrast with the monochromatic surroundings and simplicity of the walls and the grey of the concrete floor.

As a critic once remarked it’s a simple expository shot. I like the term expository. A big part of the point here is to simply document what I see and describe why I think it’s interesting. Lately I’ve been thinking my work relates more and more to Bernd & Hilla Becher and their obsessive documentation of the commonplace. my work could be considered fine art, journalism, cataloging or simple straightforward observation.

Electrical Panel – Bohemian Embassy Queen Street

Like a few other photographs in this series I was never inside this space. I took the photograph through the glass facade.

I spent small patches of my life doing construction work. I did this for income, to help my father build a cottage and to renovate my home. I’m still doing this sort of work but sporadically as I get lazier and lazier. I’ve done electrical work, plumbing, framing, flooring, roofing and concrete foundation and footing work. I can’t consider myself very good at any of it, although I can swing a hammer very confidently. It does however give me an appreciation for skilled trades. I’m also interested in the complete foreign nature of this work to lots of people. They’ve never done it and therefore never had any chance to even comprehend it. My brother is the same as me only he has taken it to the next level and is basically capable of any job no matter what the size. He’s also very talented it and design in general and all of his skill comes from trial and error. My father was the catalyst for all this hands on type work. He built and renovated all his life and would have much happier if he’d been a cabinet maker or framer than an accountant.

I took this picture because I think the Bohemian Embassy is hideous and this is one of the only things of aesthetic interest I could salvage out of the architectural mess. Seriously, where have all the architects gone and where are the builders with vision? It’s all so transparently budget! This place is a glorified strip mall. It couldn’t be more ironically named. Maybe I’m too harsh but we seem to be extremely capable of building completely unremarkable buildings in this city. The condo craze is awesome for bringing people into the core of the city, I’m all about density. The sad truth however is that their moving into shitty, boring buildings constructed to save as much money as possible with no regard for actual design or aesthetic. I don’t however think the builders are to blame for all the negative I feel about these places. This electrical panel’s immaculately organized schematic and the reserved yet capably executed drywall mudding make me smile. By far the best thing about a remarkably unimaginative structrure.

Hydro Pole – Don Valley Pathway

For a few days in 2012 I took the 25 km bicycle route to the office. I even took time on these trips to stop and wander around which stretched the trip time well over 2 hours. It was great. This image was taken the same week I shot “Log – Don Valley Pathway” and contains much of the same humour.

There are a series of these hydro poles in an area just off the path north of Todmorden Mills and west of the Don River. I’m sure at one point they served as some sort of support for actual hydro lines but now they stand idle, the odd one festooned by a modest bird house. This composition made me laugh. The hydro pole stands in for the trunk of the tree in the background. This immediately reminded my of my childhood.

When we were small my parents were huge into secular Christmas. We had plywood cutouts for the front lawn, spot lights, Christmas lights and a huge tree with an obscene amount of gifts. Part of the annual preparation was for each kid to take a synthetic tree that consisted of a piece of doweling with angled holes drilled into it and glorified pipe cleaners that were draped with short pieces of tinsel. You built your tree and it sat in your room. Once it was assembled you wrapped the gifts you’d purchased for other family members and put them under the tree in your room until Christmas eve when they would be transported downstairs into the family room and under the tree with everyone else’s gifts.

This is what this tree and pole seemed to be recalling for me.

The incredible swath of darkness around the base of the pole interest me as well. It was early in the morning and the sun was very low.

Shiatsu – Rocesvalles

When I describe my images as Zen, this is an almost perfect example.

On Roncesvalles about a block north of Queen on the east side of the road is a non de script commercial strip mall on the bottom of a low rise apartment building. It’s not overly ambitious and all of the business here is very low key. This suite is for rent and use to be a Shiatsu clinic. The only reason I know that is by going back into the living history of Google Street View. I can take a trip back a few years and find this place.

I was instantly struck by the immaculate cleanliness of the interior and the subtle and calming lilac paint job. I shot this through the window which was also clean. The place is so immaculate that the colour and definition appears incredibly softened in comparison to my other ages shot through widows. It really does become a kind of hard lined abstract painting, and indeed I might try and paint this image or make a 3-D maquette of it and then photograph that construction and really try and make it look lie a painting.

I went back three or four times to the place. At one time I had a run in with the owner who had a bit of a shit fit with me taking pictures of it. I was very pleasant but she was obviously not a happy sort so I quickly went on my way. I’m not sure of the place is still vacant.

This Month Only – Perth at DuPont

This taken at the side of the scariest bar in my neighborhood. The signage actually reads “This Month Only” and the sidewalk in front usually has 3 or 4 very sketchy looking people hanging around smoking. It’s the kind of place where the bartender is about 90 without a hint of it being on purpose. I’ve never been in for a drink, but then again I never liked Labatt’s Blue.

There’s nothing aesthetically interesting about the place, or there wasn’t until they did some “renovations” inside and piled the garbage up here beside the building. I couldn’t have arranged the stuff to be more perfect. The colors, textures and lines of this natural tableau still freak me out when I look at this.

Here’s a perfect example of a place I pass by hundreds of times, and on one particular day for perhaps only a few hours it’s transformed by accident into something I find extraordinary. 

Log – Don Valley Pathway

Log was discovered while riding my bicycle north on the Don Valley Pathway. That’s the amazing pedestrian/cycle route that follows the path of the DVP up from Lakeshore to well passed where I took this shot just south of the Brickworks on the east side of the river. If you ever get the time and feel like discovering a very special part of the city, this is a wonderful outing. I’m so fortunate to be able to travel on this route to work every day during the spring, summer and fall. It’s a long trip but I plan to take it every day I can in 2013 because it’s so spectacular. This route to work on my bicycle takes about 90 minutes and cover approximately 25 km. I consider it a privilege to be able to take this route to work. most people commute by car to and from the city on journeys that often take this long.

This photograph is taken of an off ramp that might serve as access to the Pathway if it wasn’t gated off. You could drive down this if you traveled across the valley floor from West to East. That’s sort of hard to describe without a map. I don’t think the road is ever used for actual vehicles. It may have been at one time but it’s not now. The asphalt  is old but in good shape. You can see this place when traveling on the subway as it moves from Castle Frank to Broadview  looking out the north windows of the train.

I assume a few kids found this log, dragged it across the road and left it. This is not really dangerous, just funny. Taken on a rare beautiful late summer day. It was such a pleasure to find. I almost wonder of the perpetrators might have been artists. If they weren’t it’s a great example of unintentional found art. I’d love to explain to the perpetrators of this why I was so pleasantly freaked out when I stumbled upon it. Even if they were a little drunk when they created the scene I love how it works on so many levels.

First it’s a blatantly absurd tableau in a rather idyllic setting in what could be considered the heart of the city. Part of the attraction is the positively perfect sense of danger where there is no danger.

Another intriguing aspect of this is the log itself. It’s possibly the largest and most perfect piece of driftwood I’ve ever seen.

Abacus Office – Dundas Street West

The abandoned condominium office could be a complete series in itself. I’ve taken pictures for years all over the cities downtown core and west end that features these forgotten and forlorn marketing structures that have served their purpose and wait in limbo to be leveled so the foundations of the new structure can be built. It’s hard to imagine these interiors were once the main marketing thrust of these crazy places. In this particular room, left of the frame there’s a hole blasted through the drywall. It looks like someone just simply attacked the wall with a hammer to make a passageway between the rooms, once the structure had served it’s usefulness. To me this speaks of the falsity of Condo marketing. They sell lifestyle to those who may not be fully aware of it. They’re are in the business of cool and I sometimes forget who they are trying to attract.

The abacus building will be really quite modest in size but it does interesting so much better than things like the Bohemian Embassy. It’s not a comment on the quality of this particular building. I really like this building’s plans if I’m being honest and I think the people who bought places in here will be well served with them while the building itself adds to the aesthetic of the neighbourhood without being too tall to really detract from it.

I particularly like the left and forgotten, knock-off Saarinen – Knoll Tulip Table. Even these knock-offs are probably going to set you back $1000.00, which although much better than the $3500.00 for a real one is pretty expensive for a prop.

A few weeks after writing this completely uninformed little blurb above about the Abacus Office, The Toronto Standard has published an article on the developer Antonio Azevedo. He sounds very cool. I like the building even more now.

Brush – Gardiner Expressway

I’m fascinated by the unused land that surrounds municipal infrastructure. It started by exploring the cloverleaf of green space that is contained within the ramps an access roads that make up the DVP and Eglington interchange which I’ve explored a bunch of times.

On the north side of Lakeshore between Parklawn and Royal York there’s an abundance of this sort of space. It’s unused for the most part. This image was taken of a stretch of incline that rises to the Gardiner Expressway. The guardrail, signage and bush all help to make up this relatively absurd still life of the forgotten greenery of the city. I’m sure there’s a larger project in this subject matter.

Hose and Graffiti – Bay Street

What a prefect little grouping of oddities. I’m a sucker for cinder block and the white splotch of the covered up graffiti, the orange text that’s still vibrant, the green mesh tarps and casually coiled black hose are all balanced nicely by the electrical panels on one side and the column and wall detail contour on the other.

There’s also such a sense of order here. On a typical construction site everything is kept very neatly, I know because I use to be responsible for the cleaning of such places because I was the lowest construction grunt on a site.

Here in lies another fascination that I’ve yet to fully explore. Once again this photograph is taken through glass on a Sunday morning when no construction crews were around to chase me away. Ever since I took pictures of the construction of the Diamond and Schmitt Hudson building at King and Spadina through the glass, and the excavation site where the Tiff building now stands on King, I’ve wanted to explore construction more. In particular I’d like to shoot the excavation sites for large towers. There’s something intriguing about the empty hole with retaining supports that serves as the very beginning of the construction process. It’s such a huge undertaking. I’ve made lame attempts to get access to these type of locations, but I’ve always been so half assed about it that it’s never amounted to anything. I sometimes dream about being a documenter in a huge project like this. Being able to follow it through and gain access to every aspect of the construction along the way. I could serve a useful purpose for the contractors and building owners as well I could get a bunch of images for an exhibition.

I’m also a sucker for cinder block. It’s a very practical construction material. My understanding is that it’s much cheaper than poured concrete. There’s something about the uniformity of the block, the colour and the texture. It’s raw but somewhat refined. I think this interest in construction and block was part of the motivation for my Nuit Blanche project in 2010 where I moved about 16 tonnes of cinder block piece by piece from one spot to another then back again in The task.

RBC – College and Ossington

Like many of the other images I shoot this image was years in the making. I’ve lived in the west end of the city now for about 10 years. Over that time I’ve become an avid walker, and sometimes end up in this neighbourhood  It’s now beginning to change and become a little more gentrified but there’s still a large older population here and this bank obviously serves some of them. I’ve stood on this corner to catch the Ossington bus north or the Dundas West streetcar west uncounted times. Every time it seems like it’s one of the longest waits in the city for either. It’s probably my imagination but I also think it’s the city being unaware of their changing demographic and how to service them. Anyway, I’ve stared at this building a lot over the years.

Brutalist Bench – Charles Street

This is one of those locations where I haven’t actually visited often. I’ve been twice. The area is going through astounding transformation to the east with new high-end condo buildings. This is also pretty close to the now defunct Jarvis bicycle lanes, a sad Rob Ford story if there ever was one.

Brutalist architecture intrigues me. The Robarts Library on the University of Toronto campus, The old Bata Shoe head office on Eglington that has now been torn down, the Manulife Centre at Bay and Bloor to name a few. I don’t really like them but they interest me with their echoes of cold war European style.

The bench, leaves and pigeons are somewhat idyllic in contrast to the functional hydro building behind but even the hard, concrete patterning of the buildings facade is somewhat mellowed by the elements. Everything here is old. They certainly don’t have many benches like that hanging around the city any longer. I could imagine being 20 years older and sitting on this bench for hours.

StorageMart – Research Road

I wandered this area for weeks in the fall. There’s a ton of fairly light industrial use buildings, a lot of auto body shops, and now a plethora of new mass retail strip malls. I passed this building a bunch of time before I took some photographs. There’s something distinctly Canadian about this image in a mixed up way. There’s the direct reference to the Canadian flag in the actual structure of the composition, but there’s also something disturbingly nationalistic about self-storage.

When I grew up in the suburbs there were storage facilities like these all over the place. I also see so many of these places with their stereo-typically ”notice me” colours” on the outskirts of small towns like Collingwood and Seaforth. It astounds me that so many people have so much stuff that they need to store things to make room in their house. There’s also the aspect of storing things to hide them, hoarding, or transitional space  Often these places are used when renovating, or when actually moving from place to place. I can’t help but think though that 90% of the stuff sorted in these places is garbage accumulated over years of acquiring. I feel sort of lucky that we save very little. It just isn’t practical with a small home. Even things I’ve got loaded in the basement right now are 90% garbage that I just can’t get rid of easily. It’s amazing how much garbage we transport and store over the course of a lifetime. I think it’s sort of the mark of a spoiled society.

Post Office – Millwood and Malcolm

There will be a new condo building here in the next five years. Right now the existing post office was closed and stripped down to the metal studs. Another shot through the doorway glass of this building.

Post offices resonate with me on several levels. My father gave me his crazed stamp collection from the 30s and 40s when I was a kid and I collected stamps for a few years when I was in my early teens. I used to buy every new stamp that came out for a few years. I’d buy plate blocks and put them in a 70s style Back’s Photo album.

There’s also the fact that I was the generation that saw the introduction of e-mail and cellular phones. The downward spiral of the post office and it’s roll in day to day life. I’m not sure about anyone else but now I associate the mail with endless junk marketing, some bills and internet product delivery. The day of getting actual correspondence in the mail is long gone.

Finally there’s a distinct construction and contracting element to this image. I still make walls out of 2×4 timber and never really worked with metal stud walls too much except on industrial type sites. It’s still a little foreign and interesting to me.

Hoarding and Tree – West Elm East of Jefferson

In Liberty Village there’s still a lot of conversion happening. Older office and industrial buildings being gutted and reconfigured for condo usage. It’s amazing that I use to hang around here when it was nothing but artist studios and industrial space. No one would think to live here except artists trying to save a buck and hang in their studios. It still flabbergasts me that a lifestyle that was born out of economic necessity became a contemporary marketing and lifestyle aspiration! This whole area now has thousands of young professionals living in what they feel is a bohemian manner but with all mod cons.

There’s a bunch of things I like about this image. The tree itself is desperately out of place amidst the hoarding and scaffolding of the facade renovation.  The triptych-like split of the horizontal lines made up of the turquoise, blue and turquoise strips of the construction. The sadly bent and empty bicycle post. Lastly the area on the blue tarp where some bird or group of bids has left it’s mark from sitting on the tree branch and whiling away the hours despite the construction.

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