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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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 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.

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