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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Montreal Subway

The Montreal subway (Metro) has been on my list of things to shoot for several years. In the past I’ve shot the Toronto and New York systems. In the future plans are to hit London and Paris. It seems London is quite possible, I’ve figured out how to get a permit there. Now I just have to manage the time off work and the finances.

Below: Mont Royal Platform and Newspaper (Orange Line)IMG_3244I’ve processed some of the results from two days of exploring Montreal’s Metro in this post. It’s a beautiful place, and I already want to go back. Luckily the flu didn’t seem to impact my ability to take photographs. I’m quite happy with the results. I’ll live with this long list for a bit, maybe adding and subtracting from it with the goal of coming up with 10 images I’m willing to print at 48 x 48″.

Below: Champs-de-Mars Platform and Bench (Orange Line)IMG_3252I was able to navigate the entire orange line and most of the green line. I did half of the blue, leaving the tiny little yellow line for another time. To do the whole complex properly I’d need at least a week. The Metro seems much larger, cleaner and well maintained than the TTC. I imagine a ton of Quebec provincial money helps it function. Regardless, it’s very nice and a pleasure to toot around on.

Below: Berri-UQUAM Staircase from Green to Orange LineIMG_3282I was given a permit to shoot between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for a week. I could have shot after 7:00 p.m. in the evening but I was pretty tired by then and still sick. Despite the condensed schedule and flu there are some images that really resonate with me.

There are a few locations that serve as multilevel transfer stations. I spent a good amount of time in these. Some of the transfer points seem so far underground it makes their construction hard to imagine. These expansive stations also look newer than some of the regular stops, maybe because their downtown. Like the Toronto system, the further you get from the central hub in the Montreal Metro, the less interesting or updated stations seem to be.

Below: Berri-UQAM Escalator & Wall from Green to Orange LineIMG_3317The other big difference in the Metro is that there’s a lot of exposed concrete. a lot of the stations feel like late 70s construction rather than late 60s construction. I actually passed a lot of stations without exploring because their platforms seemed so brutalist in nature. I bet that was a mistake. There are many mezzanines that I didn’t see. Another time.

Below: Berri-UQAM Hallway to Yellow LineIMG_3293If you can believe wikipedia, the Montreal metro handles more passengers per day than Toronto’s TTC subway. 1.245 million per day ride the Metro and 1.084 million for the TTC.

Below: Berri UQAM Yellow Line Platform Entrance/Exit StaircaseIMG_3311This was also the first time I used my new tripod. I waited for years to buy it for some reason. The tripod itself is a no-name. It’s OK in and of itself but the articulated head is a fantastic triple geared arrangement that works like a dream. It’s a Manfrotto and I got the “Jr” rather than the professional and I couldn’t be happier with it. It weighs about the same as my camera, but I’m not venturing up the side of a mountain or anything. It’s such a pleasure to work with.

Below: Berri-UQAM Hallway from Green PlatformIMG_3322 Below: Assomption Metro Station Mezzanine (Green Line)IMG_3363 Below: Joliette Platform Benches (Green Line)IMG_3374Below: Joliette Staircase (Green Line)IMG_3378 Below: Papineau Staircase to Platform (Green Line)IMG_3387 Below: Papineau Platform Bench (Green Line)IMG_3431 Below: Beaudry View Across Platforms (Green Line)IMG_3438 Below: De la Savane Staircase to Platform (Orange Line)IMG_3468 Below: Villa-Maria Platform Bench (Orange Line)IMG_3502IMG_3475Below: Place-Saint-Henri Platform at Stairs (Orange Line)IMG_3511 Below: Lionel-Groulx Station Platform (Orange – Green Line)IMG_3536I keep coming back to the shot below. Even when I first passed this location when I was scouting the line I thought it would provide something special. This tile wall is strangely contemporary despite the fact that it was installed over 50 years ago in 1963. The year I was born. It mimics pixels, 25 years before they became relatively commonplace.

Below: Sauve Station Platform Level Hallway (Orange Line)Below: Snowdon Station (Blue – Orange Lines)Fauve Hallway Montreal 24 x 24IMG_3604 IMG_3612Below: Rosemont Station Platform (Orange Line)IMG_3624 Below: Laurier Station Mezzanine (Orange Line)IMG_3650 IMG_3653 Below: Laurier Station Platform Level (Orange Line)IMG_3664 Sherbrooke Station Platform and Benches (Orange Line)IMG_3681 Below: Sherbrooke Station Mezzanine (Orange Line)IMG_3688Peel Station Platform Stairs (Green Line)IMG_3701

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