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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Subway 2014

I’ve been back in the subway shooting for the last week.

The following shot is one of the new exist hallways at Pape Subway Station. I can see why the renovations took so long. These hallway and staircases are huge. I’m liking the blank white titles. Funny though, in the hour I shot these areas, not one person used them. The multiple planes–created by the ceiling and lights in combination with the dogs-leg in the corridor–work well with the oversized minimalist panels and subdued colour palette. Strangely enough in this instance it’s the utilitarian terrazzo floor seems almost overly complex and detailed.IMG_1995Dufferin Subway Station a few months before the work is completed. This is the main floor foyer, the entrance/exit to the street is to the right of the frame. There was a beautiful light streaming through the glass at about 9:00 in the morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if the station refurbishment is a few months behind schedule. It needs a bit of work still. Again, the most impressive part of the renovation are the second exits built from the platform to street level. Expansive. IMG_2095The shot below is of Dufferin Subway Station at track level with a passing train. I’ve always been interested in how the background of this sort of image stays so definable through the windows of the subway cars.

The update to the station is all about these new square coloured tiles. I find the treatment optimistic and look forward to seeing the images that the coloured tiles form when it’s all done. IMG_2151This is the mezzanine of Dufferin Subway Station. I’m calling it the mezzanine because it’s the floor between track level and the upper foyer. The tiles here are a continuation of the upper hall imagery and I’m pretty sure represent pixelated flesh tones. The floors and ceilings still need a lot of work, but that’s pretty basic stuff. IMG_2154Another shot in Dufferin Subway Station from one of the new exits looking onto track level as a train comes into the station. Like the new Pape second exits, I didn’t see anyone use these during the time I was shooting, but they’re relatively impressive to me. Simple and functional yet a lot of work to hammer through underground around existing foundations, sewers, electrical and who knows what else. Seems like an engineering miracle.IMG_2176Museum Subway Station isn’t my favourite, but I think it works well for the kiddies. Part of my dislike is that before the renovation this was one of my favourite stations. It had the original yellow tile and that tile was almost immaculate throughout which is very hard to find. So many stations have had repairs and tiles are replaced, but those repaired titles always look so out of place because they’re colours are usually way off. It’s hard to match the original tiles that have faded uniformly together over 50 years or so.  Museum was also one of the few central platform stations that had a grand presence. It was sad to see it overhauled in what felt like a Disneyland sort of way. I think the majority of people like this station though and it does do a good job of calling out the ROM so I can see this as being for the greater good.IMG_2229Leslie Subway Station on the Sheppard Line. The whole five stop Sheppard extension is very quiet. This is a Mel Lastman legacy. I wonder if he rode to election in that infamous second term because he pushed this through? Traffic on this line has never seemed to justify the build, but the future will rectify that. I couldn’t help thinking that this extension was most likely conceived and executed for the same reasons that Rob Ford’s Scarborough line, which is a transparent way to buy voter support. I never thought I’d say this but Lastman was  a genius of a mayor when compared to Ford. IMG_2458Sheppard Subway Station on the Sheppard line. This is at the Western end of the platform and one of the only places in the Subway where you can see the signal lights standing on their own in full view. I imagine someday this line might continue east, pummelling through to meet the Scarborough Rapid Transit Line. IMG_2393Finch Subway Station is a sprawling place. Bus platforms for Brampton, York and Go Transit, two parking lots and eight separate entrances. I’ve shot this yellow tiled area before but I couldn’t resist it’s retro charm. This is the original tile and ceiling from the first days of the station.IMG_2259One of the staircases that takes you from the mezzanine level up to the bus station area. There’s a white balance conflict happening in this shot where the natural sunlight meets the artificial fluorescent light and I need to fix, but it will be a bit fiddly in Photoshop. You can see that conflict in the purple cast on the left wall and staircase.IMG_2350Below is a central circular portion of a hallway in Finch Subway Station that has three hallways running off it. One goes back into the station proper, one to parking and one to a street exit.IMG_2286The shot below was a lucky find. It’s mid-way through a renovation on one of the circular windows that accent the mezzanine level of the Sheppard Centre Subway station. This hole will eventually get finished with a stainless gasket-like window. There’s a row of four of these up the staircase you can view through the circular hole in the image below. Of course my smarty pants art friends all were reminded of Gordon Matta-Clark who I had to look up and is now a favourite of mine.

I also realized that I loved this image after the fact, but I had a feeling I would feel that way as soon as I saw it. I went back twice and shot it to get a sharper file. It was a bit tricky because the shutter speed is so low at ISO 100 that I’m forced to use a tripod, and that tripod isn’t quite tall enough in certain situations. After this I think it’s time for a new tripod. Maybe Ill splurge. 100 ISO is my norm now.IMG_2609The following two images were taken at Islington Subway Station. I’m not really sure what these black boxes are in every subway station, but they have power going to them.  The second image was taken through a glass window and shows a view into what looks to be dis-used office on the far Western end of the platform.IMG_2493 (1) IMG_2536(1)Davisville Subway Station. This is the view from the mezzanine level elevator hallway across both tracks to the TTC offices. I’d love to get in those offices and forage around for rooms and empty, unused office space to shoot. I bet I could find a lot of stuff with that 60s dated feel, like the office desk shown in the above Islington shot.

The following image struck me as interesting because of the way the yellow safety rail’s labyrinthine feel.IMG_2760Davisville Subway Station escalator down to track level. I’ve liked these yellow highlights for years but never really got images I was happy with. I think I can live with this one and a few others. Repeat the mantra with me; walls, benches, stairs and escalators!IMG_2753Lawrence Subway Station is pretty crazy. It’s actually four levels down to track level and it has a strange old school elegance. Walking up the staircase on the north end of the platform is a real trek. there must be 7 or 8 sets of stairs to get out of the depths of track level.IMG_2725 IMG_2715 The TTC has begun to camouflage the second ticket booths at many of the stations with printed stickering. I imagine this is to call attention away from the fact that there are not two booths open. Certain stations need both booths because of volume, and in the future maybe all stations will so busy that two booths are open. It’s not generally a problem if you’re patient and I’m sure lines will be reduced when they have a presto system in place. This is the Lawrence Station second booth disguised as an extension of the real blue tiled wall. IMG_2712Kennedy Subway Station is the end of the eastern portion of the Bay Bloor line. Here there’s a general commotion all the time with passengers and train cleaners milling about. Trains pull in and then go out of service for a while as they get cleaned, or just hang for a few minutes while a crew does a quick clean. The same thing happens at the other end of the line and at Finch Station on the bloor line. I imagine it happens at Downsview as well.IMG_2826Warden Subway Station was a favourite. I’ve been and shot there before, but never fully explored. The bus station portion was amazing and empty. That’s where the bench was shot. I just went down the stairs from the mezzanine level on one of the bus bays that’s no longer used and there it was. The first image is the staircase alcove on the way down to the kiss-and-ride area. If you look in the mirror you can see a reflection of me with the camera on a tripod and two people coming up the stairs. It’s fairly creepy. Why do I like blank walls? IMG_2809 IMG_2791IMG_2466

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Subway 2014

Subway 2014 is new work shot in the TTC over the turn of the new year.

The first two days of shooting were rather unproductive. I might look back and change that opinion. On the first day I took this shot of Osgoode Station platform. I love it. It captures the slightly tired and well worn station in a light that clarifies but doesn’t over romanticize the space. Part of the charm of this shot is the two colours of lighting that alternate in the fixtures above the safety line. I think the bluish, cooler fluorescents are more contemporary bulbs, the yellowish are older. The blue is also brighter and stronger. In the image below those bulbs are the portion of the frame that are slightly over exposed. The odd lighting, varied wall slats of the tunnel, weird green columns, incongruous yellow line, terrazzo tile and odd more contemporary tile filler strip all combine to unify this image for me. After all my initial disappointment I’m actually so pleased with this shot it didn’t really matter if I captured anything else.St. Andrew Station has had a redo. The awful slats that you can see in the Osgoode photograph above have been replaced in the St Andrew Station with spectacularly classic metal panels that echo the old original panels of the station. They look awesome. The only problem is they reflect the light from the platform in an irritating way that I could only fix by getting a higher vantage point for the tripod which just wasn’t going to happen. Most of my older work is punctuated by these sort of reflections, I’m not sure why they bother me so much now.Wellesley Station has always been a favourite but it’s also proven a bit hard to photograph. The lighting in the station itself is very subdued. It might not be so bad on bright sunny day, but on this visit it was hard to capture anything without the tripod. There’s something super utilitarian about the image below. It’s not really like my other images, but for now I like that it captures a station that’s been so illusive to me. The roundhouse feel of this mezzanine and bus corridor is quite spectacular.The last day of shooting on this permit was a bit more successful. Maybe because I planned to shoot three stations I’ve been to and photographed a lot over the last ten years. I see these three stations in a different way. I’m sure it looks like the same old way, but to me the shooting felt good and I’m very happy with the results. I’m not quite sure which images are my favourites, but I’ll live with them for a while and decide. Below are two shots from Keele Station.I’m not 100% in love with the photograph of the old mesh style telephone alcove. This is an original phone area. In other stations these are frequently covered over by small orange tiles and particularly shitty looking public phones. These wire cages are not super attractive but the there’s something endearing about them. One thing I particularly love about this image is the crumpled telephone directory. It’s really a photograph of a disappearing culture that has been supplanted by smart phones and the internet. Who really uses telephone directories anymore? This little alcove foreshadows a not too distant future when public phones have disappeared.

The image below is from the east end of Keele Station. It’s no longer manned by a person, or maybe it never was. This is a view of the interior of the collectors booth. The most amazing thing is the steam punk clock on the desk.High Park is now my favourite stations. I could have spent more time there, but it was also a spot where people just hang out and because of that it’s was more difficult to shoot. The first two images have a different coolness to them as they are taken with predominantly daylight that floods into the street level foyer through large banks of windows.There are a few reasons why the shot above makes me happy. There’s the oddly wonky “To Trains” signage, that’s messed up by the curve of the ceiling. Then there’s that curve of the ceiling itself. Also slightly odd is the weird handrail that angles out on the right hand side of the service panel. All of these little things make the straight on shot a little eccentric which is a word I’m becoming quite fond of now that I’m 50.

This is the same main floor foyer but to the right of the above shot. Natural light is streaming in from the right hand side of the frame which is a set of floor to ceiling windows. The area to the left of the railing is the staircase and escalator to/from the mezzanine.The ubiquitous orange title that blocks off old telephone booths and serves as the call out for the newer more contemporary pay phones. Below is the view if you were talking on the phone above and looking to your left. There’s another identical exit if you were to look to your right. This exist takes you up to Parkview Gardens on the north side of the tracks. The other would pop you out on a street between Clendenan and Quebec south of the tracks. Both exists are on the west end of the platform. From here you’d and you’d go South to Bloor Street.Below is the area just at the top of the stairs if you’d just walked up from the west end entry to the station. Of course at this end you’d have to use a Metro pass or token. There’s nobody manning the booth. This is typical of every station. One end of the station has a manned booth, the other is all automated. A shot of the wall in the mezzanine of the High Park station. To the left is the phone booth area and the magazine/crap store. The right side of the frame would take you to the entrance to the subway proper, directly behind me at this point is the ticket booth and entry point from the street level foyer.I just liked the confluence of lines below.Runnymede Has a great mezzanine. I’m not 100% sure what you call the level that’s one below street and one above track. I’m thinking it’s mezzanine or entresol. In fact now that I’ve Googled it I’m sure that’s what this area is called. All three of the following shots are from the Runnymede mezzanine.

The first shot actually has a person in it. You can see their shadow on the wall to the right of the column. They’re sitting on the bench drinking a coffee. In fact they sat there waiting for a friend for about ten minutes on this bench. Then when the friend showed up I thought I’d finally get a chance to shoot more without them, but that new arrival really needed to sit down.

I’m not quite sure what the hoarding is for here. Maybe this station is slated for upgrading. I’m not sure why that would be the case, this station seems very functional and quite spacious.I turned around 180 degrees from the shot of the bench above this is what I saw. There’s another stair/escalator combo across from this one. Both lead up to street level.A detail, straight on shot of the above of the above. I love the expression Please Hold Handrail

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Affection will recruit actors. These actors will be placed inside a regular TTC subway car on a typical morning commute as well as along the platforms in the direction of the train.

One actor stands in the subway car aisle, mid way between a set of doors. This will put them adjacent to two typical four-seat sections. They will stand; either holding a pole and reading, texting or otherwise normally engaged. A second actor will be seated in one of the  eight seats in the direct vicinity of the “stander” and will be similarly, typically engaged.

At a predetermined subway stop the seated actor will prepare to leave. As they leave they do so in a way that takes them very close to the “stander”. When the two are touching the departing passenger imparts some affection, care or comfort on the standing stranger. The stander should show no reaction other than to take the departing passengers seat. They are in turn replaced by another actor who stands just like the first.

The exchange continues along the entire subway line. Passengers who are riding from one end of the city to the other would see this continuous display of affection or care between strangers until they leave the train themselves.

I think of this as a dance that the rest of the passengers would watch.

Affection could be a hand brushed against the cheek, imparted words of secret love, an embrace.

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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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Create high quality, very costly, hand made jewelry based on TTC tiles. Make one set for each traditional old school tile colour and utilize the standard subway tile proportions. maybe do some one offs, a ring here, a necklace there in the incidental yet associated colors of the TTC.


The bracelets could be sterling silver. I picture each link to be a chunky high gloss silver rectangular brick with one open side, into which is sunk a ceramic mini-tile in the same proportion and colour as a actual subway tile.


Now I can picture a pretty huge ring as well, portrait style in a heavy silver setting. You could easily do more pieces as well including a necklace and pendant/obelisk earrings. Make it very chunky rather than elegant and petite. Maybe each element is the same size.

Green, grey, yellow, orange, flesh, white, doorway red, safety strip yellow, turnstile stainless, etc ad

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When taking the subway I wait until a train arrives that’s not completely rammed with people. I refuse to run or even walk quickly to catch a waiting train.

While waiting I look for ways to change my experience. To depart from the ritual. Sometimes I’ll buy coffee, or I’ll wait for three or four trains to pass. I’ll stand at different parts of the platform, or at different angles than the traditional passenger might. Different angles is so far my favourite

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New York City

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In Manhattan in the mezzanine of the Bowling Green Station there are a bunch of images I shot for Art for Transit. They’ve been up for over a year, actually more like two. I’m pretty sure they’re coming down soon if they haven’t already.

Another group of people who have been so nice to me!

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Waiting was my first show at Bau-Xi Photo. It ran in the summer of 2010. I got a bit of press including this nice little piece in Eye Weekly by David Balzer.

Here’s my artist statement from way back then.

I’m interested in the potential or possibility of places and objects. His fascination is with things—not for what they are or what they’re proscribed to be—but for what they could be and how they can be seen.

In Waiting, different parts of the Toronto and New York subway systems are captured in various stages of flux. Bereft of people and purpose, these utilitarian spaces are re-imagined and assigned a different aesthetic value. Waiting transforms hectic spots into serene, contemplative sanctuaries.

Waiting itself directly refers to hanging around long enough for foot traffic and people to disappear. It also calls out the converted state of the spaces. No longer intersections of movement or places of mass congregation, the locations now wait to be refilled. Finally, waiting calls out patience and a desire to slow the normal day to day down and transform purposeful but sometimes mindless action into equally productive contemplative silence and peace.

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