Reaching

Reaching continues my obsessive exploration of construction and construction materials.

I like structural rebar. I’m drawn to the shape and aesthetic it presents. I’m also intrigued by the art of how it’s inserted and used. It seems like it would be a combination of engineering and almost creative organization. It’s amazing how the placement gets super-involved in large buildings.

These examples below can be seen on the site for a condominium development on Howard Park Avenue just east of Roncesvalles for the next week or so. After that time they’ll be buried in the overall structure.

I can’t help feeling that the underlying narrative here is one of greed and shortsightedness. It seems to me that industry, Toronto and the province create residential density at an exponential rate with absolutely no thought to the necessary required infrastructure. Maybe I don’t understand the whole picture, but it seems logical and disheartening that developers, the city and the province are just reaching for the easy money. None of these partners commit to invest in the required social changes to accommodate all this increased density.

Where are the schools, the transit, and the planning for the future needs of all these additional bodies?

Form emulating future form.

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Wander January 2017

January 2017 and I’ve started to wander again. It’s been too long but life sort of gets in the way sometimes. It’s not that I haven’t had time,  I just haven’t been motivated.  I’ve decided to go back to the beginning and that means exploring the city slowly on foot and letting stuff just sort of happen.

I’ve also started to remove myself from social media. Its just counter productive for me. I’ll start to write about the things here on my website. I use to do that religiously and I miss it. If you need any info or have any questions about anything please contact me at info@chrisshepherd.net

The following were taken over a period of three days as 2017 was ushered in. Each day I wandered for a few hours with no distinct destination planned.

Below is the back of the U of T Medical Sciences Building. You can access the spot via a modest little driveway called Discovery Lane. I’m not sure if you still call this style of architecture Brutalist because it’s embellished with these vertical aesthetic elements, but it looks interesting. It’s an eight story structure and all the deeper vertical members on the left hand side of the frame hide the windows on this south facing wall—at least from this angle. I’ve done a bit of post production tilt-shift to make the image work better for me using the Photoshop Lens Correction tool.

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I’ve taken pictures of the Toronto Spiritualists Temple on College around the Mod Club for years, but never with any success or never that ever resonated with me. It’s a very modest little church like building. In truth it’s more like a cottage with a few coloured windows. This frame shows a section of the front window unit and I’m pretty sure that’s just coloured glass, or even just plastic-coated glass you’re looking at. The building must be over 50 years old. It has a distinctly 50-60s feel to it. I like the rectangles within a rectangle thing in this shot, and the border that’s created by the white window frames.

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These next two images were taken close to home, adjacent to The West Toronto Rail Path. Both were shot through the clear acrylic fences that stop people from crossing the train track areas. This is probably a good thing because the corridor is very busy now with the Go, Via and UP trains all passing through at regular intervals.

The community had wanted green-living walls to be built to separate us from tracks and noise, but the powers–that–be thought these were the best solution. They sold us acrylic barriers and assured us they were graffiti proof. They must have tested them with water colour paints because they are now favourite targets for middle class taggers. Their paint has no problem permanently adhering to the acrylic. We can live with the tags no matter how lame they are but the real sad reality is the cleaning contractor uses a cheap-ass-toxic solvent to remove the tags and it doesn’t work and ends up creating the mess you see below. The smudgy parts are where tags have been melted off with some bargain basement solvent.

Looks sort of cool on a cold grey winter’s day. These two images are no-filter, colour photographs.

We love this neighbourhood, although the 10 years of construction is a bit tiresome.
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Small note on the Wander process. I use a Canon 5Ds with a 55 mm Sigma Art lens. I shoot on aperture priority with an ISO of 200. I rarely change lenses, but when I do I have one other and that’s a Canon L series 17-35mm.

I’ve taken photographs of this Hydro Building Roof Access Ladder at Ossington and Dupont on a previous wander. On this occasion I simply positioned myself to capture the opposite angle. I was also a lot closer. I’m not sure why but these ladders are the same on almost all hydro buildings but I like them, I love the circular handles and how they stand out against the sky.

0m6a2781These pipes are across the street from G&H Furniture on Dupont. I have trouble taking pictures when I’m looking up or down. I’d rather be straight on. This is beyond my comfort zone, but the central straight vertical line is helping me to accept it.0m6a2777This is a weird little still life inside a weirder still display of another window. Located along the east side of the block the once was Honest Ed’s. Seriously—when is the last time you used the yellow pages? This forgotten gem must have been stuck in this space a long time ago. Although it’s rather specific, I have shot forgotten yellow pages before. I think that’s because the city is so big and I wander so much.

Everything about this weird window is engaging to me. It’s also the one picture I took of the Honest Ed’s block the day after it closed for good to make way for condos. I couldn’t help thinking that although it seeing the past disappear is sometimes a drag the change will be good for the Annex. The whole area has been pretty ghetto for as long as I can remember. The sad part is that this means a lot of people will be displaced. Gentrification happens and some parts of it certainly suck. As a weird aside I think there may be less interesting stuff to see when I wander because of this. Gentrification and the sanitization that accompanies it is not necessarily engaging.
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I’ve always loved these huge memorials to U of T students, faculty and alumni that were killed in the world wars. I’m assuming these are the list of the war dead. The font is amazing and the craftsmanship is truly wonderful to behold. Whenever I see these I think I want to take graphite rubbings of them on some huge pieces of paper.

0m6a2693There’s a Salvation Army Shelter for Women in the Junction. It’s across from what once was McBride Cycle but is now the almost complete DK Condos on Dundas West. It always makes me think about the relationships between men and women, because I imagine that most of the reason for these women to end up here is that men fuck them up. Maybe that’s unfair, but as I get older I really do think that men are basically irresponsible children that never grow up and that a huge portion of them cause a lot of grief and anguish to others.

I took this because the scene was simple and reminded me very much of Thomas Demand. I really love that work and because of it I see “Found Demands” everyday. 0m6a2647Crane cables form the construction area beside our house. I’m terribly sick of this construction cycle that literally began with the remediation of the land about eight years ago. But I’m also aware that it’s quite a first world problem.
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Construct Bau-Xi Toronto

For information, questions or comments email Info@chrisshepherd.net

Construct at Toronto Bau-Xi Photo – October 15 – 29th, 2016. Artist talk October 15th at about 3:00. Official opening get-together 2:00 – 4:00 October 15th.

Bau-Xi Photo is at 324 Dundas Street West – directly across the street from the entrance to Frank at the AGO

The following are works in my October show at Bau-Xi Photo Gallery in Toronto

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Colour Circles Stripped and Formed, 2016 - Edition of 7 (Entrance Foyer) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36″ X 36″

For this image I went back into my files and selected an alternate version of an earlier Colour Circles on Black, 2016 print. I printed this derivative in an 18” square and then sliced up that photo, like the process used for Bowie Sky Stripped and Formed. Here though the strips of photographic paper are curled using a pair of scissors, much like you curl Christmas ribbon for present wrapping. This worked wonderfully to create slim hoops of photographic paper. I then assembled these strips into ball. This combination of processes creates a very graphic photograph. This isn’t surprising to me. Although I’ve had a fine art education and I’ve been exposed to wide variety of contemporary art over the past 20 years, part of my practice is informed by graphic design. In particular, novel and record jackets with a healthy dose of architecture and furniture design thrown into the mix.

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Bowie Sky Cubed, 2016 – Edition of 7 (West Wall Closest to Street) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36″ X 36″

All of the Bowie Sky images in the show were created from photographs shot to be printed and then specifically manipulated and reshot. The Bowie thing just happened.

I typically plan when I’m going to take pictures, and on this particular day I was on my way to a parking lot in the city to shoot the sky for this series. I needed a clear day and good, well-defined cloud cover. Before I set out  I discovered via Twitter that Bowie had died the night before.

I don’t look at these pieces as a tribute to Bowie. For me that seems a bit trite and contrived. The fact that Bowie died and that the sky was so beautiful the next day was just how things ended up.  These images have become a constant reminder for me of how I felt that weird morning and Bowie’s lasting impression. Of all the Bowie Sky images in this show, this specific piece was created first.

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Brush Gardiner Expressway Circles in Square, 2016 - Edition of 7 (West Wall Middle) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 48″ X 48″

This image uses an exhibited photograph from 2012 called Brush, Gardiner, as a starting point. Various size circles were cut out of the print using a variety of utility knife tools and then both the original desecrated print and the resultant circular pieces were re-shot.

More and more I find myself not fully understanding why I create or want to create something. After I’ve done it however I can usually go back to a work and understand where it came from, but the meaning is not always completely planned and executed. My process has become more spontaneous and it’s often not predicated on an elaborate or logical pre-determined or planned reasoning.

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Bowie Sky Stripped, 2016 - Edition of 7 (West Wall Beside Staircase) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36″ X 36″

While making the cubed version of this sky series I imagined this one. The original photographs of clouds for these were all 18 x 18 inches. I have a new cutting board set-up and a large supply of Olfa utility knife blades. I also bought a very snazzy 48” ruler that has a steel insert along one edge, a rubber backing to hold the print down and stop it from moving around, and a substantial handle to lift my fingers away from the blade. These strips are all done freehand with that set up. The pieces are then piled and re-arranged so they don’t appear with the regularity that occurred in the original photograph. It was surprisingly touchy work to re-arrange the strips of paper and I had to be very careful not to overlap the strips too much. I found the composition worked better when the white Foamcore backing showed through in places, which helped to delineate each individual strip better.

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Red Brick Wall Folded, 2016 - Edition of 7 (Rear Gallery West Wall) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36″ X 36″

Red Brick Wall Folded, 2016 started with a 12 inch square photograph of a red, cinder-block wall taken outside a local Toronto Coffee Time. I didn’t originally photograph this wall with the idea of folding it, but when looking back through a pile of images I had printed, I thought it would work well.

A few years ago I purchased a book that outlines basics of paper folding for design and architectural purposes. I dug that book out and experimented with the red brick wall photo.

This planned process has been rolling around in my brain for a few years but I never tried to execute anything. This image verified that my imagined or conceptual process could work. I had thought about manipulating photographic paper for years in this way. So much so, that when it came time to try it I almost knew it would work.

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Red Brick Wall Folded Verso, 2016 - Edition of 7 (Rear Gallery West Wall) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36″ X 36″

I felt this second version of Red Brick Wall Folded, 2016 was necessary to explain the original. Here all I’ve done is taken the folded/dinted paper shape from the first image, flipped it over and shot it at another angle so that the white back of the paper is not visible. The effect makes it looks like a totally different shape.  I plan to expand and experiment more with this technique. These images represent the first time I’ve tried this despite the fact that I’ve been thinking about doing it for years. This is pretty standard with my practice. I think about something, I think about it more, and then usually forget it for a while. If it comes back to me, it’s usually clearer and makes more sense, which makes it more imperative to execute. 

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Huron After Sunset, 2016 – Edition of 7 (Rear Gallery Back Wall) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 48″ X 48″

Every year for the past 7 or 8 years we vacation on Lake Huron. We rent my brother’s place and spend some insanely relaxed time away from the everyday city life that we also love. We’re very fortunate.

Sunsets on Lake Huron are famous the world over. Literally there’s an unsubstantiated claim that National Geographic called them out for being top 10 in the world. This photograph is a bit of a personal paradox. I love sunsets, but not for taking pictures of. Photography of sunsets has been so overdone by almost anyone who has ever held something that takes pictures. The sunset has become a cliché. It’s way better just to watch and absorb the other-worldliness of this crazy event. I really struggled with the decision to exhibit this image.  It’s just not what I do, or what I’m interested in.

In the end the rationale for including it was because it serves as a direct reference point for three other pieces in the show that that describe this image in different ways. The intention was to never show this image in conjunction with the other three, however I relented and hopefully I won’t regret the decision. There’s no need to describe this piece. It’s pretty clearly described in After Sunset Lake Huron Text

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Four Huron Horizons, Rolled, 2016 – Edition of 7  (Rear Gallery East Wall) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

This is similar to Four Huron After Sunset Prints Rolled, 2016 but unlike that piece, here, all 4 of these images are individual shots. They were all taken around the same time but are clearly not all the same image. I worked at first with weights and gravity to keep these items rolled in this configuration and I do have an image shot of that which totally betrays the process. I’m not interested in keeping secrets, but to make something a little more commercially viable I re-visited the process using tape to hold the images in place.

Four 12” prints taped onto white Foamcore and then re-shot. This is all about sculpture to me.

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Four Huron After Sunset Prints Rolled, 2016 – Edition of 7 (Rear Gallery East Wall) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36″ X 36″

I took four identical 12” x 12” prints of Huron After Sunset, 2016 and rolled them up for a bit. This created a camber to each print that then allowed me to stand them up on end. This is literally a photograph of 4 printed photographs.

Here the exercise is more about creating something very sculptural out of something 2 dimensional and then compressing that sculpture back down into the photographic 2-dimensional constraint. Maybe it’s about freedom and repression in a way, but I’ve only just thought about that. It wasn’t the plan.

I do use photography to contain my thoughts. When I think about photographing something it helps to limit the scope of an idea which ultimately allows them to become things. If I didn’t have the constraint of photography I’m not sure if I could handle the freedom of possibility that it inherent in that. I think I would probably just think of things all day that were impossible to execute and be happy with that.

Even within photography I’ve imposed and imaginary constraint on myself. My square format is always by choice, not by necessity.

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Huron After Sunset Text, 2016 – Edition of 7 (Behind Front Desk) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36″ X 36″

Oddly enough this piece was the most involved of the show. It’s a work in constant progress for me. I’ve become increasingly more interested in how we imagine or how we picture, pictures.

I’m not a writer or a designer so this exercise involved a tough learning curve. I can’t honestly say I’m learning to write, but I am learning that I can revisit text a million times and keep adjusting it—hopefully improving it as I go. To me it seems almost impossible to imagine a point where I will be completely happy with what I write. It also seems unbelievably difficult.

The point of this text work is to describe the photograph After Sunset Lake Huron, 2016 in such a way that the reader could see my photograph. That this text would take the place of my photograph.

I also had to take a quick self-directed lesson in modern InDesign type setting.

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Huron After Sunset Braille, 2016 – Edition of 100 (Front Counter) 8.5 x 11 inch Braille Embossed Paper

This is the print Huron After Sunset Text, 2016 translated into Grade 2 or “contracted” Braille.

I worked for a while trying to convert images to Braille manually. I bought a number of Braille slates, a Braille sylus and a basic rule book for Grade 1 or “uncontracted” Braille. In a pinch and very slowly I could write in uncontracted Braille. Grade 1 Braille is relatively easy to write. Contacted Braille on the other hand is like shorthand that is then translated into dots, so very difficult to manage. Rather than try to learn contracted Braille, I opted to send my written text to a translation company that I’m pretty sure enters it into a translation program on a computer and then prints the Braille translation as you see in these 100 sheets.

This is a further obfuscation of the photograph. By making a visual thing un-readable to the visually accute I’ve made it intentionally inaccessible. By forcing a photograph into text that can only be understood by a Braille reader or visually impaired person, I’m thinking about how we open our communication to segments of society that are often marginalized by the mass.

This is a body of work I think that could easily keep me busy and interested for the rest of my life. Maybe not Braille in particular, but the idea of making representations of photographs that don’t involve images s very interesting to me.

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Parking, 2016 – Edition of 7  (Front Gallery East Wall) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 48″ X 48″

Parking, 2016 is an idea I’ve been working for a month or so. I’ve debated with myself if it fits into the “idea” for this show. It’s still about manipulating photographs, but it’s just not a physical manipulation. I’m pleased with it regardless, and I’ll print and include it.

The original shots for this piece were taken in the parking lot for an industrial complex in our neighbourhood. We’ve gone to a bunch of contemporary art exhibitions there and I’ve photographed aspects of the place several times over the last 15 years. Each of the squares in this image was a shot of the parking lot. In particular one specific square of the parking lot that had and interesting arrangements of lines, and that had been overpainted. I just shot it at different angles on different days.

The simplicity of this piece for me is its relationship to found art. Those lines you see are all in this place, and will be there until the parking lot gets painted again. They exist everyday as a mundane patchwork of colour on a bland off-black background but I found them fascinating. I can also go back and visit them and they’ll still be there for a while.

Taking these photographs and placing them in a grid in Photoshop became a simple exercise in personal aesthetics, and a weird desire for mathematical order under the guise of random placement.

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Parking Elements, 2016 – Edition of 7  (Front Gallery North Wall i.e. Behind Foyer Wall) – Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 24″ X 24″ also to be installed on a plinth as a pile of 3″ photographs.

This started as an actual grid of small prints printed as a large photograph, very much like the 48” square Parking, 2016 in the show, but I then took that large print and cut all the pieces out and piled them into this little sculpture. I love this piece as an object and as a representation of a photograph.

The other thing I really like about this is that I can re-shoot the pile with a myriad of different images that can be moved to the top of the stack, therefore making each print individual or 1 of 1.

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20 Perpetual Self Portrait Machines Stacked, 2016 – Edition of 7 (Back Storage Room West Wall) Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36″ X 36″

20 Perpetual Self Portrait Machines Stacked, 2016 is a departure from the rest of the show in that it’s not about the literal photograph like the other works. It is however still about photography in a more convoluted way.

I had these 20 little mirrors made for me by a glass and mirror company. I had them made to the proportions of the—now outdated—iPhone 6 Plus screen. The idea was to play with an antiquated appropriation of the selfie by making the iPhone into an old school mirror. It’s meant to be sort of funny but also slightly disturbing.

The original vision I had was to create a pile that looked like discarded phones that would reflect the image of the viewer back on them in 20 different “self-portraits”. I still have to fool around with this original idea, but I found the sculptural aspect of the pile to be very alluring.

These are simply piled on a piece of black Foamcore in the studio, arranged, and shot while another piece of black Foamcore is supported about the mirrors to make the reflected surface appear deep and dark. I plan to take this pile and move it into the outdoors, hoping that perhaps—on a particularly cloudy day—it would create a unique and aesthetically interesting piece or even film.

I have a lot of fooling around to do with this, but this work is the start.

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Sliced

New show just might be Sliced, Crumpled, Shredded, Folded, and Scored photographs.

The only problem I’m having is why.

Initially this process of manipulations was about the willful destruction of a photograph. This is something that feels a little sacrilegious to me and I’m sure to others. Despite the nature of the digital image the physical photograph has an inherent value to me. Not just because I sell photographs, but also because of the history of the image itself and the memories it holds. One of the reasons I’m doing this is that it feels slightly wrong and that in itself feels strangely right. I’m destroying memory, or at least reconfiguring it.

This process is also about rebirth and redefinition. By taking an existing thing I’ve done and re-inventing it I’m creating something new out of something old. Without the pretentiousness or the mythology–this is sort of like the story of the Phoenix.

Repetition is soothing. I like endlessly cutting things into strips or shredding things. I like doing this manually when I could very easily use a machine or do the manipulation in Photoshop. There’s something deliberately archaic and anachronistic about the process. These are physical objects.

I’m also thinking of making these as 1 of 1s. The physical objects/subjects are 1 of 1s. Those physical objects are also sculptures. So I’m using photography to record a temporal sculpture.  The photographs are reminders of what was created. I was going to mount each of the sliced pieces, but the more I think about it the more I like the idea of them being fleeting. I may just pile all the strips in bags.

These photographs are also paradoxical. I’m re-arranging or reconfiguring memory by manipulating the original photographs and creating temporary sculptural pieces but I’m also recording those manipulated pieces of the past in new photographs. I think that explanation will have to be re-worded to make any sense. Hopefully when I re-read this I can figure it out enough to re-write.

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The aesthetic I’m very happy with–the what and the how. The more I write, the more I answer the why somewhat but maybe not enough to balance out the power of the aesthetic creation in my own head. I keep thinking that this work somewhat arbitrary when the images I’m using have a personal history but not a relationship to the process of manipulation. It’s half-baked. Without being cliche, perhaps there’s subject matter that I can specifically shoot then manipulate that will tie the aesthetic and the why together better. In a basic sense, clocks, or calendars might work. Something that represents the passage of time or the temporal. I’ve also thought of doing this with clouds. I like how the natural, or pseudo natural works in this process, better than how the architectural or man made does.

IMG_71248I think the answer lies in creating photographs of water, sky, forest, and nature, then re-imagining those photographs by folding, shredding, scoring, slicing, and folding.

Now, can I figure it out so it works completely in my head?

 

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Aug 12, 2015

Aug 12, 2015 I rode my bike to work. Slow and leisurely is the new me. Why rush to get anywhere? I stopped in at the Adult Learning Centre. It’s a location that has featured in earlier work. In my Learning series taken at public schools in the greater Toronto area I had a few shots. I have yet to be inside the building although I’d like to. It’s vintage 1962, one year prior to my birth. I’d love to get inside but they refused my request.

This is a gymnasium window at the rear of the building. I get the feeling it slides open. I like the faux stained glass and it’s 60s feel.

This place it on the Danforth, on the east end of the Bloor Viaduct which is apparently called the Prince Edward Viaduct. Who knew?

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The image below is on the front lawn of a Legion building at Pape and O’connor. I think they call this area of the city Sunnyside. This is the first of three identical crosses that stretch across the front lawn and spell out “Lest We Forget”. I think a lot of people will get that from this single image but on it’s own, the message is slightly ambiguous and slightly mysterious.
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Aug 8, 2015

Aug 8, 2015 Haircut day. How exciting is that? I walked part way to Avenue Road from Edwin along Dupont. Part way because I’m so slow that I had to take a bus for the last few kilometres to be on time for my appointment. Along the way I meandered and took pictures.

My mood is changing. I find myself excited about photography again. Maybe I just needed a period of feeling like I was crap to make me see things with fresh eyes. I’m not complaining, it just feels like a long time since I’ve been excited.

Today I was thinking about my own special Throw Back Saturday. So here’s a very obsolete item, the Yellow Pages. It’s not fir to say 100% obsolete because I’m sure the Yellow Pages are still used by seniors across the country. Once they stop using them though, their dead. I found a copy lying in a small gravel parking lot. It’s actually upside down in this shot, but when I rotated it in Photoshop the whole images gives me the shivers because the perspective is wrong. This weird feeling gives me a new idea for a series of images taken from untraditional vantage points. Nothing too complicated, but I’d like to experiment with the idea.

It’s hard to believe something so ubiquitous like the Yellow Pages will disappear in a few years when five years ago every home and office had a copy It’s the same with many things in my life though; the humble penny, one and two dollar bills, VCRs and CD players, land lines, fax machines, cassette tapes, etcetera. I’m not sentimental by nature but I find it interesting.

IMG_6004 Beside the phone-book-parking-lot is an industrial mall and there was a newly refurbished unit that I could see into. I love the clean white, skylight, cinderblock wall and dangling light bulbs. This is one of the more interesting found interiors I’ve seen in months, and one I almost wouldn’t have shot. I actually passed by it, then went back. I’m doing that a lot lately. I’ll see something and not notice it, then notice it as I walk and think. Backtracking is becoming part of the process.IMG_6007Below is another Thomas Demand inspired scene. These generic cups are so awesomely simple and beautiful. The abbreviated conical shape just makes me smile. This one was discarded in a street planter that contained a tree. Perfect white. IMG_6030
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Aug 7, 2015

Aug 7, 2015 and I took my camera to work. It’s a bit awkward on my 15km bicycle trip simply because of the weight. I have a new process though. I use to walk a lot and shoot, now I ride and research with my iPhone. Often posting to social media and generally living with images for a few days. If I’m still interested I take my big camera out and re shoot using the iPhone images as a reference.

My work trip takes me along Overleigh in Toronto’s East end. Before Overleighh hits Don Mills there was a Target. The middle shot was taken months ago on one of these journeys, the top and bottom images below were taken this week.

These are examples of images that I take because I love how photography of found objects and landscapes can often emulate what might be considered painterly or sculptural tableaus.

There’s always an element of contemplation in my work, but I avoid calling it minimalist. I’ve begun to dislike that term. Minimalism is bandied about by people as a term that can simply be exchanged with simple. I don’t find the attached images simple.
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No picture of any vacant Target store can be politically uncharged. The successful U.S. chain bulldozed into the Canadian market thinking they knew everything and planned to easily covert that U.S. success. How the mighty have fallen since.

Because my day job deals with larger retailers in Canada I have a tie to this failure and opinions about it. I don’t feel this is the forum to discuss that, nor do I feel I have strong enough opinions to want to discuss them. These pictures to me though comment to a degree on commercialism, consumerism and U.S. Canada relations.

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July 1, 2015

July 1, 2015 I ventured into the Junction. I’ve shot there countless times but not for a long time with any success. I simply wandered and tried not to think about what I wanted to shoot. I found some things of interest in a place that I thought might be exhausted.

The Junction has continued to gentrify at an outrageous pace. That’s not the worst thing, and hopefully a sparkling new Shoppers Drug mart or Tim Horton’s is still a long way off. You can always tell a neighbourhood has reached the tipping point when those sort of places look to set up shop. By then the tastemakers, artists and generally interesting folks have up and left, replaced by the suburban Proctor and Gamble eating hoards.

I find the illusion that happens in the shot below interesting, how the  two dimensional wall mural merging with the discarded carpet roll. The deteriorating plaster to the right side of the frame helps to make sense of what’s happening.IMG_5344On the rail path this is the fence that surrounds a now vacant Toronto Hydro yard. It use to  have a bunch of odds and ends strewn around but they did a major clean. Now it’s virtually empty. I’m not sure what they plan on doing with it, but now the place is derelict. I liked the jumble and chaos of this scene. IMG_5365 Here below is a side wall of a restaurant on Dundas West east of Keele. IMG_5355This is the front window of what was once a retail store and now is someone’s house or apartment. Every now and then they change up a slapdash installation in the window. This time I chanced upon it there was this cool button “I FEEL GOOD ALL OVER” and to the right of it was an old school globe. I didn’t like the shot of the globe, so I kept the shot of the button. IMG_5324 More weird stuff on Dundas West. Just some pipes in front of a store front. I’m pleased with myself for breaking my straight on shooting habit.IMG_5305The reflection from across the street on Dundas west of a strange art decco style building before you enter the Junction proper before Keele. Across the street from the reflected building is another sort of deccoish building that is the Salvation Army.IMG_5299The hoarding for the in construction condo building that’s going up where McBride Cycle used to be once upon a time. These will be called The Duke. I imagine they’ll be quite nice, however the marketing makes me fairly sick.IMG_5292Vertical blinds in a lawyer’s office beside The Sweet Potato oganic food market.IMG_5312 I just uploaded everything that was worthwhile from today’s walk. I’ll elaborate a bit more later. Suffice to say I’m thinking about painting and lines/hard edges.

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June 18, 2015

June 18, 2015 —Thursday—and this Thursday I felt like relaxed in the morning so left the bicycle and walked to work. At least part way. I made it 11 km of the 17 km journey with camera in hand. I’m happy with the found things along the way. I like these shots. I may not feel that way in a few days.

It’s strange how the thought process can change overnight after being bizarrely consistent for years.

I’ve been thinking about the language of art a lot as well. I’m toying with the term social realism and figuring out how to talk about it in conjunction with a formalist approach to photography and an interests in post painterly abstraction. Then it occurs to me that all this rhetoric is a waste of time. It only make me appear smart and frankly I’m sick of people writing about art. I’m sick of the big words and the smug motivations.

A shot through a window. An old—soon to be extinct—incandescent bulb in an empty shop front on Dupont Street just west of Symington. IMG_4979Further along Dupont, just west of Lansdowne the image below was taken from the street, through the scaffolding of the hoarding/plywood that envelopes the building. Dupont is at my back. This could be a painting. I tried a shallower depth of field. It’s not usually a technique I like, but for a painting could work nicely. IMG_4985St Clair West, I think this is around Christie. It’s definitely before I got to Bathurst. Something tells me this is a very pedestrian photograph. No pun intended. At the time I saw this as a remarkable assemblage of negative and positive space. Now after a few days of looking it might be edging more to the unremarkableIMG_5028Around the same spot on St Clair. A shot looking at the side wall of a temporary patio tent attached to a restaurant. It may be a restaurant that’s gone out of business. I wasn’t focusing on that. I just liked the complexity of the reflection, the landscape and the table and stool focus, and how they get framed by the movie theatre style strips of black at the top and bottom of the frame.IMG_5051Just a little west of Avenue Road this building is a bit too symmetrical for words and this photograph as a result is a bit too clean for my liking. A bit too balanced. It’s interesting though that I’ve begun to look up and the perspective doesn’t get me all wiggly. In the past I’d never take a shot like this unless I could get directly across from the subject to avoid the inevitable foreshortening that occurs when the camera isn’t level.IMG_5062Squares, still obsessed with squares. Frames within frames. This piece would make a convincing painting. If the shapes and colours are simplified it might work. It’s pleasing me now though as a photograph. Signs are bizarre from behind. IMG_5067The predominance of discarded clothing in the city is insane. There are so many thing left or disposed of on any given day. We have a park by our house and every morning there’s some article of clothing just hanging  around by itself with no owner in sight. Again, like the orange square above, this could make an interesting painting if distilled into the shapes and lines that make up it’s crumpled pile.IMG_5071Nearer the end of the trip on Yonge Street just above St Clair this retail frontage has been empty for years but apparently it’s being fixed up. With all my thoughts about painting lately this seemed fortuitous. It may be one of my favourite images of the day. There’s the paint brush for one thing, but the reflection of the sidewalk in the glass aided by the dark coloured carpet of the interior is really interesting as well. Add to that the awesome silver perpendicular that bisect the strip of carpet and the reflection in the glass of the sidewalk. Angles, lines, colour, reflections, it all works for me.IMG_5091 Finally, lens flare that I liked and almost seems planned.IMG_5103

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Exploring

IMG_3216 - 2000-01-01 at 00-00-25 IMG_3154 - 2000-01-01 at 00-00-24 IMG_3172 - 2000-01-01 at 00-00-02 IMG_3190 - 2000-01-01 at 00-00-42 IMG_3198 - 2000-01-01 at 00-01-34Exploring the city has occupied me now for close to twenty years. It now seems like such a small place after all the wandering I’ve done.

Close to where I live there are public tennis courts. They sit on the edge of a small park at the end of Franklin Avenue. The edge of the park and those courts also rests above the west side of Symington Avenue. This is the wall directly under the tennis courts. I imagine the white painted squares are  compliments of the city and serve to cover up some tags or graffiti. I was taken by the triptych of panels, the wild and unruly weeds and plants and the discarded cardboard from a twelve of Budweiser.IMG_3105On the north side of Queen Street West just west of John Street is this place. Back a few years ago it was an average bookstore called Pages with aspirations to be a good bookstore, but it went out of business before it could achieve its dreams. It now looks like the space is being used as yet another condominium sales office focusing on the kitchen design of the units. It’s either that or this is actually a kitchen design store.IMG_3117It’s been a while since I’ve wandered in the alleys around Richmond and Queen. I spotted this down a passage beside the restaurant Jules. It’s simply a dumpster that someone has hired to renovate some place. I was drawn to the three rectangular planes created by the doors and the sides of the dumpster. There’s also a wonderful distressed texture of scratches on both doors. The ramp is another trope that seems to be surfacing in a few of my images lately. I not sure what that’s about, but here it is again.IMG_3138On the west side of Spadina just north of Queen is another empty condominium sales office. In this instance for a sadly marketed place called Trend. This is a view into the sales office. The wall mural must have been made in the hopes of making the prospective buyers feel like stars. If they had been in marketing they would have quickly seen through the sad psychological ploy, turned around and left. I bet these places when completed will be as cheesy as the graphics.IMG_3142A few years ago I fund a little treasure trove of spots to photograph in the Bay and College area. I went back this week to see how the area had changed and discovered this service driveway behind a large condo building. I’m guessing these are air intake or ventilation exhaust pipes, at least the candy cane looking ones. I’d further suppose the controls or gauges beside are unrelated. Whatever this array of stuff is, it’s so pristine that it looks fictional to me. Of course the concrete drive is sullied with flecks of gum and other detritus, but the landscape is sort of surreal and strikes me as very Thomas Demand looking.IMG_3062 - 2000-01-01 at 00-00-07IMG_3071 - 2000-01-01 at 00-00-09Another plywood ramp in a section of the still-vacant main floor of the MaRS building on University south of College.IMG_3076 - 2000-01-01 at 00-00-07

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Photographer Laureate

So Toronto city council has approved a new “Photo Laureate” position to echo that of the Poet Laureate, but I think Photographer Laureate is the correct title that they want to bestow. Their intention is surely to honour the artist themselves not just one of their photographs.  I’ve consciously used the word honour here because the only way they motion was passed was by amending the motion so the position came with no monetary prize. There was another caveat, that the work of the honoured artist has to be made available free to the public. You can see the way this all went down here on the City of Toronto site.

So without sounding like a party pooper there are a few things wrong with this well intentioned motion and now newly created position. First, I’m pretty sure they want to create a Photographer Laureate, not a Photo Laureate as mentioned. This is coming from someone who considers themselves to be functionally illiterate. Second, they’ve really narrowed down the playing field to include only old people who no longer rely on an income or the income of their photographs. That’s the upshot of them qualifying the honour by stating that they create the position but “provided that there be no cash prize and the photographs be forwarded to Toronto Archives to be made available to the public.”

So we look forward to the City honouring some old person based on their previous financial success. There are probably quite a few Photographers like this and maybe I’m just a bit envious of the person who will eventually get the position in 2015 prior to them even being appointed. It would be nice to get more people interested and in love with the city, and it’s a neat idea to do it through photography. I just wish they left it open so some younger, gifted person could get the honour. So despite my criticism, congrats to City Council for passing something that wasn’t Crack-Asshole-Ford related. Honestly Mr. Mihevc good on you.

In celebration I went out and shot today.

This was taken on the west side of Keele at the lights that take you into the shops at the Stockyards. Not the new monster mall, but the old big box area with Rona, Home Depot and Crappy Tire. This is a staircase that takes you up to the top level of the industrial mall right on Keele. I’ve looked at it for years but it photographed well today.

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The following two images were taken along the back service area of the Dufferin Mall. This place really shows its age along here. I originally ventured down the narrow access road to shoot the walls of the high school athletic field. They’re pretty cool, but today they had a lot of shit graffiti, or should I say “tags” on them. Tags. Graffiti has merit, tags are by assholes.IMG_1571

Back in the day I use to do do store visits to the HMV that was located in here. I worked at Outside Music, a distributor for various labels from around the world. I also remember a story from one of the HMV workers about how notoriously crime filled the mall was. They related an episode where the previous manager had been burgled and held by assailants who brandished and threatened with a shotgun. It’s cleaned up a bit since then, but I imagine its still rough although what were once low income houses that back onto this service corridor are now probably worth more than then average workers can afford. IMG_1577

I walked from Edwin avenue and Dupont to Dundas West and University which is about 7 kilometres. This place on College has been vacant for years now. I don’t really like this photograph–and I’ve never been able to capture it in a way I want too–but it reminded me a bit of Lynne Cohen who died this week. So-long to a great and influential artist that I never met, but would have liked to.IMG_1588

Near the end of the day’s walk I found this empty retail place in Chinatown–on the north side of Dundas West just before the AGO and before I stopped in at Bau-Xi Photo to say hi. The detailed dirtiness of the electrical switches, and their missing sliders contrasts nicely with the framed attempt at decoration. I really like the bad framing of the print, which is probably not even a print, but something pulled from a book. The print itself reminds me of Art History classes and Jeff Wall. This pinkish, flesh-coloured paint is also prevalent in a lot of restaurants of a certain age. Shot through the front widow.IMG_1590

I’ll try and do twice the distance walking today which is Saturday the 17th of May.

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Toronto

Lately I love/hate Toronto. It’s definitely my home and I really love where I live but I’m not so keen on the politics. I’m old enough to understand that people generally become more conservative when they get older but to me the more “conservative” someone is the more selfish, mean-spirited, bitter, materialistic and paranoid they are. At one time I identified as liberal, but lately I identify more with the New Democrats. I still don’t like any of the parties because at heart I’m a socialist and happy about it. Lately I wish I could just live and let live a bit more. If I’m not careful I’ll become an embittered old man.

Toronto to me is rough and refined. It’s beautiful and ugly at the same time. I don’t want some generic suburb of perfection to live in. Maybe that’s why the Junction Triangle is so great, although even it’s changing quickly. So far it’s pretty good after ten years, and hopefully, if I’m lucky, by the time we don’t like it anymore because it’s just too affluent we can get lost and be old radicals in some obscure place.

Right now I love things like this empty intermodal transport container. It’s sitting on a chunk of land that use to be McBride Cycles back in the day, when that got ripped down it was an empty, brick strewn wasteland surrounded by a frost fence, then it was sort of cleaned up and became The Junction Flea Market (aka Hipster Central) and now it’s the parking lot for the soon to be constructed Duke condominiums. In the background to the right of the frame on Dundas Street West just before Keele Street you can see the cool building that’s a Salvation Army shelter. To the left of the frame is a residential neighbourhood. This is sort of our neighbourhood’s Parkdale. This part of Dundas Street West contains a whack of low-rent, sketchy apartment buildings as well as a few weird store fronts for various whack-job religious sects, some cool old and new legitimate businesses like Dog Lounge and Cool Hand of a Girl, some used appliance stores, a strange aquarium store that we’re sure is a front for some other illegal business, laundromats, and a shit-ass bar called Shox. Despite it’s sketchy overall look and feel I really like this stretch of road. I’m 100% comfortable wandering along it and I usually find something pretty interesting to look at.

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The shipping container is something I’m drawn to. I think it’s because of several factors but the sculptural work of Kim Adams and the Photography of Robert Polidori are probably my main reference points. I’ve also been relatively interested in them since people have begun to make houses and stores out of them. These containers are also–like most of everything I’m truly drawn to–rather pedestrian and utilitarian. I still think about carving, photographing, constructing, performing, and setting up shop inside one of these every time I see one. This one is interesting because it was used as a booth during the Junction Flea and someone took the time to finish the interior off a bit. It’s even better empty and derelict in this mysterious space.

This place below is located in front of the small mall that use to have Zellers in it on Dundas West just after it heads north at Roncesvalles. Now all that’s in there is a liquor store, a really crap Loblaws store, and the carcass of the Zellers. Target decided it was too skid row to move into. This is the back of a tire dealer that’s in a separate building closer to the actual street. It also contains a really shitty donut store… but hey, is there really any donut store that’s not shitty? It was once Firestone and I took pictures of it then, but now it’s something else. This is the slightly American feeling colour scheme of that business. Orange, white and blue. The orange is approaching cadmium, so to me this is reminiscent of the American flag. I’ve shot this wall many times over the last ten years. In fact I’ve probably posted about it before too.IMG_1328

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Neighbourhood

The neighbourhood to me is pretty huge. The word alone suggest in the vicinity and to me that means walking distance. In the city I would consider that within 15 km of my home. Most of these photographs however were taken in the last few weeks in the Roncesvalles and Dundas West areas.

The empty salon below speaks of a time when we didn’t worry about area codes. I think that takes it back to at least 20 years ago. Someone is in the process of renovating this space. No doubt they’ll leave the old sign up which is becoming a new tradition in retail that I like. They’ve already resurfaced part of the facade with faux-slate bricks that might be very unfashionable in about 5 years. I took this photo because I loved the empty window space, the confluence of linear planes and the reflection that didn’t include me in the surface of the glass. The pipes that run from sidewalk to wall in the bottom right hand corner of the frame are another draw.IMG_0872

Not close to our house–but still neighbourhood in my mind–is the King and Spadina area. I still like to go into MEC every now and again and I’m frequently at TIW or Soma or something around there. This place is on the south west corner of King and Peter and I’ve shot it through the windows for about 10 years. Someday it will be a condo I guess.

I like how the light plays with the floor, the simple emptiness of the place and the feeling and geometric delineation I get when resting my camera lens against the windows to shoot. Shooting through the window controls what the composition will be to a large extent. I’d like to set up a 24 hour video installation in what appears to be a four TV bank along the right hand side of the frame in the second image.IMG_0899 IMG_0900

Below is the entrance to a Roncesvalle lawers office. It seems standard practice to make lawyers offices dark and uninviting. It’s in a strip of places that include several furriers, a real estate office, restaurant, yoga studio, art gallery (that’s never open) and the sad, sad facade of Hugh’s Room.

It soooo brown and contains a ton of building materials and elements I find hideous and because of that I’m drawn to it. I’m like a moth to flame or a like a Rob Ford supporter to idiocy. The brilliant sunlight worked well too.IMG_0953

Further down Roncesvalles the storefront landscape is changing and I can’t see how this laundromat  in the next picture will survive when a restaurant can pay twice as much rent. I remember the days of washing my clothes in such a place… and I’m thankful I no longer have to do that. I’m spoiled.

The mural has been there as long as I can remember and it’s sort of cute in a outsider art way. Although as I sit here and think about t I can’t believe that places like these and vending machines are still relatively commonplace. Or more correctly, I can’t believe they still all rely on coin operated technology. How long will that last? The crop on this made me happy. I think it breaks a shitload of rules, but I hate those old school cropping rules. They’re almost as annoying as old guys who think Fine Art Photography is shooting naked women in Black & White. IMG_0959

Further south on Roncesvalle was this vacant storefront. Again I was taken with the mirror and how it didn’t show me because of the window angles. The mixture of florescent light and daylight its weirdly appealing too.IMG_0966I got my new camera bag in the mail Friday from…Australia!. After cleaning the house today I set the new bag up to carry my SLR and a lens. It’s a backpack which I’m hoping is more conducive to comfortably walking around for hours. The one shoulder thing has been bugging me for years. I think I’ll try it out tomorrow when I walk down to Queen and Bathurst. I’m so exciting.

 

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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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January 2014

January 2014 solo show at Bau-Xi Photo.

B A U – X I   P H O T O
324 DUNDAS ST WEST
TORONTO, ONTARIO, M5T 1G5
TEL: 416 977 0400
EMAIL: INFO@BAU-XIPHOTO.COM

January 11, 2014 – January 25, 2014
Opening Reception, Saturday January 11, 2-4 PMVacant Retail – Concorde & Kennedy, Montreal

Montreal fascinates me. In 2014 I plan an extended trip to wander and explore. In December of 2013 I went on a short overnight trip and even in that limited time I stumbled on things I was drawn to.

Vacant Retail – Concord & Kennedy, Montreal struck me for the odd window treatment on the back wall of the space that effectively transforms a banal view of an ally, into a glimpse of Birch forest. I Street Viewed this spot in Google Maps and before it was empty it was a hardwood flooring business. The flooring here is beautiful but the pessimist in me finds the window treatment/marketing approach rather ironic. Clearly the owners are illustrating the natural forest setting in the back of store in an attempt to suggest to the consumer they would take home a bit of nature with their purchase. In truth a bit of nature was destroyed to create their flooring. I find this marketing approach similar to car companies advertising SUVs by showing them scaling mountains and crossing beautiful streams. Although my house is made of wood, we have a lot of wood furniture and I buy wood products I’m very conscious of how we exploit our environment. I’m not super hard-core but I do feel that so much of our economy is driven by “natural resources” and we are quickly depleting our inheritance of these commodities in an irresponsible way to gain our Canadian economic advantage. It’s insane that we keep doing this. Future generations will look at us and shake their heads.

I find unassuming interiors interesting. There’s a mystery to vacant spaces. I like to imagine narratives for them. I also like to think about the past and future life of a spot as well as the people that have worked or been in a particular location. I have this weird theory that everyone who’s ever been in place and every action that’s ever been perpetrated there resonates to some degree within the space forever. This is a total fabricated, personal, pseudo-science. This resonance I feel for spaces is not supernatural or mystic but imaginative and based upon a rudimentary high school science education and a lifetime of watching films and television.

This shot is taken from outside the space, through the glass window.Latter-Day Saints – Broadview, Toronto

My camera is with me everyday, everywhere I go. It sits in my bag unused most of the time, but it’s there. I also frequently take transit. In the winter I purchase a Metro Pass and I can get off and on the bus whenever I want. It’s very conducive to exploring. I’m often on the 100 Bus, north from Broadview Station to the DVP and Eglington area. I’ve taken that route for at least ten years.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Broadview is perhaps the most unassuming building you could imagine. One day while sitting on the bus I looked out the window and noticed for the 100th time a large satellite dish that was plunked in the middle of a vacant parking lot. The next day I got off the bus to take pictures. I tried very hard to capture what it was about the dish that made me think, but nothing worked. Just as I had given up, I casually looked through the window of the actual building on the site and discovered this wonderful foyer. I think this is the area just outside the worship area for the church. I shot this—like so many of my other photos over the years—through the glass widow, using available light. I wasn’t inside the space.

This is a completely functional hall. There is however something odd about the haphazardly placed, institutional furniture. The portrait of Christ is unsettling as well. I’m not quite sure why it’s been hung so far up on the wall.  Maybe the draw for me here is that this is a place of worship but unlike other Christian churches it’s remarkably understated. It lacks the typical ostentatiousness of most organized religious buildings. The floor tile is just so 80s.

It’s a large building and I imagine it only gets used on Sundays but I’ve never seen a car in the parking lot and the windows were pretty grimy. Maybe the Mormons have moved onto better real estate and this place isn’t even used anymore. I can see the church selling the place and moving out of town. I also imagine the unimaginative condos that will take this building’s place.Wire Wall – Danforth West of Pape, Toronto

I’ve shot this wall for years and it wasn’t until November of 2013 that I captured it in a way that reflected how I see it most of the time. This is close to a perfect photograph for me. I doubt it’s perfect for anyone else, and I don’t really know the exact reasons why it’s so special to me personally, but it resonates.

I think I like it so much because of the confluence of weird colours, shapes, and arbitrary line. It’s a little organic and a little messed up. The wall is the western most point of a strip of retail just east of The Holy Name Parish Church on the Danforth just west of Pape Station. The wires coming out of the wall are so old school. I can’t believe their legal. Close up they look like rope. I’ve seriously looked at this wall for years and found something neat about it. There’s a Starbucks just a little west of this that I frequent. In the summer I get espresso and sit on the steps of the church and look into this little courtyard that’s not used by anyone for anything other than maybe storage and stare at this wall.

After I took this I re-visited the site a few days later and the wires were arranged differently. My guess is that this was probably a result of the wind. I shot it again but the composition was marred by the new wire configuration. Perhaps the image above captures the wall at the most perfect point in time for me. Often the reward for consistently and repetitively looking at the same thing over and over again is that after a while it often surprises you by telling you how to look at it.

How many people pass by this wall everyday without ever looking at it? Why would you look at this wall? I think I have a healthy fascination for found art. I’m not looking for beauty, but for interest. I’m not motivated to make beautiful things, I’d like to make thoughtful things that have an interesting aesthetic sense. I hope people realise when they look at my work that I truly find my subject matter exciting and engaging, even if that excitement comes very slowly and might be slightly melancholy.Coca-Cola Entrance – Overlea, Toronto

Coca-Cola “was” on my way to work at 42 Overlea. This is the second time in 2013 that I’ve dragged myself off the bus to shoot the building. I’ve always admired the facade. It was built in a time period that I’m connected to. When I started wandering around on this particular visit I discovered that the entire place has been recently vacated, left empty, sold and is slated to be demolished and replaced with a Costco. For now however this network of buildings is directly across from the East York Town Centre.

There’s nothing spectacular about the 50′s era office, but in this quiet, inactive state I really like it. This particular shot is of the front entrance.The colour of the tiles and columns echo the carmel aspects of the signature Coke drink. The old school intercom box is a good indication that at the time this building was in service it was fairly security conscious. I’m sure Coca-Cola is a still a thriving big-business, rotting the teeth and stomachs of high school kids and helping the nation become more obese everyday. I can’t even drink the stuff anymore unless I severely water it down with soda. I use to have it for breakfast when I was a teenager.

I’m slightly bemused that I’m drawn to these type of places day after day. They always have something of an institutional feel about them that’s sort of creepy.

I went by the offices and factory a few weeks after this photograph was taken and the entire complex is now surrounded by a temporary fence signalling that the demolition will soon begin. I would really like to get in this place now and shoot all the empty rooms and offices before they’re gone. How the heck I would arrange that I’m just not sure. I wouldn’t know where to start.

As of January 2nd the factory building has started to come down.Vacant Retail – Yonge & Davisville, Toronto

This business has closed and the entire block at this intersection has sold to make way for condos. This is just north of the north east corner of Yonge and Davisville. The building is on the corner of Yonge and Millwood. Just south of this place is another huge empty retail place that was an LCBO. I find it strange that any LCBO in this neighbourhood would close.

There is a lot of mauve here. The space also feels like a financial institution on the exterior. It’s very TD-Canada Trust looking. It’s also been empty for a very long time. The Google Street View image doesn’t give anything away, but you can definitely see it was a bank at one time from those images. There’s a night deposit door at the back of the building.

These shots are about the past. For me they’re a remembrance of what a space was, as well they serve as a sort of tribute to that past because they document unremarkable places before they cease to exist. I’m drawn to the grid pattern of interior space that’s delineated by wall and ceiling. I’m also interested in the idea of stasis. That odd purgatory that buildings exist in after they’ve been used and before they are transformed into something else. There’s a nostalgia here along with a little bit of ghost hunting.

It’s also about my process. I shot this same interior five or six years ago and got nothing out of it that I liked. I don’t even remember if those images depicted the same interior. My eye has changed and my aesthetic has definitely changed. I’m interested in different things now. It’s neat to think this place has been visited by me at different times in it’s vacancy.South West Cloverleaf – DVP & Eglington, Toronto

South West Cloverleaf – DVP & Eglington, Toronto is a photograph of the pseudo-park land inside one of the four highway cloverleafs at DVP and Eglington. It could be of any cloverleaf in any city. I love the colours and the weird pastoral nature of these images. For the last few years I’ve thought about locations like this and how they exist in every culture all over the world. I think about the inexhaustible subject matter. It’s park land where nobody ever goes. I imagine these spots as my own private places and wander around in the knee high grass quite frequently.

The word oasis comes to mind. These spots are teaming with wildlife and with the exception of the outermost edges are completely devoid of people and garbage. I think that’s just because nobody ever thinks of them as public space. Maybe you’re not even allowed to be inside these area, but it certainly doesn’t say that anywhere.

If you look closely in the top left hand side of the frame you can see an apartment building poking through the leaves of the Russian Olive. It’s a long way away from the clover leaf but it’s still present in this shot. If I remember correctly these areas are frequently planted with Russian Olives because they are extremely hearty and resistant to salt damage.

The majority of my work is absent of people but almost always indicative of the hand of mankind. There may be nobody in the frame, but there was, and the empty spaces echo and are tied directly to that humanity. I feel however that there’s always someone present. I may not be in the actual photograph but I’m pressing the shutter release and although I’m out of the frame, I’m there. I’m there in every photograph I take.Door Frames – Laird, Toronto

On Laird there has been a lot of development to service the suburban/urban area that makes up Leaside and Overlea. I despise  most of this as bad development. But I’m spoiled by my Dundas West neighbourhood. This whole strip is quickly turning into one parking lot after another, offering nothing but generic products and services of mediocre quality for a community of convenience. I don’t live in this are though and maybe that’s a pessimists view of things. I’m sure 90% of the residents love this stuff. It’s just not for me.

Before the transition happens completely the west side of Overlea has remained relatively untouched. It’s still home to lots of businesses that focus on the automobile, and some weird old school looking light-industrial. The space shown here was attached to an old school indoor carwash wash.

The simple, virtually black & white look that the space has and it’s slightly tired and imperfect construction are interesting. I also like the odd placement of the door and the window frame leaning against the side-wall. These object contrast wonderfully with the whiteness that surrounds them. 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.

Time Travel.Cinder Wall – James North, Hamilton

I grew up in Burlington and visited my Grandmother in Hamilton every weekend for a couple of years when I was pre-teen. I worked in Hamilton in my late-teens as an actor. I ended up living in the city for most of my 20s. I like the Hamilton, I’m comfortable in the city.

They must show movies on this wall in the summer. It’s simply perfect for that purpose. I imagine a film of the wall itself shot with a hand held camera and projected in such a way that every now and then the film and the blocks line up, but most of the time it would simply make the surface of the wall seem unstable.Empty Gallery – Granville South of 14th, Vancouver

While in British Columbia —for the opening of my summer show at Bau-Xi Gallery on Granville in Vancouver—I wandered around a bit during breaks from sitting in the gallery and found this place. It was two doors south of Bau-Xi. At first I thought maybe it had gone out of business but I looked it up on the all powerful internet and determined The Winsor Gallery simply moved to 258 East First Avenue. They left this behind for me.

One of the first Toronto photographs I printed and framed was of an empty gallery space on Queen West near Roncesvalles. In the ten years or so since then I’ve shot other empty gallery spaces but none have been quite as wonderful as this one. It’s so very simple and so spectacularly lit by the sun filtering in from behind me as I shot thorough the glass of the front door. I picture these images as a series somewhere down the line even if I only currently have three or four images I like.

These are about the nature of gallery space, the neighbourhoods they are in and the narrative that can be imagined by observing the empty space. The first space I shot like this was a springboard for dreaming about showing and it had a great deal to do with me getting my first show. This shot of Granville makes me think of the possibilities for the space, not just as a gallery for traditional forms of art but as a space for performance or something. I’d love to create a film and show it on this “screen” just to see the odd passerby get sucked into watching.

I think about an old desk with piles of faded paper and an old man moving things around.Stairs – Ferrand, Toronto

The office tower beside the one that I work in got some new concrete steps in October. I stumbled upon the old old demolished steps when I was out wandering around looking for things to photograph. We have a common parking lot and it’s huge. This was in a back corner. I found this pile of old steps funny.Bentley – Dupont West of Christie, Toronto

This was taken through the window of a building in the parking lot of Grand Touring Automobiles. Situated between the car dealership and the Faema building at the corner of Dupont and Christie is this beautiful historic building that looks like it may have been a schoolhouse. I’m not sure what it actually was before the dealership co-opted it, but it certainly looks turn of the century. Grand Touring now uses it for storage. There’s nothing in it except for a desk and some advertising posters/paintings of cars. This is a view through the east window looking across through the interior space. You can see the dealership through the far window. The painting of the Bentley on the floor grabs the artificial light from the ceiling above nicely.

I like this image, but I am extremely indifferent to cars, and even more suspect of luxury cars and what they say and represent about society. They are definitely useful to get from point A to point B, but they’re so over-used and to me they embody a lot of what’s wrong with the world. Particularly; pollution, war for oil, arrogance, superiority, embarrassing aspects of masculinity, immaturity, status and power.

All of the images for the January show were shot in 2013. I hand hold a Canon 5D Mark II, with a 17-35 mm L series lens. All are shot with available light and the majority are things I pass by ever day, but for this series there are photographs of Vancouver, Montreal and Hamilton that were taken while visiting. It makes me think it would be nice to do residences in other cities and over the course of a month shoot those cities.

The digital files from the Canon full frame camera are then processed in photoshop where typically I apply a small “S’ shaped curve, increase the exposure slightly and sharpen. I’ll also take that time to remove any dust spots that may be on the camera sensor. I also find the Canon sensor slightly less vivid than actual life and saturate each image slightly to capture what I saw.

Everything is printed 36″ x 36″ at Toronto Image Works on their Bulk Printer, then mounted on Archival Gator Board at AGS here in the city and final framed by Kyle at Bau-Xi Photo.

I have never been inside the six interior locations. For these shots I very roughly clean the glass of the door or window I’m shooting through, press my lens against the glass and cover the area of the window around the lens with a large cloth and shoot. Typically these are shot using slow shutter speeds and mid range apertures and I never really move my camera off 200 ISO. The window acts like a tripod to steady the camera. In these shots the grain noise can frequently be seen in the images because the lighting tends to be very subdued, and the shutter speeds so long.

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Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola was on my way to work.  These are images of the offices at 42 Overlea. This is the second time I’ve dragged my bum off the bus to shoot the Coca-Cola building. Today I discovered that sometime in the past few years it was left derelict and is now slated to be demolished and replaced with a Costco. The network of buildings that will soon have cars parked for blocks to buy gas is directly across from the East York Town Centre.

There’s nothing spectacular about the 50′s era building, but in this quiet, inactive state I really like it. There are subtle references to carmel and the blackness that is Coca-Cola. It’s also slightly dated like the soft drink. The wall above is a detail that takes you into the front entrance below.

Again, it’s a simple and functional building. I don’t know why I like these places. They always have something of an institutional feel about them that’s sort of creepy.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the Coca-Cola building so I’ve been back a few times since this recent visit. The following image was taken around the back of the plant on a road that runs parallel to Overlea.

These further images I took today the 27th of November. There was a small amount of snow on the ground and an interesting sky. This small building is a security post for the shipping and receiving bays that are within a gated part of the complex. It reminds me of the ice huts that a few contemporary photographers have been so taken with.

and this is the interior of another security building.

On the other side of the street across from the rear portion of the Cola complex is a power corridor. All three of the following images were taken there today.

Finally I stopped at Target for a coffee at their Starbucks outlet that opens at 8:00 a.m. I couldn’t help thinking that one new predominantly red brand has replaced another older fading red brand.

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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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Wandering Vancouver

Wandering Vancouver Edition

August 24th – September 5th, 2013

Bau-Xi Gallery

3045 Granville St  Vancouver, BC

Wandering Vancouver Edition short talk at 3:00 p.m. I’ll be there from about noon on.

Wandering is the personification of an ongoing love affair with urbanity in all its glory. With this series of images – shot in downtown Toronto – the artist continues to explore our relationship with the utilitarian by manipulating the context in which we see it and by protracting our interaction with it. Wandering: File under formalism, minimalism, found art, photography, math, OCD, hiking, humour, and colour.

The Wandering Vancouver images and short blurbs explaining what I was thinking when I took each image or what the subject of each means to me.  Club Monaco – Bloor and Avenue Road

I don’t remember when Club Monaco took over this building on the South East corner of Bloor and Avenue Road but I’ve shot it for years never really getting something that resonated until now. This image is very narrative when I compare it to the rest of my work. I’ve never really thought of telling stories with what I shoot or for that matter even insinuating the thread of a possible narrative but this image is different. There’s a subtext of sexual cliche here. The empty post-coital cigarette package, the short-dressed mannequin that viewed from below through outside of the window suggest an element of exhibitionism and voyeurism and the evergreen tree that might act as some sort of blind for the smoker/observer. I imagine I took this this hours after the smoker left but their presence still resonates in discarded cigarette package.

Solo Pole – Don Valley Pathway

This is one of two images taken of decommissioned hydro poles in an area of the Don Valley Pathway. This pole was made obsolete by the metal towers in the distance and the multiple wires above. It has no lines attached to it. It’s just an absurd pole that’s been made redundant as the power grid in the area grew. There are more like this in the vicinity. This photograph shows the progress or maybe more accurately just growth of the city. There’s something steadfast about this pole. Still standing although retired and made obsolete by bigger and better towers.

To me there’s also a real romanticism to the light and colouring in the surrounding greenery. I shot this early in the morning when the shadows were long and dark. It’s pastoral despite the power grid and  the location so close to the traffic sounds of The Don Valley Parkway and Don Mills Road. This small space within the city reminds me of the country that is slowly disappearing around suburbs like Burlington and Oakville.

Yard – Townsley and Old Weston Road

I got quite a shock two seconds after I took this shot. I was concentrating on the composition and how to capture it and right after I pressed the shutter a very large and not-particularly-friendly guard dog hurled himself against the fence, barking and snapping.

It scared the crap out of me despite the fact there was no real danger. It’s funny in hindsight because you can see the sad, squashed ball in the lower portion of the frame which I now assume belonged to to the dog when he was on break.

This image has grown on me. The foreground and background work well together while still competing for the viewers attention. I’ve always been a bit interested in shooting through fences, and I’ve tried it on many outings but nothing that works as well as this composition does for me. Like many of the images I shoot this makes me think of painting. I particularly like the sporadic squares of orange in the concrete retaining wall.

Bentley – Dupont West of Christie

This was taken through the window of a building in the parking lot of Grand Touring Automobiles. Situated between the car dealership and the Faema building at the corner of Dupont and Christie is this beautiful historic building that looks like it may have been a schoolhouse. I’m not sure what it actually was before the dealership co-opted it, but it certainly looks turn of the century. Grand Touring now uses it for storage. There’s nothing in it except for a desk and some advertising posters/paintings of cars. This is a view through the east window looking across through the interior space. You can see the dealership through the far window. The painting of the Bentley on the floor grabs the artificial light from the ceiling above nicely. I like this image, but I am extremely indifferent to cars, and even more suspect of luxury cars and what they say and represent about society. They are definitely useful to get from point A to point B, but they’re so over-used and to me they embody a lot of what’s wrong with the world. Particularly; pollution, war for oil; arrogance, superiority and embarrassing aspects of masculinity; immaturity, status and power.

Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay

This was taken on a pivotal day of shooting. I’d been unable to capture anything I liked for a long time. Nothing I took was striking me as interesting or printable until I took this.

This is a space 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, series of abstracts panels. Some are on glass suspended from the ceiling or on a floor level glass partition walls. This shows the solitary traditional wall of the room. At the time I took this 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 that make up the finished installation piece.

I shot this 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. It has a soft focus to it because I used a slow shutter speed and reasonably wide aperture.

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 a window.

Small patches of my life were spent doing construction work; for income, to help build a cottage and to renovate a few homes. 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 trained himself to be very good at 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 rather than an accountant.

I took this 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, 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 labourers are to blame for what 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 these are the best type of things about what is a remarkably unimaginative and hideous structure.This Month Only – Perth at DuPont

This is a side view of the scariest bar in my neighborhood. The signage out front reads “This Month Only” and has done for at least 10 years. The sidewalk beside the entrance usually has three or four 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 ironic or 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 I should say that there there wasn’t until they did some “renovations” inside and piled the garbage up here beside the wall outside the bar. I couldn’t have arranged the stuff to be more perfect. The colours, 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 extraordinarily painterly.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 Toronto, this makes a wonderful outing. I’m so fortunate 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 covers approximately 25 km. Most people commute by car within the city on journeys that often take this long.

This photograph is taken of an off ramp that serves as access to the Pathway for city workers. 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 underneath the Bloor Bridge looking out the north windows of the train.

I assume a few kids found this log, dragged it across the road and left it. It’s not really dangerous, just funny. It was such a pleasure to find. I almost wonder if the perpetrators might have been artists. If they weren’t it’s a great example of unintentional found art. 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

“Abandoned Condominium Offices” could be a complete series in itself. I’ve taken pictures for years all over the city’s downtown core and west end that features these forgotten and forlorn marketing structures waiting 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 is different. It will be really quite modest in size and it does interesting so much better than 90% of the other condo buildings in town. 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.

In the shot the left and forgotten, Saarinen – Knoll Tulip Table is awesome.

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.RBC – College and Ossington

Like many of the other images I shoot this was years in the making. I’ve lived in the west end of the city now for about ten years. In that time I’ve become an avid walker, and often end up in this neighbourhood. It’s 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 and when I simplified what interested me and focused on this marble wall and the period lighting fixtures I was rewarded.

StorageMart – Research Road

I wandered this area for weeks in the fall. It’s in the north east end of the city where a freakish amount of construction and development is happening on Laird Drive. 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 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 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 crap we transport and store over the course of a lifetime. I think it’s sort of the mark of a spoiled society. 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 frequent this area twenty years ago when it was nothing but artist studios and industrial space. No one would think to live there 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 that draw me to 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.

Wandering is the personification of an ongoing love affair with urbanity in all its glory. With this series of images – shot in downtown Toronto – the artist continues to explore our relationship with the utilitarian by manipulating the context in which we see it and by protracting our interaction with it. Wandering: File under formalism, minimalism, found art, photography, math, OCD, hiking, humour, and colour.

The following is an interview I did with myself about the show.

Q. Wandering – what’s the significance of the title?
A. Wandering is what I do. I wander the city endlessly and take pictures. I visit places over and over again to do this, often returning to locations that resonate with me year after year after year. Wandering relaxes me and allows me to familiarize myself with a specific setting. It’s also an amazing way to find things. You can’t do that in a car or on a bicycle. I explore when I walk. Walking also slows things down incredibly and gives me time to think. After a while I see differently and I’m more likely to notice the subtleties of a location and hopefully I’m able to capture them in a way that means something to me. Typically this process takes a few days to happen. It’s why most of my work is focused in Toronto. When I travel anywhere else it’s hard to get into that state of familiarity to achieve the same thing. I consider myself a pedestrian first and foremost. There’s a great French noun that seems relevant– flâneur– it comes from the verb flâner meaning “to stroll”. The wiki definition of that term is fascinating. I also really like the term urban pastoral to describe the images in this series.

From a different angle Wandering reflects my recent mental state. Lately I’ve been wandering from my art practice and into middle age. Wandering describes the somewhat confounding mental shift I’ve experienced in my photographic practice. I’m constantly thinking of projects but they’re increasingly more photo-based than traditional photographs. I conceptualize but I don’t execute. Wandering is rooted in a weird atmospheric mix of indecision and uncertainty. This exhibition was a journey and was challenging to produce psychologically. In the end I allowed myself to wander away from the rigid conceptualization and overall themes that I’ve fixated on over the past five years to arrive at the body of this work.

Q. Where does this infatuation with pedestrian banality originate?
A. I like terms like banality, boredom, and pedestrian. I don’t associate them with the negative that others tend to instill them with. I’m an observer, and instead of observing the spectacular or the sublime I find interest in the everyday. There are enough people looking at the extraordinary. It took years to write my tiny artistic statement and I think it’s pretty funny that when distilled to the very core that statement becomes my Twitter description; “I enjoy looking at things that other people are not that interested in”. I have to slightly qualify that by saying “I enjoy looking at things that the majority of people don’t find interesting”. Out of the billions of people in the world there’s probably a few million who see the word in a similar way and for whom my work might resonate.

Q. Where are the people?
A. People interest me as a vehicle for my art to be viewed and in direct relation to it and not as a subject matter for it. Besides, I’m not that good at thinking about people in the context of my aesthetic right now. Maybe that will change, but for now I’m drawn to solitude and contemplation. The potential for people. It’s hard to express yourself and your interests honestly with others around. My interest lies in the serenity and the solitude I find in things and places. I’m not anti-social but I love being by myself in the city. People think it’s impossible to find peace here — I would strongly disagree. In the summer I’m often up at 5:00 a.m. on weekends and will have finished a good three hours of walking before a lot of people wake up.

Despite the fact that there are no people in my images, their presence can’t be escaped. I’m more interested in the notion of people and how a place resonates with their presence when no one is around. It’s not about ghost, but impressions. At one point I was working on a theory that –described loosely– postulated that a place only existed in a way that I found interesting because people had visited there and would visit there again. If you look at all my work almost everything I shoot is in a stasis between human interactions. It’s waiting for something to happen either tomorrow or in twenty years time. I’m interested in that potential of place.

Q. About the square — what’s with the uniformity of the presentation and the subject?
A. My first camera was a Hawkeye Brownie that took 2 – 1/2 in square –120– film. It was B&W and I produced abysmally poor images taken on a primary school trip to African Lion Safari, I was probably about nine or ten. After that I grew up shooting 35 mm film. I’d save money and buy the most advanced consumer SLR of the day. My father did the same. As I got interested in producing work I got more advanced cameras but I always wanted to use a medium format. The 6 x 6 Hasselblad was the aspirational goal. After shooting so much 35 mm digital over the past ten years I’ve started to resent the prohibitive nature or of the 2:3 frame ratio and started began to visualize things in a frame aspect ratio of 1:1. Of course my camera shoots 2:3 ratio but as soon as I started thinking square it’s all I shot and composed in. I now constantly look at possible subjects and through the viewfinder with the intention of cropping to a square frame. I don’t think I can escape from the square file and frame thing. Now my dream is a full frame square sensor camera. I guess I could work on a Hasselblad 6×6 with a digital back but I’d prefer the comfort and familiarity of an SLR type rig. Maybe someday. That said I’m completely comfortable with my cropping scenario and my existing camera.

I’m also thinking about circular cropping abut still working this out. I think it has the potential to unlock a new world of image making for me, a world that questions the atypical presentation of art and the nature of the gallery. My theory is that it might transform the photographs into more or less sculptural works. This whole circular thing is based on the work of Kenneth Nowland or what I remember of his work. I remember him as someone who challenged and pushed against the limitations of the traditional frame.

Q. These images seem a little more whimsical than Waiting and Learning. Was that intentional?
A. Completely. I’ve always appreciated humour. I really like the idea of contemporary art with a somewhat sharp sense of humour or the absurd. I think that’s why lately I enjoy work by people like Alex Kisilevich, John Sasaki, and Robyn Cummings –to name a few. I’ve also always liked the work of Tom Friedman for a long time. Hopefully my new work is funny and thoughtful without trying too hard. I’m a relatively melancholy person who loves a good laugh. I’m not really after belly laughs, but I do hope the work elicits a smile here and there. It’s relatively dark humour, but it’s still humour. Hopefully I’ve avoided irony.

Q. What’s your physical process.
A. I carry my camera everywhere but it doesn’t always make it out of my bag. My process is very focused on the image and composition and the work is about developing things in my head after seeing something that resonates with me. I do a lot of bus and streetcar riding but also a tremendous amount of walking and cruising around on a bicycle. I hate driving — not because of the act of driving– but because I can’t concentrate on what I see without being a bad driver. The bus is amazing because while you travel around the city you just see so much. I’ll pass the same place for days or months and then I start to think about it all the time. I’ll then make a conscious effort to revisit that location with the explicit intention of taking pictures. I go back until I’ve got what I feel is a strong piece. For some of the images in Wandering I revisited a location five or six times. Sometimes I don’t get anything I like over multiple visits and it takes years to capture what I’ve imagined is the picture. Again it’s about familiarity.

After I’ve got something I live with it. I put it up on my website and keep going back to look at it and write about it. If I grow tired of something I delete it and tend not to think of the image again. If I’m happy with an idea or image after a few weeks I work to expand on the concept.

I shoot on a Canon 5D Mark II and it’s plenty of camera for me. I use available lighting and tend not to use a tripod anymore. In photoshop I crop, curve, level, sharpen and saturate slightly to get the true colour I remember from the shoot. I find the Canon sensor is a bit understated for colour saturation but at the same time I’m careful not to overstate the colours in processing.

Q. What’s your relationship to the city?
A. I love it. I want to grow old in it and watch it change and expand. It pains me when people so blatantly show their dislike for it like our current mayor. He’s done more to destroy this city than anyone in his position has done in the past. I also think that cities in general –Toronto included– get a bum deal. After all, this city is a safe, vibrant, caring place to be. People outside the city are so ill informed about the actual nature of urbanity. I grew up in the suburbs, and a friend once captured a belief that I still hold. You live in the city or the country but why live in between? Don’t get me wrong, the city can be a drag at times, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything right now. I also mean no disrespect to the suburban, I’m just saying it’s not for me.

Seriously, the city is painted as unfriendly, cold, callous, dangerous and expensive. I’d argue these ideas are simply misconceptions. The city is arguably expensive, but I’m comfortable investing in culture than square footage any day. Our house is too big for us, but we’re also very lucky to even have a house. We couldn’t afford one in today’s market where we are. We have some furniture and we have art. We could get a bigger place in the suburbs but I wasn’t cut out to be “suburban”. I don’t need more space or more stuff.

I could go on an on, but the biggest reason I prefer the city is it’s socialist or humanist nature. Since I’ve lived in the city my sense of community and neighborliness has increased exponentially from my twenty years in the suburbs.

Q. Do you shoot film?
A. I shot film for about twenty years. As soon as digital came along I was in heaven. I’m not a photo purist. I respect technical ability in anyone, but it’s not my interest. I’m more interested in feeling that the image I want when I take it is captured. I dislike the uncertainty of film and the temperamental nature of processing. The time lag is also somewhat separating for me. I hate waiting to work an image. I also dislike darkroom work. I was never good at it and always had an aversion to the chemicals. Add to that the fact that I could never produce a final product that I was happy with when I was a kid and I never bothered to fully invest in the practice to get better. I really do just like shooting and thinking about finished images. Digital works great for me and I’m fairly competent in Photoshop with simple manipulation. I have a 4 x 5 that a friend gave me to use, and so far I’ve been thinking about it and know I’ll shoot 4 x 5 before I’m done, but right now it’s just not top of my list.

I’m also not interested in perfect clarity. I’m fine with a bit a noise, or a slight focus problem. I’ve recently come to appreciate the quote that “sharpness is a bourgeoisie concept”. I can’t claim to take that statement by Henri Cartier-Bresson completely serious though, because I’m middle class and I’m dealing in a cultural commodity. I’m also pretty anal with my images and I do like a degree of clarity.

Q. Is there a spiritual aspect to your work or an underlying philosophy?

A. Hopefully my work is about simplification and purity of vision. I like to associate it with words like; math, Zen, fixation, peace, serenity and compulsiveness. I really do love the mundane, still, image. Minimalism and formalism are definitely at my works core. In particular I’ve always been drawn to what I’ll call minimal and formalist painting like that of of Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Albers, Agnes Martin, and Sol LeWitt. There are a bunch of others, but those are the names I know the best.

In a way I’m trying to slow things down, I think the cliche “stop and to smell the roses” is great, only my roses tend to be a bit dirty and — more often than not– smell like motor oil or garbage and no one really looks at them.

Q. How do you get access to some of the interior locations?
A. Usually I don’t. For this show’s fifteen images I never accessed anything that anyone couldn’t have by walking by. Even the interior shots are taken from outside those spaces through the glass. Gaining access is a real downer for me and more often than not it disappoints and frustrates me. Given that I’m also uncomfortable taking advantage of a situation or going where I’m not suppose to go it makes it difficult. I hate confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs. My earlier shows based on the subway or school systems relied on legal permissions and I didn’t want that to be an aspect of this body of work. Someday it would be awesome to be successful enough that I could get someone to do the work of getting me access to places. For now though I don’t need it.

Q. What inspires you?
A. Early on it would have been other image makers. The painters, the writers and to some degree photographers. I tend to see less photography now that I’m seriously producing it. I find it difficult to get passed the idea of original thought and there are so many photographers doing such good work the odds of me originating an idea executed by another photographer is rather frustrating. I’m working to realise you can’t work in a vacuum but to help me avoid those feelings of disappointment I prefer to look at painting, sculpture, performance and drawing instead of photography. At one point I would say film and literature inspired me, but lately I’ve almost completely stopped looking at movies and reading. By avoiding a lot of photography, if I do come up with something and execute it then happen to see similar work I’m OK. I’ve executed and who cares that there are similar projects out there.

I do think that the work of some amazing photographers has become part of my subconscious and without ever seeing it again it informs how I see the world. I would never be shooting what I’m shooting if I hadn’t seen or read about these artists. My list of big names would include; Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Jeff Wall, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Lyne Cohen, Edward Burtynsky, Robert Polidori, and Andreas Gursky to name a few.

Currently I’m inspired by almost anything I see.

Q. Do you have a favourite image from the series?
A. No. There are four or five of the fifteen I think about all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re my favourites. I also think about the images I didn’t include that could possibly have made the cut for January. I got input from the gallery on the final selection because I felt a bit too close to the work. I have no trouble editing down to a certain level but then I like help to figure out what someone –who’s not me– likes or doesn’t like. For this show we didn’t include a few pictures I felt were pretty good, but I agreed somewhat with someone else’s comments and I really needed to cut a few. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the images we didn’t include anymore, but I really appreciate the external opinion. I don’t necessarily get criticism on any honest level. It would be nice to hang out at a show and be a fly on the wall. If people don’t like the work they tend to clam up and not say anything. Sometimes that’s disappointing. I like talking about myself and the work. I kid myself that I’d even like to do that if someone really dislikes the images. Truth is I don’t have the thickest skin yet. I’m self conscious about my work.

Despite this though I really should say that my current favourite image is Club Monaco – Bloor and Avenue Road. This isn’t because I want it hanging in my house any more than the others, but because there’s a bit of a narrative to it. It might be a bit of a new direction.

Q. When was the work for Wandering shot?

A. The earliest image is from the beginning of 2012, but the majority of work here was shot in 2012 and this year. Once I put my head down and decided to book a show I needed work to fill the walls. This forced me back to the street and back to looking. In the past I’ve created the work and then booked a show, but I was dragging my ass so badly that I seriously thought I was going to give it all up. I realized then I love being an artists and really want to continue. I didn’t want to fail because of a mental glitch. Sometimes a goal is a good way to get your ass in gear especially when it’s sort of self-inflicted. I would also never let my gallery down. They’ve been pretty amazing to me. I’m happy with this work, and it never would have happened if I didn’t really look at myself and realize I was in serious danger of fucking up an opportunity that millions of people never get. That quite simply I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be an artist. I really believe that it’s a totally privilege and not a right. I bet I get in trouble for saying that.

Q. What’s next?

A. I have a list of projects that I’ve been compiling on my website. It started out as a notebook on my phone, but I eliminated about 90% of the ideas because I felt they were sort of lame. There are about 100 post on my site that go through a range of ideas and about fifty percent of those are involving photography. There are six or seven photography projects that I’ll definitely pursue, but I need to finish the studio in the basement first. I’m more interested lately in retreating from the streets a bit and focusing on some weirder projects that are photo based.

As for more traditional projects I’m still very interested in expanding on the Learning series of educational architectural picture. for that matter anything I’ve done already I’d like to continue to develop and shoot. That includes the subway. I’d love to get into the London underground for a month or so. I’d also like to expand on the hospital images I’ve shot and maybe get access to any other more institutional places. I’m fascinated with the older architecture somewhat ubiquitous in the public institutional world.

Q. What’s your favourite colour?
A. Orange

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Toronto Spring 2013

The following is an ongoing series of images I’m working. I post to the site so I can get comfortable with things and then edit them.

 

May 19th, 2013. Took the bicycle out to the Bloor and Bay area. On the way I stopped at the school across Bloor from Christie Pits. This is the view from the lower courtyard of the school across Bloor to the trees in Christie Pits.

Deeper inside the school complex is a covered courtyard. It’s pretty decrepit being used mainly by kids and skateboarders and of course being a public school they have no cash to fix it up. It’s dated and slightly dark under the canopy where the next shot is taken, but I’ve always been drawn to this spot. I’ve visited 10 or 12 times in the past 15 years. Both these shots depict the relatively rough but functional aesthetic I associate with Ontario Public Schools.

Just south of Bloor on St Thomas and Charlers is an empty Condo sales office. It’s for the Minto building called the St. Thomas. I think empty it’s probably vastly more exciting than the building they plan to construct.

I’ve been peering in the window of the old Escada retail store on Bloor for weeks. I was rewarded Sunday by the deconstruction below. I love the hanging fluorescent lights that have been left on. It’s like a found Dan Flaven that he put together when he was drunk.

Directly across the street from the abandoned Escada store is the old Louis Vutton store. Hoarding went up this week. I’ll probably ditch this image but it’s interesting in a way. There’s something I definitely don’t like about it though.

I’ve been stopping at the Club Monaco store at Bloor and University every now and then for years. I finally caught something I liked. That’s a bit of an understatement, I really love this shot. The reflections in the windows, pine tree, empty pack of smokes, scantily clad mannequin and the classically inspired conservative architecture all work nicely together.

The neighbouring window isn’t quite as cool but I still like it.

Previously…

The shot above and below were taken May 9th on my ride to work.

It’s taken through a window of what was once a very dodgy variety store on Pape a few blocks north of Danforth. I’m always surprised by the refusal of this entire road to gentrify. I’m not quite sure why this is. In the last 15 years nothing much has happened but I’m sure a whole whack of people with money have moved into the area. I don’t think everything should be subject to crazy gentrification, but this street is just sad for some reason. That said someone has laid a new floor in this place since I last shot it, removed the ceiling and in general cleared the whole thing out. Me thinks something cool will go in here.

This image also gave me another idea. I was thinking I might emulate the leaning plywood in a studio setting and see if I could start to “construct” images like the one above but with echos of famous geometric paintings in the way the panels of plywood are arranged. I may even just simply build constructions against a white studio backdrop like the one above. I simply love the way the plywood works like layers of paint.

I really like the image below, It wasn’t intentionally shot to be funny, but when I think of it in terms of Joshua Jensen Nagle’s wonderful polka dot work it makes me smile. My fascination with concrete, concrete block and emptiness is unbounded. Note the wonderful piece of crumpled material on the floor. I didn’t notice that until I processed the image.

The shot following appeals to my sense of the square geometric space again. Here the picture plane is sweetly dissected into four relatively equal panels, each with their own uniquely simply subject matter. I’m also making a dig at one of my favourite photographic pet peeves, black and white.

Friday the 3rd of May I took my sweet ass time getting to work on the bicycle. It was so amazing out. The first day of t-shirt and shorts riding. One of my stops was Bloor. Thanks goodness there’s a new Tiffany’s going in. The old one was so ghetto. The ring they’re advertising on the hoarding looks like a good buy. I love the fact that even Tiffany’s has to do construction and use hoarding. Hoarding is the great equalizer.

A very obscure self-portrait in an vacant Bloor shop. You can just make out the yellow t-shirt. I find the interlaced corner of this empty window display engaging. There’s something pin-wheel in the overlapping nature that I’d like to explore further.

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Sketching

Sketching is rough work. Now that the weather has turned I’m making a concerted effort to get out and wander again. It helps to post and look at things for a while on the site before I decide if they’re their crap or if they have potential.

The goal now is to continue this so I’m getting out every day.

After thinking about it for about a month and passing by it about 20 times I went back to shoot Postal Station E Dovercourt and Bloor. The draw is a combination of the flat aluminum framework, the old school 60s modern aesthetic, the porous warmth of the concrete, the tarp obscuring the interior, the reflection of Dovercourt in the glass and that I use to collect stamp. It may seem strange but these 2 pics are loaded images to me in so many ways. I also just like how they look for some reason. I cropped and processed this today on the 20th of April and shot it about a week ago. The earlier image down at the bottom of the post was done about three weeks ago. It’s crazy how the angle and framing is the same. I really do have a weird way of repeating things almost perfectly.

This weekend was definitely spring like. It’s the 7th today and I managed a few shots I like. Nothing too out of my wheelhouse here but some shots that might have some staying power.

 

The following were taken last weekend the 29th of March.

Wallace Emerson Community Centre – Taken through one of the widows in the gymnasium complex which is the north building. The paper cut outs caught the light of spring nicely. I also like the awkward positioning of the coat rack and interior widows. You can see a slight reflection in the bottom left hand corner created by the exterior widow I rest the camera lens on to take the photograph.

Grand Touring Automobiles on Dupont Outbuilding – Situated between the car dealership and the Faema building at the corner of Dupont and Christie is a beautiful old school building. I’m not sure what it was before the dealership was there, but it looks turn of the century. It looks like the dealership now uses it for special events. It’s empty inside except for a desk and some advertising posters for the cars. This is a view form outside through an east window looking across through the interior space with the dealership proper shown outside the window. A painting of a Bentley on the floor captures the artificial light from the ceiling above nicely. I like this image, but I am extremely indifferent to cars. They are definitely useful sometimes to get from point A to point B, but other than that I find them to embody a lot of what’s wrong with the world. Particularly; pollution, war for oil; arrogance, superiority and other extremely embarrassing aspects of masculinity.

Postal Station E Dovercourt and Bloor – Now Closed. Can the postage stamp be that far off from following in the steps of the penny? I can’t remember the last time I posted a letter or retrieved an important one from the mailbox. The Canadian Postal Service can’t survive for much longer can they?

 

 

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The Tree

The Tree images were taken several months apart. The first image was taken during the summer of 2012, the second in October of the same year and the third one in early February 2013.I think about this tree every day. I like it.

It’s secluded but steadfast.  A big part of the attraction for me is that the evergreen hasn’t changed whatsoever over the two or three months between these images but the landscape has moved from summer through the beginnings of autumn and now we’re fully entrenched in winter. The OCD part of me wants to keep shooting this tree every few months for the rest of my life. It’s pretty easy for me to get to, but I doubt it’s a destination point for anyone else with the possible exception of the tow truck drivers who sit waiting for DVP accidents to happen.

This sort of thing has been done a lot. Shooting the same scene at different times. This particular project however could move more in the direction of performance. I’d like to do several things that involve the tree. I like the idea of walking around it in either the fresh snow, or just in the summer to wear a path in the grass. Maybe some time I could drape the tree in material, or decorate the tree for Christmas. I can also shoot the image at night with some sort of portable light source. There’s an inexhaustible amount  I can do while keeping the frame of the image the same.

The series would be about time and steadfastness. The tree doesn’t change, nor even appear to age over the course of years.

I worry though that I’ll become more attached to the tree and if anything does happen to it there will be some trauma.

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Landscaping

Landscaping is the tentative title for new work that explores the nature of the city — literally. This series will hopefully end up being a combination of observations about traditional ideas of beauty and nature but within the context of the metropolis that’s filtered through my perception. At it’s simplest Landscaping is meant to be a celebration of the city and it’s idiosyncrasies. Like my previous work it will be populated by cenes and locations that people don’t typically know, or take part in. These are not secrets, but to me their a big part of the the mystery, and a key element to why I love the city.

I could call this series Commute. All of these images are taken from either my bicycle or  TTC trip  to the day job everyday. There are shots along the Bloor West Bike Path, inside the traffic islands that are created by the 4 entry/exit ramps at Eglington and the DVP, along The Lower Don Path, and from the street at Yonge and Bloor.

Landscaping, like previous work is a bunch of observations of the mundane, and pedestrian: elements of our day to day lives in the city that hold little interest to the mass but capture my imagination and optimism. These are small moments but I love them.

 

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I Could Never Live in the City

I imagine it’s a common refrain: “I could never live in the city”. It’s a shame if it is because Toronto is just so crazy beautiful.

This is a view of the Rosedale Valley Road at about 7:30 a.m Friday morning, the 7th of September. It’s taken from a bridge just west of the Castle Frank subway station. Underneath all the trees is a steep and winding 2 lane road that links the east end of the city to the core.

I’m elated with this image. It’s definitely a departure from subways and public schools but it still relates to my earlier work. these images are still about noticing things that others might not, celebrating the beauty, and in a way embracing the city.

The other thing I love about this image is that I think it captures the aesthetic of Romantic painters like those of the the Hudson River School. I didn’t set out to do that when I took the picture. I think this is funny and somewhat strange considering my friend Andrew Wright referenced another romatic painter –Caspar David Freidrick– about a year ago in a photo he took that I love.

Thisnis an arial view of the Don River Valley from the Millwood Valley bridge that I shot about 20 minutes later. This one reminds me of the cover for Power Corruption & Lies by New Order which is a reproduction of the painting Basket of Roses by Henri Fantin-Latour.

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Islands, Holes and Paths

Islands, Holes and Paths is a result of changing my route to work. I now take a path that takes me intentionally out of my way, but for the majority of the trip, off the city streets. I’ve increased the distance of the one way journey to the office by about 7km. my trip has gone from about a 17km to somewhere around 25km. This takes me on bike path’s for 80% of my journey and I find it a much more civilized start to the day. It’s a bit more of an effort but I’m hoping my body will grow accustom to the extra time and distance.

My first sight of Lake Ontario is at the bottom of Jamison Avenue. A man made harbour –created by a rock breakwall– protects the shore line from the big part of the lake and within it’s protective shadow people are out sculling at this time of the morning. There’s a canoe club not far away. Of course I’m not too interested in the people. I’ve always been interested in the lines that split lake and sky, lake and shore, and the photographic rendering of these lines.

After making my way across the Lakeshore in front of Queen’s Quay I begin the climb North up the Valley beside the river and the Parkway, heading towards Eglington and the Science Centre shadowing the Don River. There are a ton of well-worn pathways carved into the underbrush all over the place that I think have been created by vagrants and kids.I’d like to do a series of photographs called Islands, Holes and Paths. I’ll seek out the elements for it on my daily trips. href=”http://chrisshepherd.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_8071.jpg”>

The trip is about 90 minutes of amazing. One spectacular part of the journey is being completely immersed in a world that’s so not-like-the-city in the heart of the city. I bet these open fields and meadows are unknown to about 98% of the population. There’s a lot of traffic heading south down toward the core, but not much going up with me which suits me just fine. I can pass by joggers, walkers, bikers, not to mention streams, rabbits, the Bloor Viaduct, and tons of other stuff. I love this trip. The Tree. Later in the trip when I was only a few km from the science centre I found the tree. This image works for me on a number of levels. Most simplistically it depicts nature in an obviously unnatural setting. I think this is a common theme for me, there’s a bit of humor and a bit of sadness.
The other neat thing about this series of images is the similarity in colors and lighting. Although each is taken in a totally different location they all have the same feel.


Finally this image brings it all home. I’ve passed these buildings when riding on the road for years. seeing them from here is rather disorienting. Again like the awkwardness of the tree by the off ramp, these buildings seem strangely natural and unnatural at the same time.

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Vacancy 4

The photographs that make up Vacancy 4 were shot this amazing Sunday, morning in the King and Spadina area.

Sometimes I like to revisit old ghosts. Three of the following Vacancy images where shot at a building that I’ve visited 5 or 6 times over the last 10 years. It’s been a presentation centre for condos, ticket office for Tiff before the Lightbox existed and a very long time ago -when I worked on Peter Street- it had been an auto garage. Today it’s in the process of being reconfigured as a presentation centre for the abysmally named “Tux” condos. The photo above was taken through the glass of the north side entrance doors to the building, looking south through the main entrance hall at the presentation desk.

This photograph shows an empty area on the east side of the building facing Peter Street. I’m sure in time it will be filled with designer furniture, pictures of models in expensive formal attire and maybe even a realistic architectural model of the building. I like this image with the 8:00 a.m. Sunday July 8th light pouring in and the paper airplane inspired ceiling decoration. This paper airplane motif is repeated in all the design elements of the architectural renderings for Tux.

Here’s another view of the same interior vacancy from the east side looking directly at the presentation desk. You can see me taking the picture in the reflection of the building’s exterior behind the desk. I’m standing with the camera pressed against the glass window .

This is the last incarnation of this particular building. Strangely enough Tux is going to be situated on the very spot where this building presently sits.

The room below is an older vacant building on Charlotte Street. I was talking to a resident in the neighbouring building and he mentioned this place is slated to be demolished. No doubt more condo towers will replace it. I should have actually gone inside here and taken pictures but I hate confrontation so I opted for through-the-window shots like always despite there being a set of doors that were propped open with a shoe.

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Public 45

Public 45 (Art / Culture / Ideas) the summer issue is on sale now. The subject this issue is Civic Spectacle and it’s about an inch thick. The first piece is called Sleepless Nights: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Performance by Heather Diack. My Nuit Blanche 2010 piece The Task is discussed in that article alongside one of my all-time favourite artists John Sasaki and others. Sweet!

I found it rather shocking that The Task was so positively received. I mean there were people throwing shit at me and yelling stuff, but the majority of viewers found it somewhat engaging. The thing that really worked for me was that it was a simple idea. I believed in it, but it wasn’t bathed in rhetoric. Partly because I don’t have the vocabulary to do that, pertly because that’s not what it was about. It was what it was and I liked it. If I could produce more work like this I’d be happy. That’s sort of what this whole site is about. I want to use it as a sketchbook for ideas. I fond it useful to write things down, think about them, adjust and then either keep thinking about them or trash them. So far in the past it’s worked well. If I continue to think about an idea for months or longer it’s usually got some merit.

Now if I could only drag my ass out of this art lethargy I seem to be mired in and do some of the shit I constantly think about!

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Quadrilateral

The first real “walkabout” in 8 months. Not much to show for it but aching feet and proof that I’m obsessed with geometry. Although I do really love this image. It’s strange but I’ve been shooting this same “scene” for about 10 years. I think I finally captured why it interests me. Or I might be totally insane.

The following image is another reference to squares, but also a neat little homage to the student demonstrations in Quebec. I sat on the fence for the longest time about these demonstrations, now I’m fully on board. Education should be affordable, and governments should listen to the people that put them in power. To all the naysayers out there…just because we don’t have inexpensive post secondary education doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

Finally orange. A nice added little reflection of a bicycle in a picture that really does show a lot of why I like this city.

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Waiting

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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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