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?
As a continuation of his acclaimed subway series that began with ‘Transitions’ in 2007 and ‘Waiting’ in 2010, Underground is an exciting revival of the subject that introduced Shepherd to the Canadian art scene. Encompassing imagery from his most recent exploration of both the Toronto and Montreal subway systems, the work is unified by the artist’s signature approach to lighting, composition and form.
Submerged from view in both Montreal and Toronto, the subways of each metropolis weave, burrow, anchor and nourish the structures and urban life aboveground. Montreal’s metro is the third busiest network in North America — behind only New York and Mexico. Toronto’s subway is a close second in size to Montreal, moving fewer people but reaching more stations than it’s Francophone sister. Underground is an exploration of both city’s subterranean networks, but rather than capturing the frenetic activity of each system, Shepherd instead turns our attention to the fleeting moments between the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures; the ignored hallways, staircases, platforms, mezzanines, tunnels and inanimate skeleton of the transit lines. Each image depicts quiet details of the everyday, resonating with a silent beauty that transforms the utilitarian spaces into painterly tableaus of contemplation. Shepherd describes his compositions as ‘”temporal blips in the consistent hustle and bustle of everyday life.” As part of an ongoing study, the images are inherently bound to the archives of each city, serving to document and re-document the chronological life-span of the spaces as they continually adapt to the changing needs of the urban-dweller.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Chris Shepherd began his artistic practice as a painter and studied art history, film and artistic practice at Ryerson, Waterloo and McMaster Universities. After moving to Toronto, he turned to photography as a means to familiarize himself with his new city. It was this process of exploration that piqued Shepherd’s interest in urban landscapes and led to a long-running fascination with the often passed-over or under-appreciated elements of metropolitan life. The serenity and reserve of Shepherd’s photographs often contrast with the locations they are depicting. Shepherd captures fleeting moments in time, whether they be a brief moment of quiet in the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures in the subway, or the fallow vacancy between tenants in commercial buildings.
Shepherd’s art has been exhibited across North America, and is included in major corporate collections in Canada including Seneca College, TD Bank and Bank of Montreal.
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
Transitions-Redux or simply subway photographs from back in 2008. These images were part of the shoot that made up the body of my first organized solo show Transitions. It was at Centennial College at the campus near Pape Avenue in the east end. I found this subsection of images in my archives and realised I had never looked at them as square crops. So I’ve re-worked them here. I’m sort of liking these all over again. A nice surprise.
Included above are images of St Claire, Ossington, Bay, Spadina, Bathurst, Islington, Lawrence, and St George stations.
Transitions was a big deal for me. It didn’t draw a lot of people, and nothing sold but if I hadn’t produced the work I would never have gone anywhere, never had a gallery. I can actually thanks David Mclyment for the kick-start. He was the one who offered and organized the show. He’s also a very nice man as well. I always meant to give him one of the images but I never got around to it. Despite my disappointment at the time that show was the beginning of everything. It’s nice to have the benefit of hindsight.
Someday maybe I’ll print some of this Transitions-Redux stuff. I’ve often thought about creating a book. If I could get it together and organize access to the Paris and London subways, I’m sure I could compile a book. I’ve even thought about doing a book of short stories by Toronto writers that at some point reference a subway station and the images would be like illustrations. Or a tourist guide based on subway travel. Maybe I should just self-publish. Although I will always hope to get to London, Paris and maybe Moscow to shoot their subways. What I really need is someone who can organize that sort of shit for me and then they take a cut of any sales or money I make. I wonder if artist do that sort of shit?
Create high quality, very costly, hand made jewelry based on TTC tiles. Make one set for each traditional old school tile colour and utilize the standard subway tile proportions. maybe do some one offs, a ring here, a necklace there in the incidental yet associated colors of the TTC.
The bracelets could be sterling silver. I picture each link to be a chunky high gloss silver rectangular brick with one open side, into which is sunk a ceramic mini-tile in the same proportion and colour as a actual subway tile.
Now I can picture a pretty huge ring as well, portrait style in a heavy silver setting. You could easily do more pieces as well including a necklace and pendant/obelisk earrings. Make it very chunky rather than elegant and petite. Maybe each element is the same size.
When taking the subway I wait until a train arrives that’s not completely rammed with people. I refuse to run or even walk quickly to catch a waiting train.
While waiting I look for ways to change my experience. To depart from the ritual. Sometimes I’ll buy coffee, or I’ll wait for three or four trains to pass. I’ll stand at different parts of the platform, or at different angles than the traditional passenger might. Different angles is so far my favourite