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.
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.
August 3 2015 East of Bathurst on the North side of Dundas West I found a newly vacated and very colourful interior. This was a place called Hair Essentials. It’s moved somewhere and there’s a note to say this in the front window, but I only took a cursory glance. As usual I shot this through that front window. This image is growing on me because it’s just so simple, linear and colourful. The repetition of “almost squares” in the square frame is pleasing to me as well. In particular I really like the white panel f paint on the rear wall and the rectangle of particle board visible in the lower right of the frame. I think I’ll print this if I can crop it a bit cleaner to remove more of the debris in the bottom left of the frame.
I keep thinking of painting and this shot of the treads and jams of a public school entrance way is an extension of that thought process. Built in the late 1930′s the simple stone is solid and nicely abstracted here. There’s a nice illusion happening that makes the composition ambiguous to some degree. The shades of grey, the varied surface textures, and the degraded lines of mortar also capture my attention. otherwise it’s pretty damn boring.
I’ve seen more of these glass pallets below since I first shot one about 8 months ago. They work well in a square frame and I’m drawn to them for some odd reason. They always appear slightly disheveled and well used. I’ve only ever seen them in green. This particular one is on the West Toronto Rail Path across from the newly constructed UP/GO station at Dundas West which incidentally is almost finished. In just a few more weeks it should be completed and still wildly unaffordable for most people.
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.
I made it down to Queen Street West on Saturday for another Vacancy shoot. I took the bike down for about 6:30 in the morning. It was so nice and quiet and I had the chance to stop in front of Convenience Gallery to check out Roula Partheniou’s show “five o’clock shadow”. I’m very glad I did. Despite the fact that it was way closer to 5:00 a.m. I’ve wanted to see this show since I saw the amazing picture that Tony Hafkenscheid took of the gallery from the street. If I can find a copy of that not taken from Facebook I’ll gladly post it. Anywho, her piece is awesome. It’s slightly scientific, but slightly whimsical. I really like it a lot. If you get a chance to check it out do so. You can walk by the galleryanytime because it’s basically an old convenience store window = accessible all the time. Lansdowne Avenue & Seaforth a block or two up from Queen.
I ended up locking the bike up in front of the crappy looking Bohemian Embassy building which is just across the street and in between The Drake and The Gladstone. I walked over to University then turned around and got half way back before hopping on a streetcar.
If there’s one thing I like about the Bohemian Embassy it’s the vacant stores. They’ve been trying to rent stuff for months, if not close to a year. It’s perfect subject matter for me. Empty, nondescript rooms in a modern boring building. I’ve shot them a couple time now.
I love the floor of drywall dust and the straightforward lines and crosses of the mudding in the drywall shot. The following were taken in the same strip of retail attached to The Bohemian Embassy.
These 3 images are basically black & white, without being black and white. Colour images that become ostensibly black and white just because of the nature of the material being shot. I have a thing against contemporary B&W. There are a ton of photographers who use it well, but there are thousands of photographers that just think for some reason it makes their work more artistic. I’m probably being a jerk, but I figure we progressed to colour over time, why shoot in B&W? The real problem I have is that the technique and style is overused. You could tie this conversation back to Roula’s show at Convenience, although I’m sure it wasn’t her intention, five o’clock shadow could thematically touch on that colourization vs black and white film discussion and how it pertains to contemporary photography.
The following images are from King Street, east of Jarvis taken June 5th on the way to work. Again these could easily be B&W. At the very least if Vacancy becomes a show there could be a series of monochromatic shots as one element of the whole. The complete show may simply be a series of high colour shots, monochromatic shots, and drastic contrast lighting shots. It’s not rocket science.
I’m working on the Vacancy photo series. Saturday was pretty successful for me. I got up at 5:30 and went exploring on the bike to St Clair Avenue. I found some stuff I liked so I’m calling this Vacancy 2. I’ll continue to shoot in batches and name them in sequence. I wonder if it’s just me and this series. It’s not very accesible.
I wasn’t inside most of these rooms. I simply take these shots through the glass of the front window or door. I have this complicated and awkward set up with an old tea towel that I have to wrap around the lens where it hits the glass. If I don’t do that I get a reflection of the lens barrel and parts of the street because of the sunlight and the typical construction of double pane glass. One day I’ll get a proper hood built that can attach to the lens and makes things efficient but this works for now.
I’d like to do more black work. A favourite from the work above is the piece that shows a set of partially obstructed windows surrounded by the darkness of the interior space. This uber-contrast is interesting me.
There’s also an image with a checkered floor. I’m a sucker for abandoned chairs in empty rooms, especially when they have checkered floors. I’m off again this first of June to find other forlorn strip of Toronto retail and some new Vacancy subjects. I imagine it will even be more deserted today. I might as well try Queen. It’s been a while since I shot down there. Usually when I venture to a place I haven’t been to for a while there are a ton of new Vacancies. I’m sure Queen street will be no different, however it’s more successful than St.Clair so there tend to be fewer empty places.
This is another ongoing series. I think I started shooting this stuff about 8 years ago.
The image above was taken quite a while ago. Since that time this little gallery on Queen near Symington has had the blinds drawn and I’ve never been able to capture it again. i’ve probably gone back a few times every year to check. I still really like this image, it’s about art, my aspirations, and the beauty and potential of emptiness.
The pictures in Outside are predominantly taken through window glass. I rest the lens directly on the window and it works as an ad hoc tripod or stabilization tool. This in turn allows me to shoot in low light for long exposures while still hand holding the camera. it gives me a nice depth of field which emphasizes the expository nature of my work. Expository is a word that David Balzer used to describe my Waiting series and I use it all the time now. It’s perfect.
This above piece was part of the Art Gallery of Mississauga’s Eat, Drink, Man, Woman show held last year. Tara Marshall was nice enough to select 3 pieces of mine for this thematic that focused on our relationships to food. This is taken in Little Korea. It’s a shot when the property was up for rent. Now it’s a fully functioning BBQ place. No more pink.
A vacant garage on Dundas West, west of Jane.
A decommissioned small police station on Davenport.
I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of this series.