I was born and raised in Toronto. And by the end of my teens I could hardly wait to leave. I moved to Montreal then England, with plenty of globe-trotting in between. 20 years later I came back to Toronto.
The return was bittersweet. Visually, the city depressed me. The blight of the ubiquitous construction site; the spate of quick-to-sprout, shiny new structures that all look the same; the dilapidation, the crumbling and cracking, the broken, the fading… Compared to say London, Kyoto, Cairo, or Turkey, Toronto appeared infantile, inelegant, impermanent, devoid of mystery, awkward even ugly. So with a note of irony I started taking photographs of the things I’d normally ignore, disregard, or dismiss: a gasoline rainbow, the reflection in a puddle, cracks in the pavement, a crooked old door, a dusty window, tangled wires and telephone poles, a broken bottle, a manhole, a pothole…
At first I felt that i was practicing a form of deception or sorcery when I imposed a frame around the plain and made it pretty— and this made me uneasy. But i was wrong to see it that way (and by wrong i mean shallow and vain) because it’s not in the artistry and framing, it’s in the act of looking, attentively, and less critically, that the prosaic reveals its quirks and charm, its humour, its poetry. That rusted nail, that paint splatter, that candy wrapper, and the soon-to-be-demolished-and-disappear-forever are eager to tell their story and show off their glory.
Now I see the city differently. And it reminds me of the word RESPECT. Because when it’s broken down it’s RE-SPECT as in RE-SPECTATE, as in to look again, to look anew. And so, Toronto, i respect you.