Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Scotiabank Contact 2012

The Contact Photography Festival sponsored by Scotiabank runs every year in the month of May across Toronto in the celebration of photos of a given annual theme. Exhibits can be found in a variety of venues including art galleries, museums, bars, cafes, restaurants and shops.  This year the theme is "Public" which seems pretty broad and generic, so its interesting to see how the various photographers interpret this. Although the photos are scattered all over the city, a healthy concentration of them can be found along Queen St West.

For the biggest bang for your buck (or your time I guess, since it is free), the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MOCCA) is a good place to start.  During Contact, the entire museum is dedicated to photography and there are multiple exciting exhibits to view.

 The one I found most memorable is Michael Wolf's "Toyko Compression".  When I first spotted them from afar, I thought, what a depressing bunch of people.  Getting closer, I realized these are commuters in Japan smushed inside a subway train on a rainy day, which totally explains their expressions.

Each frame of Bill Sullivan's triptych "Down" further reveals the occupants of an opening elevator door. 

Philippe Chancel's "Arirang" shows how the power of a totalitarian North Korea regime can bring a mass of people together to generate gorgeous art forms in the name of propaganda.  That Chancel's photos capture the scenes with such clarity is remarkable as you can identify the individual dancers and soldiers on the field and almost see the placards held by the audience in the stands to form the images.

On loan from the National Gallery of Canada, iconic images from photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helen Levitt, Leon Levin form an exhibit called "Street View" that captures life on urban streets.  I've always admired black and white photography and its emphasis on lighting, shades and shadows instead of colour.

Being a gallery dedicated to photography year-round, the Stephen Bulger Gallery is always good for a visit during Contact.  Two exhibits are currently on display.  Sanaz Mazinani's "Frames of the Visible" look like kaleidoscope images from afar but are actually made up of many tiny photos ranging from politicians (Bush, JFK), bikini blonds vs women wearing hijabs, and teens hanging out on the street.  The second exhibit is a subset of photos from Hank O'Neal's XCIA's Street Art Project, focusing on street art, mainly from New York City.

 Another highlight on Queen St West is the Rolling Stones retrospective at the Analogue Gallery.  It felt really strange to see the fresh innocent faces of the young musicians, looking much more like the Beatles in the early photos.

With so many more potential sites to see, it's a good thing this photo festival lasts a whole month.

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