Toronto’s photography venues continue to grow and change
Remember when photography was the poor relation of painting and sculpture? Forget about it. Efforts by Toronto local galleries founded in the 70s and 80s to give photography a seat at the visual arts table have been a huge success, and today photos sell for top dollar and form part of most museum and gallery holdings.
While some galleries still thrive on photography alone, others originally founded as photo galleries are broadening their focus and bringing other media into the fold.
Artist-run centres Gallery 44 (401 Richmond West, suite 120, 416-979-3941) and Gallery TPW (56 Ossington,416-645-1066), for example, are showing video during Contact. Providing digital and analog work space for members, 44 also holds workshops on photo techniques, artistic practice and curating.
The gallery now combines time-based media (film, video and sound installations) with photography.
Check out 44 members
during Contact at Gallery 1313 (1313 Queen West, 416-536-6778).
Gallery TPW, originally Toronto Photographers Workshop, founded Harbourfront’s photo gallery. It’s now primarily a venue for Canadian and international work that engages in dialogue between photography, time-based media and new technologies. It still sells photos in its Photorama fundraiser and Silver Editions portfolios.
Photo By Frank Nagy
Stephen Bulger Gallery (1026 Queen West, 416-504-0575) has not jumped on the time-based-media bandwagon, but Bulger believes that the vogue for the moving image has brought a new generation back to still photography. He likes work that has a narrative element, and has rediscovered forgotten photographers like Quebec’s John Max.
Art at Corkin Gallery (55 Mill, 416-979-1980) has always dealt with themes of environment, identity and consumerism.
Jane Corkin brought in international art when the local scene was much more insular, and championed once-emerging photographers like Barbara Astman and Thaddeus Holownia.
In this “post-label” era, she also shows painting and video. Exhibits from her extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century photos allow you to see classic prints up close
Edward Burtynsky founded Toronto Image Works (80 Spadina, 416-703-1999) as a photo lab for large-scale archival-quality prints, and now has a printer that uses a roll of paper 5 feet wide. Lack of demand for its analog darkrooms allowed the small gallery to expand into its current space. Programmed by Bernice Lyons Page and Jeannie Baxter, Image Works shows journalistic and art photography by practitioners of all ages. Courses are offered as well.
A recent addition to the lab/gallery category is Pikto (55 Mill, 416-203-3443), which also holds workshops. Opened in 2003, the gallery currently focuses on conceptual work and is looking at ways to incorporate video and installations.
Founded in 1999 to address the effects of digital imaging and the convergence of still and motion-picture technology, Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art (401 Richmond West, 416-591-0357) exhibits photo, media and digital installations and brings in under-represented international artists. It has an audio gallery and a public reference library, and publishes biannual magazine Prefix Photo, which includes portfolios and thoughtful writing that casts a wide net over the international art scene.
Every art school has photography courses, but powerhouse Ryerson School of Image Arts has the Mira Godard Study Centre (122 Bond, 416-979-5000 ext 6843), custodian of almost 300,000 mid-century journalistic photos from New York’s Black Star agency, plus a large archive of historical images. Digital prints from Black Star are at Brookfield Place (formerly BCE Place) during Contact, but the big excitement is the as-yet-unnamed museum of photography Ryerson plans to open in 2010, which will provide climate-controlled exhibition space for its collection and touring shows.
Michael Torosian of Lumiere Press (www.lumierepress.com), the world’s only fine press devoted to hand-printed and -bound books on photography, is working with Ryerson on a volume celebrating the new museum. You won’t find his limited-edition books, printed on a 1920s letterpress, in your local bookstore, but some Lumiere titles can be perused in the Toronto Reference Library’s rare books section.
Another unique publishing venture, the Magenta Foundation puts out Flash Forward, a yearly juried volume of portfolios submitted by photographers under 34 from Canada, the U.S. and UK. An exhibition accompanies its October launch, and Magenta has started putting out a similar annual for painters and a yearly monograph (last year, Greg Girard’s Phantom Shanghai). It also promotes emerging artists at magentatelevision.com.
The City of Toronto Archives (255 Spadina, 416-397-5000) preserves photos gleaned from government documents, personal bequests, architects’ records and more. A current exhibit features the 1857 panorama of Toronto that inspired Michael Redhill’s novel Consolation, and it’s easy to register as a researcher and access the rest of the collection.
If Contact gets you hooked on photography, these are some of the resources that can keep you going after the May blowout, and local photographic culture will only grow richer in the future.