20 must-see shows at Contact Photography Festival 2018


1. Shelley Niro: Scotiabank Photography Award

Ryerson Image Centre

We all know Niro from the AGO’s wry T-shirt series, but over her long career, the Mohawk artist from Six Nations Reserve has also brought her Indigenous feminist viewpoint to installation, film, painting, printmaking and more. Ryerson’s award survey includes sculptures, videos and cyanotypes with textiles and beading.

April 28-August 5 reception 7-11 pm April 27 artist talk 7 pm May 9 tour 6 pm June 13 and July 18

2. Trevor Paglen: Surveillance States

Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art

Paglen, whose art and writing focus on covert government and military ops, was the cinematographer for Citizenfour and has launched an artwork into permanent orbit as a message about our time to the future. Two videos here focus on surveillance sites in Britain and elsewhere, while still photos show skies dotted with drones and landscapes as depicted by monitoring algorithms.

May 4-June 16 reception 7-10 pm May 4

Charlie Harris_Contact2018.jpg

Carnegie Museum of Art

Schenley High School Students (1945), a photo by Charles “Teenie” Harris.

3. Charles “Teenie” Harris: Cutting A Figure: Black Style Through The Lens Of Charles “Teenie” Harris

BAND Gallery

Harris, an African-American studio photographer and photojournalist, lived in Pittsburgh during the mid-20th century, when working-class communities thrived alongside the steel mills. Selections from his extensive archive at the Carnegie Museum of Art document the style and self-presentation choices of Black community members, including LGBT people and cross-dressers.

April 26-June 7 reception 6-8 pm April 26

4. Shadi Harouni, Elise Rasmussen: With An Instinct For Justice

Doris McCarthy Gallery

Video, print and sculptural works by New York/Tehran-based Harouni and Brooklyn-based Canadian Rasmussen document acts of push-back against systems of power. A video by Rasmussen centres on the implications of rhino extinction, while Harouni homes in on personal resistance to erasure in Iran.

May 5-June 30 reception 2-5 pm May 5

5. Richard Mosse: The Castle

Arsenal Contemporary Toronto

Mosse, whose startling magenta-tinged infrared photos taken in Congo appeared at Contact 2012, here subverts another weapons-based technology, thermal imaging. His black-and-white composite still and video images of European refugee camps, including the notorious Moria on Lesbos, highlight how those trying to escape conflict remain targets.

April 26-June 9 reception 6-9 pm April 26

Sophia Al Maria_The Future Was Desert.jpg

Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line, Dubai

A still from Sophia Al-Maria’s video The Future Was Desert, Part II (2016).

6. Sophia Al Maria: Black Friday

Mercer Union

In her video Black Friday, the American-Qatari artist (the first recipient of the U.S. Dunya Art Prize for artists of Middle Eastern descent) turns a distorting lens on shopping malls in Qatar to illustrate her concept of hyper-capitalist Islamic “Gulf Futurism.” Another video installation, The Future Was Desert, contrasts the urban environment of Black Friday with the nation’s arid wastelands.

April 13-June 2

7. Sofia Mesa: Guardians

Allan Gardens Conservatory

The Toronto-based emerging artist works with a clothing initiative for low-income folks in the east downtown neighbourhood around Allan Gardens. Community members exposed images of their bodies onto textiles treated with blue cyanotype chemicals, a camera-less process used in Victorian times to capture botanical specimens.

April 20-May 31 reception noon-3 pm May 13

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Courtesy of the artist

Emeka Ogboh’s Wer Hat Angst Vor Schwarz (2017), from the Casino Baden-Baden series.

8. Emeka Ogbah: Wer Hat Angst Vor Schwarz: Casino Baden-Baden Series

The Power Plant

The Nigerian artist’s billboard complements his sound installation inside the gallery of African immigrants singing the German national anthem, which appeared at the 2015 Venice Biennale. The billboard is part of the artist’s ad campaign for his Sufferhead beer, a stout for Africans in Germany that he had made as part of Documenta 14.

To December 31

9. Seeping Upwards, Rupturing The Surface (group show)

Art Gallery of Mississauga

Prints, installation, video and GIFs by a dozen female artists, including Erika DeFreitas, Lotte Meret Effinger and Zhu Tian, riff on the “sad girl theory” of Audrey Wollen, which reframes young women’s displays of negative emotion as a form of resistance.

May 3-June 17 reception 6-9 pm May 3

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Untitled Image 2 (2017), a photograph by Lacie Burning from the Reflection Series.

10. Lacie Burning, Dayna Danger and Jade Nasogaluak Carpenter: Forward Facing

Critical Distance Centre for Curators

In this partnership between the gallery and the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, photos, video, craft and installations by three Indigenous women play with the idea of the mask, commenting on how masks function in contemporary Indigenous culture.

April 21-June 3 reception 2-4 pm April 21

11. Sunil Gupta: Friends And Lovers – Coming Out In Montreal In The 70s

Stephen Bulger Gallery

Gupta moved from India to Canada with his family and has lived in New York and London, where he is now based. He’s continued to document gay life since the 70s in North America, Europe and India. These youthful works, some made for Montreal’s GayZette newspaper, began his photographic career.

April 21-May 26 reception 2-5 pm April 28

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Jordun, a photo from Quil Lemons’s Glitterboy.

12. Quil Lemons: Glitterboy


Street-level windows at the Toronto HQ of 500px, a worldwide online community of photographers, display the Philadelphia-based artist’s portraits of Black men adorned with glitter, images that challenge racial and gender stereotypes common in media representations of Black masculinity.

May 1-31

13. Max Dean: Still Moving

East Harbour, Unilever Soap Factory

In a room in a derelict industrial building containing a giant bubble-making machine, Robotic Chair creator Dean and collaborator Andrew Savery-Whiteway present photographs starring and ostensibly taken by mannequins who’ve escaped from the Wilderness Adventure log ride at Ontario Place.

May 4-June 3 open noon-6 pm Friday-Sunday reception 2-6 pm May 5

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Courtesy of the artist

14. Laird Kay: Wonder

462 Eastern (former bread factory)

Like the nearby Max Dean show, this exhibit is a passport into an empty east-end factory awaiting condofication. Kay turns his camera away from his favourite subject, airplanes, to shoot interiors and equipment in Weston’s Wonder Bread bakery.

May 10-20 open 10 am-4 pm Saturday-Sunday

15. Scott Benesiinaabandan: newlandia: debaabaminaagwad

Ryerson University, Gould at Bond and Devonian Square

The Anishinabe artist’s abstract images use algorithms to combine photos of two monuments – the Egerton Ryerson statue and rocks in the skating pond – with flags of three First Nations. Mounted on the sidewalk around the statue and on the rocks, they offer a counter-narrative that acknowledges their Indigenous legacy.

April 25-August 5

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A screengrab from Bad Stars (2017), an animated gif by Christina Battle.

16. Christina Battle: Bad Stars

Trinity Square Video

The London, Ontario-based artist continues her investigation of disaster, using as a jumping-off point collages made with images collected from artists, scholars and activists. A team of contributors will present strategies to move toward active responses to environmental destruction.

May 4-June 9 reception 6-8 pm May 4

17. Laurie Kang: A Body Knots

Gallery TPW

The Toronto artist – inspired by the field of epigenetics, which looks at the relationship of DNA and environment – questions the assumptions of photography in her camera-less prints made without fixative, which become evocations of skins on changing bodies.

May 5-June 9 reception 2-5 pm May 5

18. Samer Muscati: Uprooted And Dispossessed: Portraits Of Women Caught In Conflict And Colonialism

Hart House

An example of the kind of work explored in Ryerson Image Centre’s excellent, recently closed Collaboration exhibit, photographs by Human Rights Watch women’s rights researcher Muscati help him bond with women in refugee camps and conflict zones and process their harrowing testimony.

May 2-31

19. Aida Muluneh: Reflections Of Hope

Aga Khan Park

In Ethiopian-born Canadian photojournalist Muluneh’s outdoor installation, African women with vividly painted faces pose against geometric backgrounds. She comments on contemporary and historical events relevant to the African diaspora and on media misrepresentation of African women.

April 27-June 29


Courtesy of Pari Nadimi Gallery

Matilda Aslizadeh’s Moly and Kassandra: Value (2018), a photo on archival pigment print and metal leaf.

20. Matilda Aslizadeh: Moly And Kassandra

Pari Nadimi Gallery

The Vancouver-based artist, whose works are a hybrid of video, photography and animation, places the warning figure of Kassandra, dressed as a fashion plate from 1979 (which Aslizadeh identifies as the beginning of neo-liberalism), in open pits left by molybdenum mining.

May 10-June 30 reception 6-9 pm May 10

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