With the weather finally turning warmer, many of us are once again unlocking our front door and taking walks through Toronto for leisure. We might even take some pictures of the blossoming flora adding colour and life to the city. If you’re a fan of photography, or you just like taking and looking at pretty pictures, then the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival is the must-see event of the month for you.
Running till May 31 (with numerous exhibitions extending further into summer), CONTACT is free to attend and also happens to be the world’s largest photography festival. In its 15th year, CONTACT 2011 showcases works by over a thousand Canadian and international photographers at over 200 venues across Toronto, including the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MoCCA), the University of Toronto Art Centre (UTAC), and the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
The curated photos are connected by this year’s festival theme: Figure and Ground. In a nutshell, the works all explore the relationship between human beings and their environment, whether it be a pastoral setting, the urban centre, or interior spaces. Through the photographer’s lens, we see the tension between people and their surrounding space. How do our behaviours and lifestyles affect nature, landscapes, buildings, and other spaces? What traces and effects do we leave behind on the earth? The festival provides multiple answers to these questions.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the most anticipated exhibitions at CONTACT 2011:
- Dynamic Landscapes by Olga Chagaoutdinova, Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Viviane Sassen, Dayanita Singh, at the MoCCA Main Space (952 Queen St. W): four female artists from around the world (Africa, Canada, Russia, India) deliver their take on the Figure and Ground festival theme, examining human interaction with environments ranging from the Arctic north, barren desert, to moonlit cityscapes.
- Oil by Edward Burtynsky, at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park): an internationally revered Canadian photographer, Burtynsky’s exhibition at the ROM focuses on our use of the namesake fossil fuel, from extraction, the automotive and transportation industries, to waste yards and oil spills.
Men in the Cities by Robert Longo, at Metro Hall (King St. W at John St.): recognized for his pencil drawings of figures fiercely contorted in thrilling poses, for CONTACT 2011 Longo places his photographed human subjects in business clothes, twisting in front of city landscapes, making the audience look at everyday metropolitan life in a strange new way.
- Untitled Work by Lynne Cohen, at Olga Korper Gallery (17 Morrow Ave.): one of three artists nominated for the first-ever Scotiabank Photography Award (valued at $50,000), Cohen’s work depicts ordinary public and private interiors like classrooms, spas, and labs, except they are completely devoid of people. Suddenly, these abandoned everyday spaces look unfamiliar and spooky, and we see these constructed objects and structures in a new light.
For a complete listing of exhibited works and venue locations, visit the Scotiabank CONTACT festival official site.
All photos courtesy of Scotiabank CONTACT festival.