Monday, 18 June 2018

More Urban Wandering

“You can observe a lot by watching.”
- Yogi Berrra, Baseball Catcher

“These walks re-awakened in me a sense of perpetual wonder
in my surroundings – a perceptual skill typically available
only to experts and to the very young (not yet expert in being people).
Perhaps they will awaken wonder in you, too.”
- Alexandra Horowitz, author of
On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation.
(Scribner, 2013)

Alexandra Horowitz is one of those wise people who uses humour to make important points. She teaches canine cognition (!) and creative nonfiction at Barnard College in New York City. Her previous books – Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know and Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell – explore the world from a dog’s point of view. The book quoted above, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation, looks at similar territory but from a human point of view. And it is wonderful.

To quote the book’s blurb, “On Looking is structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighbourhood, with experts in a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, an artist, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer. What they see, how they see it, and why most of us do not see the same things reveal the startling power of human attention and the cognitive aspects of what it means to be an expert observer.”

One of the most enjoyable walks is the one led by her nineteen-month-old son. A delight!

In this blog, I have often written about my own enjoyment of urban wandering with a camera. As I glide my way through On Looking, I am constantly reminded about how the camera enhances my ability to observe. It’s as if the camera adds a layer of visual accountability to the walking. It puts my eyes and my brain on notice: ‘Pay attention! There are things you need to notice!’

With that admonition in mind, and channelling Alexandra Horowitz, I offer these ten photos from a recent trip to Toronto. The first four are urban images of life in Toronto. The last six come from a happy two hours I spent wandering around the vacant Unilever Soap factory near the mouth of the Don River. Parts of the huge plant had been taken over by Max Dean, a Toronto performance artist, photographer, and sculptor. Working in collaboration with Andrew Savery-Whiteway, Dean created an engagingly gritty urban installation that featured photographs, menacing mannequins, a stuffed moose, industrial safety tips, and a giant bubble machine. Great fun! The exhibit, called Still Moving, was part of the 2018 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.

Enjoy these images. Most of them won’t qualify for a Toronto Tourism brochure!

Next week, I plan to continue the theme of wandering with my camera, this time in the town of nearby Brighton, with the assistance of the American philosopher and wanderer, Henry David Thoreau.

Brewery, Dundas Street West

Mouth of the Don River

Underpass Park, Lower River Street

Reflections on the Don River 

The Abandoned Unilever Factory

Part of Max Dean's Still Moving

Part of Max Dean's Still Moving

Interior Stair Case Spiral

External Pipes and Valves

Hydro Towers and Pressure Gauges

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Naming and Remembering

“Words are the source of all power.
And names are more than just a collection of letters.”
- Rick Riordan, American Author

On Monday, April 23, Toronto was attacked. Just before 1:30 pm on a sunny afternoon, an angry young man drove his van up onto a sidewalk and started to mow people down. The rampage along Yonge Street south of Finch Avenue ended seven minutes later. Ten people were killed; sixteen were injured; an entire city was traumatized.

Suddenly, the van and truck attacks that Torontonians had read about in London, Barcelona, Muenster, Paris, Berlin, Nice, Stockholm, Jerusalem, Manhattan, Charlottesville, Columbus, and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu had landed home with a sickening thud. Alas, this wonderful city was not immune from the ravages of the 21st century.

The city came together magnificently – stories of heroism and generosity soon emerged, as did the stacks of flowers and makeshift shrines along the van’s 2.2 km trajectory.

And now, seven weeks later, the flowers and shrines have gone and a casual Yonge Street walker would not know that anything had happened. But it did, and the people whose lives were overturned that day will take a long time to heal.

As soon as I heard about the attack, I knew that I had to visit the site of the attack and walk that 2.2 km path myself. Call it an act of reclamation and healing. My way of paying respects. My way of adding a voice to the mending process.

I waited two weeks before visiting. These five photos flow from that visit. I’ve included the names of the ten people who died on April 23, two per photo. Their names are a cross section of Toronto’s wondrous diversity. In naming them and remembering them, I am striving – in a very small but concrete way – to honour their lives.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Celebrating Montréal, Part 2

“I love every blessed centimeter of Montreal.”
- Irving Layton, Poet (1912-2006),
 speaking about his hometown.

Sharing my enjoyment of Montréal continues. The photos this time reflect a wider vision of Montréal – more of its streetscapes and less of its art, except that so much of Montréal is a work of art. To say that I enjoyed wandering around this city and breathing in its energy would be an understatement.

I hope you enjoy these random souvenirs from my wanderings.

Erecting seats for the June 10th Formula One car race on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Île Notre Dame, Parc Jean-Drapeau

Biosphère de Montréal, Île Sainte-Hélène, Parc Jean-Drapeau.
Designed by Buckminster Fuller, this dome was the American pavilion at EXPO 67.

Tower of the Stade Olympique – “The Big O/The Big Owe” – designed by Roger Taillibert.

Concordia University, rue Bishop

Loungers on rue Sainte-Catherine, in front of Place des Arts

Bikes on rue Sherbrooke

Steps leading up to Oratoire Saint-Joseph

Steps leading around the base of Oratoire Saint-Jospeh

Cathédral-Basilica de Notre-Dame de Montréal

Calèche horse, Place d’Armes