Posted on November 14, 2012 by Marina
Our November art show exhibit, TorontoTransformed, is a favourite around the city. Toronto photographer, Harry Enchin showcases old versus new in this thought provoking series (on display until end of November).
Specifically, Enchin photographs modern day buildings, matching scenes with vintage images from the City of Toronto Archives resulting in a timeless harmony.
The photographs also include people – combining people of yesterday interacting with people of today causing a morphed reality.
But where did exactly the ideas for the pieces come from?
Photographer Harry Enchin explains the inspiration for his top 5 art works in the show:
During university work terms and summer jobs in Toronto I pursued photography as a hobby. I loved to photograph urban streetscapes, especially storefronts, in the neighbourhoods in which I lived and worked such as the Queen West arts area in Toronto of the early 1980s. The Beverly Tavern, The Black Bull, Nick’s Diner and the 24 hour donut shop and Queen and John in the 1980s were mainstays of my time in that neighbourhood. Being part of an extended family with roots in retailing, I had an affinity for retail store fronts and in one project photographed many of the store fronts along the Queen West strip. Little did I know but that exercise in documentary photography – in which I documented an urban area – may have been a precursor to what became the Toronto Moments In Time series some thirty years later!
Many years ago, I went for a drive in the city of Toronto with my mother to revisit the neighbourhood in which she grew up, the west end “Junction” neighbourhood of Toronto. There was obviously great change in what we observed since it was several decades after my mother had lived there and the family home was long gone. This trip stuck in my mind resulting in a desire to do something that would merge the “old” and the “new”. In recent years, my mother developed dementia including a loss of memory which furthered my interest in bridging the gap between “old” and “new” and evoking memory through art.
When constructing a narrative for a collage, I sometimes utilize an iconic image – a building, landmark or subject such as a newsstand – something that people can relate to. It always amazes me how many people identify with some subjects that are timeless such as a newsstand from decades ago. At art fairs, I have had many people come up to me and describe how their parent or grandparent used to sell newspapers, like the Telegram, at the corner of Bay and Front which is depicted in one of the images. In some cases, viewers have told me of multiple generations selling newspapers on the same corner. That led me to understand that an image can instantly bring back memories for the viewer whether of their direct experiences or of a story once told.
It’s funny that over the last couple of years of developing and showing the Toronto Moments In Time series at art fairs and Opening Receptions at galleries, people have come up to me to say their father, uncle, grandfather as the case may be, used to own “that building in the photograph”. If that were true then several families have laid claim to the same building! Funny how our memories work.
Two of the collages – Kops Records and Condom Shack – are interesting to me for a few reasons other than the location. While these collages explore the continuity of time and space, they are closer to the typical “then and now” shots that comprise most all rephotography, with one important twist. What is today the Kops Records store, more than eighty years ago was a used clothing store. And what was a second hand store, is now the Condom Shack. Pretty basic in execution, without people in the images, these juxtapositions focus the viewer on the subject matter. Retail use of these structures remains after almost a century. I wonder how many families can make claim to having owned these buildings!