Tag Archives: photography

Ice Fishing Architecture

(All photos below by Richard Johnson.)

While the Canadian Maritimes are bracing themselves from Snowmaggedon 2015, we find someone who actively seeks out winter culture. Turning his attention from his usual commercial assignments, architectural photographer Richard Johnson travels coast to coast across Canada’s expansive landscape to photograph ice fishing huts.

For the last 8 years, Toronto-based Johnson has photographed 725 ice huts in 9 provinces. He shoots these wintry scenes on overcast days, so as to avoid shadows. When you factor in weather and time to scout out locales, he is left with only 2 weeks a year to capture these solitary figures.

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Ontario-2

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Saskatchewan-1

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Saskatchewan-2

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Manitoba-2

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Manitoba-3

Each hut is photographed frontally, centred in a square format. The horizon line is a consistent strike across each image, represented by the distant shore or a row of faraway trees. This straightforward “objective” point of view recalls the architectural images or typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher who documented edifices like cooling towers and storage silos.


A section of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Coal Bunkers.

The minimalist approach of Johnson’s photography invites viewers to compare and contrast the huts’ varying characteristics. Some enclosures are more engineered —a modified trailer tricked out with solar panels—while others are assembled ad hoc —a plastic tarp draped over a frame of two-by-fours. Though they generally adhere to the basic, archetypal house shape, regional idiosyncrasies emerge: 4’x8’ sheet plywood with little embellishment in Manitoba; popular sheet metal in Ontario; porch-fronted log cabins in Alberta.

Some of the quirkiest, most colourful huts can be found in the La Baie des Ha! Ha! region of Quebec. Eccentric decoration —faux wood panelling, sunflower decals, or camouflage— makes them stand out from the pack. Interiors typically contain wood burning stoves, a trough, and vents for cross-circulation. “It’s all about what you can reuse and repurpose,” says Johnson.

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Quebec-2

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Quebec-3

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Quebec-1

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Newfoundland-1

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Storm

There is a broader ‘urban’ angle here. Temporary settlements of hundreds of ice huts exist in northern Quebec and Manitoba. Johnson’s panoramic series Ice Villages shows the structures in their larger context and how they relate to one another: some are laid out in a haphazard way, others arranged in a systematic fashion. The seasonal communities that sprout up often include hockey rinks, small eateries, and the odd maple syrup kiosk. Fishermen stay for a month at a time, revelling in the camaraderie while they cast their lines in lakes and bays.   It is their getaway.

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Ice Villages-1

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Snow Villages-1

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Snow Villages-2

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Ice Villages-3

Richard Johnson_Ice hut_Ice Villages-4

This is an ongoing project. Richard Johnson has yet to visit British Columbia and the territories. In the meantime, Ice Villages is on display at the Bulthaup Toronto showroom through April 2015. www.icehuts.ca

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 8.54.49 AM

Canadian shooting locations 2007-2012.


Vertigo – without ever leaving the ground

Photos by Tom Ryaboi.


this is not Toronto


Blursurfing photoblog_Tom Ryaboi

Not many of us yearn to experience the literal ‘life on the edge’. Toronto-based photographer Tom Ryaboi does. He stealthily climbs to the uppermost reach of skyscrapers to capture some pretty incredible cityscapes. His (mostly clandestine) ‘rooftopping’ exploits have taken him across the globe. His images present an entirely new perspective on urban photography.

Absolute World_Mississauga towers

Tom Ryaboi_enter the dragon

Rooftopper_Tom Ryaboi


Tom Ryaboi_photo


Shots from Toronto, Chicago, and Hong Kong – cities that know a thing or two about towers – are on display at the Canary District Presentation Gallery in Toronto. Paired with Tom’s photography is another vertigo-inducing work named “Aletide”, as part of an exclusive art exhibit called Cities of the Future.

“Aletide”, an audiovisual interactive installation by Italian artists Fabio Giampietro, Ilaria Vergani Bassi, and Paolo Di Giacomo, comes to Toronto from Milan where it was first exhibited last year. The trio collaborated with composer Alessandro Branca to create a sensory artwork that recalls our first childhood experience on a park swing – but amped up. The swinging movement, surrounded by oscillating visuals and wind-like sounds, according to observers’ first comments, “feels like soaring over a concrete and glass canyon.”

Riding Aletide, an interactive swing with vertiginous qualities. Photo by Ilaria Vergani.

Riding Aletide, an interactive swing with vertiginous qualities. Photo by Ilaria Vergani.

Aletide – Interactive installation from Paolo Di Giacomo on Vimeo.

The photographs are on view from October 18th-30th at the Canary District Presentation Gallery at 398 Front Street East in Toronto. For more information see www.CanaryDistrict.com.

Searching the Skies for Inspiration

Thomas Lamadieu clearly sees something others don’t. Eyes drawn upwards, the French artist seeks out shapes in the sky framed by courtyard buildings and takes aim with his camera.

That negative space has been the inspiration for many photographers. But Lamadieu takes it a step further: combining photography and drawing, he constructs artworks by filling the negative space with playful, ‘painted’ illustrations.




For this series, entitled SkyArt, Lamadieu has amassed images from travels through Germany, France, Belgium and Canada. There is a kind of vertigo in his pieces; he captures the images with a fish-eye lens. The courtyards’ geometries are the only limits for his unbounded imagination.

Lamadieu has a gift for drawing out meaning in the urban architecture around him. I don’t know the story behind the bearded fellow who figures so prominently in his work, though I could take a guess… Nevertheless, I really like these magical doodles and I hope you do too.













Vintage Canada Contrasted With Demise of Traditional Photography

(this is an article I wrote for UrbanToronto)

The Ryerson Image Centre celebrates the opening of four new photography exhibitions tonight, and for those with a love for vintage photos of Toronto and other locations and events throughout Canada, there is a real reason to smile. For the first time in its history, every image from the renowned Black Star Collection that was filed under the heading ‘Canada’ will be on public view.


Photographer Unknown, Happy Sentries, Canada, ca. 1939-­‐1945, gelatin silver print. Reproduction from the Black Star Collection. BS.2005.094651 / 57-247

The more than a quarter of a million photographs in the Black Star Collection describe the personalities, events and conflicts of the twentieth century. This invaluable historical archive and visual record was gifted to Ryerson University in 2005. In Black Star Subject: Canada, a collaboration between interdisciplinary artist Pierre Tremblay and curator Don Snyder, every one of the 1,853 photographs filed under the subject heading ‘Canada’ is animated and displayed on the Salah J. Bachir New Media Wall at the entrance to the gallery. It features images of all major cities, agriculture, mining and industry of every province; images of prime ministers from Mackenzie King to John Turner; and, images of a nation undergoing unprecedented growth.

The historic Black Star images form a visual counterpoint to the exhibits of contemporary Canadian photographers Robert Burley and Phil Bergerson to be found within the Diamond Schmitt Architects-designed walls.


Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness, Ryerson Image Centre

Since 2005, photographer Robert Burley has documented the demise of film manufacturing facilities and industrial darkrooms in Canada, USA, and Europe. With the decline of traditional photographic materials and methods, companies like Kodak and Polaroid, among the most innovative and profitable corporations of their time, have become victims of a digital age.

The large-format colour prints that make up The Disappearance of Darkness address the swift breakdown of a century-old industry and its resulting economic impact. Burley’s photographs explore the large, windowless factories of Kodak, Polaroid, Agfa, and Ilford as well as little known places where, for the past century, rolls of film were churned out on a massive scale. A series of photos chronicles the end of the 23-hectare Kodak Canada plant in Toronto’s Mount Dennis neighbourhood before its closure and demolition in 2005. Building 9 is the only remaining structure—one which will soon find itself integrated in with a station and yard for the Crosstown LRT.

Kodak_063c 001

Robert Burley, Kodak Image Centre, Building 7, Kodak Canada, Toronto, Canada, 2006. Pigment print mounted on dibond © Robert Burley. Reproduction courtesy of the artist and the Ryerson Image Centre

Over the course of dozens of road trips, photographer Phil Bergerson slowly worked his way through hundreds of towns and cities across the United States. He photographed street scenes and everyday objects in the social landscape tradition akin to that of predecessors Robert Frank and Nathan Lyons.

Though entirely absent of people, the photographs he brought back form a portrait of the country at the time and a nod to its past. Emblems and Remnants of the American Dream is a collection of documentary style images with recurring themes of religion, commercial fantasies, violence and patriotism that he discovered in street art, crudely made signs, and modest store displays.


Phil Bergerson: Emblems and Remnants of the American Dream, Ryerson Image Centre

Emerging artist Elisa Julia Gilmour produces analog photographic and cinematic work that captures fleeting moments in the human experience. The recent graduate’s installation Something in Someone’s Eye features a series of four cinematic portraits that alternate between small movements and photographic stillness. Using the now-discontinued colour reversal Kodak Ektachrome film, the work brings life to a material that will completely disappear in time.

The opening reception is tonight, from 6-8pm. Exhibitions of the work of Robert Burley, Phil Bergerson and Pierre Tremblay run from January 22nd until April 13th at the Ryerson Image Centre at 33 Gould Street. Elisa Julia Gilmour’s work is on view in the Student Gallery from January 22nd until March 2nd. Entrance is free. For more information, see http://www.ryerson.ca/ric/ 

Copenhagen – This Viking city

The chance to experience new architecture in this cutting edge design centre was the primary draw for me to København (see previous blog). And then there were the obvious sightseeing ‘musts’, like the royal palace Amalienborg, Tivoli Gardens and Den lille Havrue, the Little Mermaid. The heritage harbour Nyhavn, lined with its brightly coloured 17th-18th century townhouses and restaurants, was packed to the brim day and night, as was the shopping artery Stroget, literally ‘the sweep,’ a mile-long pedestrian street divided into sections of different characters. (photo below: Amagertorv square with its vivid granite paving). Some other highlights: the recently opened Bella Sky Comwell boutique hotel; the design mecca ‘Hay’; and, the Wild Wonders of Europe outdoor exhibition of nature and wildlife photography (on tour through 2012).

My itinerary collided with that of the World Scout Jamboree 2011. Making their way to Rinkaby, Sweden were thousands upon thousands of clod hopping, supposed do-gooders lugging overstuffed duffel bags and taking up space in airports, trains, hotels – everywhere you don’t want them to be. Though they represent diversity and solidarity, the sheer magnitude of them (38,000+) had me convinced that many are up to no good. But when you meet them up close, ahh, they’re almost endearing.

Exploring the self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of Christiania in the old district of Christianshavn is akin to walking through lalaland. It’s hard to put a finger on it but the graffiti-adorned streets, quirky houses and improvised shacks nestled in the woods around the canal, and the occasional references to Alice in Wonderland play a big part. Cannabis trade is also alive and well here, but there’s no need to talk about that. You can get a great burger or a bong, but no cameras, please. Freetown Christiania has been a source of controversy since its creation in the ‘70s by hippies and squatters who settled in the once-military area. It’s still touch and go – negotiations of its future are ongoing.