I work as a busy professional in Downtown Toronto and had been in desperate need of something meaningful outside of my work to get re-centered and reconnect to the moment.

Though I had started shooting analog photography in and around 2003 with a Nikon F65, with the exception of some fun toy camera photography, I had been on a photography hiatus for the last decade. I decided to get back into photography in the late-fall of 2018, and have made my way into the wonderful world of the little Olympus XA. The camera is perfect for me to carry around in my pocket while meandering the streets of Toronto as I walk to-and-from work, and low-profile enough to not be intimidating to my subjects.

The first roll of colour film that I shot in my Oly XA was Kodak’s Ektar 100, in March of 2019. The winters in Toronto are long, cold and grey, so I was concerned that shooting this film (which loves bright light) at box speed might not work out, and March in Toronto was no exception. On the advice of one of the clerks at Downtown Camera, I went for it. The five photos below are my five favourite shots from my first roll of Ektar 100, shot at box speed, and I was not let down by either the film or that clerk’s advice.

Shooting photos in the streets of Toronto has done exactly what I had hoped it would do — it has allowed me to reconnect to the fleeting moments all around me, and to appreciate the here-and-now in a way that seems all too easily lost during the rat race of big city living.

~ C.A. Brannagan

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I wasn’t too thrilled to see photographs of homeless people who are often the easiest targets for those starting out in street photography.

    • Amen. They are very low-hanging fruit and don’t need to be exploited by photographers. Besides, they usually don’t offer an interesting “gesture” that is necessary for a good street photo.

      • That’s not to say that homeless people are some kind of magical unicorns that turn to a pile of purple ash at the sound of a leaf shutter firing. But it’s all in how you go about it.. There is a way to depict a homeless person with a bit of dignitiy, snapshots with a p&s without any interaction isn’t it.

      • Gary — it is you, and not me, who refers to homeless people as “low-hanging fruit”. Consider that for a moment. Moreover, I suspect that “interesting gesture[s]” alone are not constitutive of “a good street photo”. But if they were, and a homeless person was offering whatever in your mind makes for an interesting gesture, would it not make for a good street photo?

    • Hi Dan, thanks for your comments.

      Firstly, I don’t look at anyone as “targets” while I am shooting (disregard the pun) — everyone is, as I’m sure you would agree, a potential “subject”, whether they are interacted with or not. Indeed, much of street photography captures the people, places and things happening around the photographer without any substantive interaction other than the photographic act itself, and perhaps a smile and nod afterward if the subject has caught on to the fact of their photo being taken. Surely, reasonable people will differ about the philosophy and ethics of street photography, but I think it’s erroneous to suggest that subject-interaction is an absolute requirement.

      With respect to my decision to capture images of homeless persons, I have to say that in a city of close to 3 million people, a city suffering from a growing housing crisis with consequent homelessness, a city in which homelessness is a pressing social issue discussed throughout our media, by our political actors, by civil society advocates, by police, by the courts — in a city such as Toronto that is truly struggling to try and address this ever-concerning issue — it was really only once I put the camera to my own eye this past winter that I truly *appreciated* the breadth of the issue, despite its otherwise apparent omnipresence. In other words, for me it took putting the viewfinder-to-eye before I really saw how serious this issue was in my own society. Note the last lines of my article as capturing exactly this point: “Shooting photos in the streets of Toronto has done exactly what I had hoped it would do — it has allowed me to reconnect to the fleeting moments all around me, and to appreciate the here-and-now in a way that seems all too easily lost during the rat race of big city living.”

      One’s view of what photography means to them, and how they wish to pursue the activity itself, substantially dictates the kind of photos that will be created. For me, photography is largely about capturing that which exists around me, as it exists, and scarcely more than that. It is an exercise in capturing little moments in history, often insignificant or mundane as they may be, but all the same meaningful to those lives that are being lived. The fact of homelessness existing is an inescapable reality of Downtown Toronto, and it deserves as much or as little attention as any other social issue demands. The images above serve to capture that reality and nothing else.

      Finally, I disagree with you about there being anything exploitative, undignifying, or offensive about the two images that I included in this series (for the record, I have made “interactive” images of homeless individuals, as well). Neither subject above is identifiable, and so there is no concern about notoriety. What makes them undignifying? At the very least, these images have struck a chord with you, and perhaps that is the very purpose of art — to force us to confront occasionally difficult and challenging ideas and issues; clearly, these images have served that purpose in igniting this discussion.

      Respectfully,

      – Craig

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