Shot in the Distillery District, Toronto, 2012
There were only footprints in the slush once the last train pulled away. Inside Union Station, there was a sense of urban solitude — a calm I’m glad I waited to experience before heading home.
While this image looks like a horizontal version of the shot from this post, it was actually taken on a different evening, using a different camera, during a different storm. Since it recalls, in me, the peacefulness of that evening, I thought I’d post it on this Sunday afternoon.
This shot is one of my favourites from a trip to Rome a few years back. Until recently, I skipped over it whenever I skimmed through my folder of images because it was taken in a narrow street that, in the afternoon sun, created a long shadow over the couple walking and the colourful ornaments strung between the two buildings. It was only in the last few months or so that I attempted re-editing it and making it a composite image, as I did with this shot of downtown Toronto.
Sure, some photography purists would say that this isn’t true photography — and the very few times I’ve actually employed the technique I’d be lying if I said I didn’t question it myself. But after considering it for about 5 seconds, I got over it. Here’s why:
Essentially what I did was lighten the photo and increase the saturation and contrast and so that the alley, that was once dark and drab and uninspired is now brighter and more full of colour than it was in its original context. What makes it a composite is that the sky, which was completely washed out in the original, is actually taken from another image shot a short time after this one. I wanted the blue sky overhead, as it was when the shot was taken and before my camera manoeuvring rendered it completely white. I’m not saying it’s a perfect image by any means — I’m just describing what was done.
Now, this is hardly the biggest offender when it comes to composite images. Some photographers may have taken the people from different photos, the setting from another, the sky from a fourth, the ornaments from a fifth, and so on. For some, this means that it isn’t pure photography — as if somewhere Henri Cartier-Bresson is rolling in anguish around his grave.
I look at it this way: what is a pure art form? The earliest humans scratched drawings onto cave walls, so perhaps that’s the answer. One they introduced pigments, did that bastardize the purity of the picture? Or was that the sin of the first great artists, who decide against scratching their images into stone in favour of charcoal on paper or paint on canvas? Does a writer editing a manuscript, or a filmmaker splicing scenes kill the artistic credibility of those pieces because they didn’t leave them as written or shot? Or, more to that end, did colourization kill the art of movies?
My point is that every art form is an evolution of another. If this was a journalistic shot, then yes, it would be a problem because you’re reporting from a scene and the ethics of a journalist that are not to be compromised at any turn. As an art form, however, photography is allowed the same amount of creative license as any other medium. Sure, you may feel betrayed in a gallery if you find out that a photograph of a beautiful scene that caught your eye is really a composite of two, or three, or more images. But too bad.
You don’t have to like it, but I’ve heard people complain about composite images and I used to agree with them. Then I thought of it in terms of an evolutionary quirk of the art form, and I’m fine with it. Like with music — where if my ears like it them I’m fine with it — if my eyes enjoy an image then I don’t want to get picky over how it was shot or if it was edited using this software or that editing suite. I just don’t have the time. There’s too many more photographs to take.
Outside Union Station as the snow begins to fall
The last I saw was your shadow disappearing along the wall
You ducked into the crowd pushing toward the train
And the ticket man only laughed when I shouted out your name
I thought my words would keep you, but that didn’t work at all
They’re in a puddle outside Union Station, as the snow begins to fall
Something random I wrote a few minutes ago to accompany the picture. A little dim for Valentine’s Day, I know, but it’s not a reflection of my mood or anything resembling reality. I’ve just been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen tonight.
I took this shot from inside a bus shelter as an evening snowfall picked up in Toronto a few weeks ago. I didn’t want my camera to get soaked, and I happened to get lucky that shelter’s glass wall was relatively clean. So clean, in fact, that you can see the reflection of the McDonald’s arches in them.
I had my camera with me at the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto for an event one evening last week, so as I headed home I decided to drop into Union Station on the way home to take a few photos. I’ve tried to take shots in Union Station before, inspired by the great shots I’ve seen of beautiful train stations from Union to Grand Central, but for some reason they’ve never turned out.
That evening, however, there was a different atmosphere inside the station. Outside the snow was falling quite hard and inside the mood was drowsy and slow, as if the weather had caused everyone to flee the downtown core early to head home. There were only a few souls left, slouched in chairs and wearily looking up at the train arrival times.
I didn’t have a tripod so I just backed up as far as I could, leaned against a wall, and started shooting. As well, since I’ve always tried to take shots from the west end of the station, since the big window on the east wall allows for great images of the sunlight coming in during the day, and my shots have never come out as I hoped, I tried shooting from the east end looking west. I like the result much more than I’ve ever liked my shots of Union Station in the past, so perhaps the change in location is key for me.
I’ll post more shots from that evening soon. Some are already up on my online photography portfolio.
This is the 365th post in my Focus 365 series — a supplement to Bastard Type.
For those not familiar with Focus 365, it was a little project I started on January 1st, 2011 in an effort to share a photo for each day of the year. The idea was to try and put some good vibes back out into the world through art and creativity. Sometimes I missed a day or two and caught up the next day. Sometimes, like in recent months after my hiring on at Zoomer magazine combined with freelance work I’ve been doing, I missed weeks at a time and had to update with multiple photos per day to catch up. I was completely fine with that and it was worth it.
The was certainly a good year to take on the Focus 365 challenge. Over the year I posted photos from Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Florence, Rome, Siena and New York City. In that year this blog’s audience grew by the thousands, and I can’t thank everyone enough.
For the record, the top five Focus 365 blog posts were, in order:
Peeling Restaurant (November 21)
The Beautiful Discovery of Henri Cartier-Bresson (February 20)
Bacchus to the Future (May 14)
The Accidental Genius of Eugène Atget (May 12)
Heating it Up with Erin English (July 20)
As the title of this post says, the image above is not a sunset, but a sunrise. I look forward to continuing this blog into 2012, meeting even more wonderful readers and bloggers who I’ve chatted with and even come to know on Facebook and Twitter, and interacting with people around the world through art and writing on this blog.
Thank you all for validating my belief that art grows communities and brings constructive energy with it. This small corner of the internet has seen that happen over the last year, and I look forward to continuing with writing and posting photos on here while watching it grow even more in 2012.
Prayers for blessings and good will in this new year.