The Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival—which just so happens to be the largest photography festival in the world—kicks off this week and runs for the entire month of May at nearly 200 venues across Toronto. Now in its 16th year, the 2012 theme is “Public,” which aims to draw attention to social and political issues and challenge the distinctions between our private lives and the public sphere. It’s worth seeing every exhibition, but these are the top 10 that caught our eye. For a full list of exhibitions, check out the CONTACTwebsite.

Public: Collective Identity | Occupied Spaces

This two-venue exhibition brings together images from around the world to explore our public identity and the tensions that arise from the occupation of public space. From street photography to appropriated web imagery, conflict photojournalism to conceptual projects, these photographs challenge and redefine our perception of the public sphere. At MOCCA, the works expand the boundaries of street practice and the shifting parameters of public space to highlight unseen aspects of urban existence. At U of T, the works suggest that the role photography plays in engaging conflict can be as contested as the spaces it represents. 

MOCCA Artists: Philippe Chancel, Cheryl Dunn, Barry Frydlender, Baudouin Mouanda, Jon Rafman, Bill Sullivan, and Michael Wolf
U of T Artists: Ai Weiwei, Tarek Abouamin, Ariella Azoulay, Benjamin Lowy, Sanaz Mazinani, Richard Mosse, Sabine Bitter / Helmut Weber, and Noh Suntag
Runs: April 28th-June 3rd @ MOCCA (Main Space), 952 Queen St. W. & May 1st-June 30th @ University of Toronto Art Centre, 15 King’s College Circle 

The Nine Eyes of Google Street View

This ongoing series compiles a fascinating array of incidental moments captured by Google’s cameras. When the artist reframes an image sourced from the Google site, he reintroduces the human gaze into the picture and reasserts the importance of the individual. The artist catalogues everyday dramas that would otherwise probably never be seen beyond their specific location.

Artist: John Rafman
Runs: May 3rd-June 2nd @ Angell Gallery, 12 Ossington Ave.
Opening: May 3rd, 6-9 pm

50 Years of The Rolling Stones: A Rock & Roll Retrospective

A retrospective of The Rolling Stones taken by some of rock and roll’s finest photo­graphers. Images include an early shot of a boyish-looking group along the banks of Thames, documentation of their rise to fame during the 1960s and 1970s, and present-day portraits of the legendary band. 

Artists: Lynn Goldsmith, Ken Regan, Philip Townsend, and Barrie Wentzell
Runs: May 1st-31st @ Analogue Gallery, 673 Queen St. W.
Opening: May 3rd, 6-9 pm

Yikes on Bikes

A lighthearted series about little kids biking treacherous hills and eating dirt, inspired by the artist’s son’s misadventures on a local BMX dirt track.               

Artist: Mark Ridout
Runs: May 1st-31st @ Duke’s Cycle, 625 Queen St. W.
Opening: May 3rd, 6-9 pm 

Women of SPORT

Through the context of SPORT Magazine, this exhibition examines the role of women in the history of sports—whether as athletes, wives, spectators, or models—and how these roles have evolved over the second half of the 20th century. Included in the exhibition are stunning colour photos from the 1940s and 1950s.

Artist: SPORT Magazine
Runs: May 3rd-31st @ Sport Gallery, 55 Mill St. Unit 103 (Distillery District)
Opening: May 3rd, 7-9 pm 

Two and a Quarter

This exhibition examines the nostalgic qualities associated with analogue photography—aged, square prints, exposure flaws, soft focus, and light leaks—which reappear in contemporary snapshot imagery. In the spirit of the square revolution, each artist has created their own unique and imaginative image with the classic Diana F+ camera. 

Artists: Steven Beckly, Rebecca Cairns, Jamie Campbell, Kevin Chaves, Michael Clarke, Nathan Cyprys, Shane Fester, Kimon Kaketsis, Brendan George Ko, Sabrina Maltese, Mike Morris, Andrew B. Myers, Juliana Neufeld, Sarah Palmer, Jade Lee Portelli, Sammy Rawal, and Elise Victoria Louise Windsor
Runs: May 3rd-31st @ Lomography Gallery Store, 536 Queen St. W.
Opening: May 3rd, 7-10 pm

Toronto: The Bones of You

While Toronto is engaged in a lively public discourse about how the city should be and how is best to get there, these images aim to remind us of the inherent beauty of Toronto’s “bones”—its older architectural features, infrastructure, and cityscapes.

Artist: Mandeep Flora
Runs: April 30th-May 27th @ Hart House, 7 Hart House Circle (University of Toronto)
Opening: May 4th, 7-10 pm

Disembodied Landscape

Taken aboard the historic tall ship Bark Europa, these photos transport the viewer to an earlier era, before cruise liners commercialized the Southern Ocean. The artist juxtaposes images of a sailor’s connection to the sea with the ethereal and brutal quality of Antarctica.  Undermining idealized visions of penguins living in frozen seascapes, she instead shows an unforgiving nature in a land devoid of scale and time—and the human effort required for such a quest.

Artist: Victoria Piersig
Runs: May 5th-27th @ Arcadia Gallery, 680 Queens Quay W.
Opening: May 12th, 7-11 pm


A photographic series about memory and the hazy way our minds recall and revisit thoughts. The images were taken in the artist’s hometown and offer a sentimental view of a place she no longer calls home. Inspiration comes from weathered textbooks, old photographs and films of our rural environment, and the resulting images evoke an emotional contrast between nostalgia and unsettling uncertainty.

Artist: Joanna Ferraro
Runs: May 1st-31st @ Barque, 299 Roncesvalles Ave.

Parkdale, Who Knew?

A foray into the hidden treasures of Parkdale Village before it was annexed by the City of Toronto in 1889. Take a journey with the students of Parkdale Collegiate Institute as they discover the Parkdale of yesteryear and reflect on what it is today. The students were taught how to create documentary-style photographs from the guidance of MFA student Jonathan Groeneweg.

Artists: Parkdale Collegiate Institute students
Runs: May 1st-31st @ Parkdale Village (Chartreuse Style, 1692 Queen St. W.; Poor John’s Cafe, 1610 Queen St. W.; Brown Sugar Bakery, 1374 Queen St. W.; and Boreal Gelato, 1312 Queen St. W.)

 ~ Caitlyn Holroyd