January 1st Graffiti Photowalk

I routinely try and take a bit of a longer photowalk at the start of each year. It’s an opportunity to stretch my legs some and a great way to start of the year while, also, getting a chance to document the city while it’s still recovering from New Years celebrations.

This year was no different, save that I ended up leaving for my walk later than intended and was drawn to a number of Toronto’s alleys throughout the evening.

While I did the majority of my shooting through the late afternoon and evening in monochrome, I couldn’t help by see how the positive film simulation in my Ricoh GRs would showcase the vibrant colours of graffiti under artificial lighting situations.

It was only once I’d brought the images home and looked at them that it became apparent that the majority of the photos were made from the same angle. I had no idea I was doing this at the time but, in hindsight, I definitely wish that I’d made images from wider variety of angles.

When I was wandering through some of the alleys I wished that there had been more people about to include in some of the images. Even a wisp of a figure would, I think, have added a bit of a haunting character to many of the photographs.

In their absence, however, I largely (though not completely) tried to channel Tatianna Hopper. She sometimes engages in a kind of street photography that simultaneously showcases the existence and absence of humans. Graffiti and human trash, or waste, expresses this concept to my mind.

In a number of alleys there were quasi-monstrous or demonic imagery. I see more and more of it around the city and have met the artists of some of it. The effort they’re putting in is amazing with really interesting effects; when shooting with humans in the frame and in monochrome, I find the graffiti adds an interesting graphic element and juxtaposition. Even on its own, however, the juxtaposition between colour and monochrome graffiti causes its own novel contrast.

Almost the entirety of 2022, and the tail end of 2021, saw me shoot 99% of my images in monochrome. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made on the street and can see the very real improvements in composition and ability to ‘see’ in monochrome. However I’m inspired by Alex Webb and Gustavo Minas’ ‘Maximum Shadow Minimal Light’. Both use shadow in colour photography and I’d like to develop similar skills . Maybe that means I’ll experiment some through the year in trying to translate what I’ve learned about light and shadows in monochrome images into colour photos!

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