Toronto: Photography by Tim Peters

ISBN 13: 9781552976579

Toronto: Photography by Tim Peters

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9781552976579: Toronto: Photography by Tim Peters
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This is no ordinary portrait of a city.

Tim Peters began taking pictures of Toronto's buildings and streetscapes in 1989. With an acute eye for striking detail, unusual contrast and architectural splendor, he has created a portrait of a city that is both intensely colorful and respectful of its history.

Close-ups of art deco detailing in sandstone facades, neoclassical granite arches, in the financial district, brilliant mosaic tile in Eastern Orthodox churches, and stained glass in graceful old homes mix with the crisp geometric lines of the best new civic architecture. The results are showcased in a splendid, oversized book that includes the human side too.

Orange turbanned Sikhs, lake freighters against a Lake Ontario sunset, and people framed by the unique wall murals that Toronto's downtown. Filled with full-bleed images and double-page spreads, Toronto is a celebration that any lover of city photography will treasure.

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About the Author:

Tim Peters is a native of western New York State and was raised on a small island in the Niagara River. He studied Classical Greek and Roman Civilizations, and Political Science at the State University of New York at Buffalo and currently lives with his wife and young family in New England.

He is the author/photographer of the seminal book entitled, Rhythm of the Tides (August 2000), an award-winning photo-documentary of life on New Brunswick's Grand Manan Island.

His striking photographs have been featured in American Photographer; Camera & Darkroom; The Boston Globe; The Chicago Tribune; The Los Angeles Times; Maclean's; The National Post; Newsweek; The Ottawa Citizen; Sail; The Toronto Star; Toronto Life; and Time. His work has been acknowledged by Applied Arts, Communication Arts, the Santa Fe Center for Visual Arts, and Studio Magazine.

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Introduction

The view from the rooftop of One Financial Place at Yonge and Adelaide streets was amazing. When I peered over my shoulder on that crisp fall morning in 1991, the sun was breaking across the horizon on Lake Ontario. An intense burst of light splashed the cluster of glass-and-steel structures rising high above Toronto's downtown streets. The warming glow dramatically altered the appearance of the buildings, as if to waken them from a deep sleep.

For several years I'd envisioned making a book of photographs of Toronto. And as the number of photographs began to fill my files, the idea of publishing the best as a single portfolio was taking shape. As a young working press photographer, I had become weary of shooting events involving athletes, politicians and celebrities. It was the age of the sound bite -- television was dictating the rules of the media game -- and the atmosphere was controlled and contrived. I knew I needed to take a few chances and develop my own visual ideas, something that wasn't possible (for me) to do as a press photographer.

I was hooked on architecture, but didn't aspire to be an architectural photographer in the classical sense. Rather, I was intrigued by how the creative use of perspective and juxtaposition, with selective lenses, dramatically alters the appearance of a structure, often turning it into a striking expression of graphic elements. Flush with a new attitude and career objective, I was immediately captivated by the Gooderham building -- the Flatiron building where Front and Wellington streets intersect. This is where my interest in Toronto made the leap from casual curiosity to sustained creative documentation.

Studying the lines of this late 19th century architectural icon was an enlightening experience. I never tired of looking at the building's intricate brick detailing and distinctive copper spire, and I still admire the brilliance of the trompe l'oeil mural on its rear wall. I scoured the neighborhood, looking for a rooftop with the right sightlines, and soon found one several blocks away on Front Street. Having the freedom to find a different perspective from which to make a photograph was liberating; I was encouraged to look beyond the familiar city scenes and stretch my ability to see pictures.

While still in school in the late 1970s, I began visiting my older sister Cathy who had moved to Manhattan in 1975. My first few trips there were enlightening, but the endlessness of the city (and my youth) prevented me from making the most of those early visits. What did make a lasting impression were the Empire State, Chrysler and Flatiron buildings. When I began my photographic journey a decade later, these structures profoundly shaped the way I would perceive, and photograph, urban centres like Toronto.

With a subject as fresh and dynamic as Toronto before my eyes, I felt like a painter with a blank canvas and a full and brilliant palette. It was an exciting time to be photographing a growing city where dramatic changes were happening all over. Toronto was a city with a future and it was within reach. And, I now had my lens trained on something that captivated me.

In 1988 I waited with great anticipation as Scotia Plaza steadily rose above the financial district, floor by floor, week by week. I checked its progress and could barely await its completion. My first frames were taken over a three-day period in May of 1989. The late afternoon was absolutely gorgeous, turning the building's granite facade into a vibrant and saturated red. Framing it horizontally, between Mies van der Rohe's starkly beautiful glass-and-steel bank towers, created the bold contrast and defining aesthetic that I needed to make the right visual expression. The one hitch occurred when a security guard challenged the verbal okay I'd been given to photograph on the grounds of the Toronto Dominion Centre. I bracketed frames and continued to plead my case to the man; I definitely was not going anywhere until I'd exhausted all the photographic possibilities that lay before me.

These were important photographs for me, and they seemed to come in flurries. An apparent dead-end could yield a good picture simply by changing my perspective. Sometimes I would just turn around -- and bang, there was the moment I was aiming to capture. The more I looked, the more I was rewarded. By this time, I could see my most important photographic influences -- Evans, Haas and Maisel.

Early on Canada Day in 1991 I was photographing a display of flags at the Canada Life building on University Avenue. Composing my picture with a medium telephoto lens had my full attention. Then I backed off for a moment and casually looked up at the sky to find the most incredible cloud pattern taking shape. It was moving quickly over the building, and I was afraid it would soon break up. A fast change to a wide-angle lens and a dozen frames later, I had a more satisfying photograph than the one I'd set up to take.

Along with resolve, serendipity naturally played a large part in creating these photographs. When superb picture possibilities unexpectedly present themselves, you must react intuitively, without hesitation, letting your experience guide you. To build this confidence, New York colour photographer Jay Maisel emphasizes the commitment to doing what he refers to as "daily visual pushups."

When scouting a potential subject, my criterion has always been simple: it either moves me, or it doesn't. I was creating the script, and my goal was to make the best pictures possible. While sometimes frustrating -- logistically and technically -- the routine worked well.

Choosing to widen my scope, I came down from the city's rooftops and began exploring Toronto's streetscapes. I incorporated people into my photographs, which worked especially well when I started experimenting with the many colourful murals that dressed the facades of the city's buildings.

I continually showed the growing number of images to friends, colleagues and clients, and their encouragement was always sustaining. Marriage and fate moved me to New England in 1994, but I continued to take photographs in Toronto. Through all the project's stages, my criterion remained the same, and Toronto's landscapes and people still move me.

-Tim Peters, January 2002

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