Toronto remains gripped in winter’s icy hands. Although I do love winter for the changes it brings to the usual landscapes that surround me, the constant cold from the polar vortex we’ve been in means I am not venturing too much further afield. It’s a very good way to discover some gems right on my doorstep, proving you don’t have to travel far and away to capture some beautiful art photography, it’s often here right where we are, just waiting to be seen.
My latest art photograph casts a chilly view over the Toronto Harbour. This is not the full lake of course – the southern edge of Toronto is bordered by a small part of the lake; a mini-lake or harbour if you like, created by a series of islands just a little further south. You can see them in the distance in the photograph, namely Algonquin Island and Mugg’s Island. Collectively they are called Toronto Islands, or “The Islands.” These islands actually make up the largest urban car-free community in North America. You’re only allowed around the islands by foot or by bicycle. A regular ferry runs across to Toronto Island from the mainland and in the summer, and we often head over with our bikes or our roller blades for car-free heaven and picnics.
Even if you studied this art photograph for a while, you’d still be hard-pressed to work out where the land ends and the sea begins. This is because temperatures had dipped so low the harbour itself is frozen. Everything is icy, shiny and white. I was not, however, tempted to take a brief stroll across to the islands ahead of me. I’ve had a thing about ice-covered water ever since I saw the film The Dead Zone. There’s a scene where the ice cracks during a pee-wee hockey game and a couple of players get stuck under the frozen surface. It must be a terrible way to go, knowing that air and survival is but an inch of ice away above you – and you can’t get to it. Though I know people have been known to walk across the frozen harbour to Toronto Islands. I’m shivering as I think about it!
Yet another of my favourite photographers, Ohio-born Berenice Abbott, once said “Photography helps people to see.” Abbott was a fabulous documenter, and an inventive photographer. If she approved of a photographic subject, she would frame it in a way as to stabilise it. If she disapproved of it, she would frame the piece in such as way as to bring out the worse in what she saw. She loved to use contrast – setting photographs of the new and the fabulous alongside the old and decrepit. Abbott also had a gift in being able bring out the unique value of everything she chose to photograph. I find photography is an amazing way to document life. Whether it’s the ever-changing seasons, or our fast-changing urban scenery, it is exciting to capture moments of time and space in this way. While we may look back on them as the past, the art of photography deals with the present.
Abbott was born in Ohio, in 1898, however she developed her love of photography after moving to Paris in 1921, initially to study sculpture. By the time she returned to the States in 1929, she had changed her name from the original spelling of “Bernice” to the French version, “Berenice”. If you ever come to my blog and see I’m now “Nicole Jameson” you’ll know I’ve been similarly influenced! (Don’t worry, it isn’t about to happen any time soon!)
Back to “Frozen Lake,” I do love the unique way winter’s frosty fingers have mutated what’s quite a familiar landscape into something that’s rarely seen. The different types of ice patterns and the way the winter light interacted with all of them made this art photograph one of my most fascinating pieces of work to date. Each time I look at it I see something new. I am looking forward to returning to this spot come summer (if summer ever arrives) and photographing the same scene under a sun-lit azure sky, with the icy climate just a recent memory.
Personally, I can’t wait!
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