On Wednesday, November 7, the Steam Whistle Gallery opened its doors to the works of local photographer Harry Enchin. The exhibit, entitled TorontoTransformed, showcases Enchin’s unique approach to collage photography that connects the city’s past and present.
Enchin digitally merges archival shots with his own contemporary colour photographs to create playful and historical narratives.
Enchin spends hours sifting through the City of Toronto Archives, choosing black and white images of Torontonian life and the city-scape from the past hundred years. He then visits the exact location of the archival image, lines up his digital camera to match the old photograph and retakes it in colour.
In his previous body of work, Enchin would splice and recombine the halved images, presenting the viewer with a clear contrast of old and new. For his current exhibit, Enchin uses a different process. He selects and combines elements from each image that will effectively show the narrative of the time in between the two photographs. Enchin refers to the currently displayed work as “true collage” and suggests that as elements of old and new interact in the composition a “new reality” emerges.
For viewers who do not have memories of Toronto’s past, particularly youth or recent immigrants, Enchin’s images fill in the visual gaps, connecting new Torontonians to the history of the city they live in. The works illuminate Toronto’s past by showing the faces and stories of those who laid the groundwork for the contemporary city and current citizens.
The images simultaneously trigger the memories of an older generation. Enchin explained,“people will read what they want to, the images ignite their own memory. Someone will see the photograph collage, and say ‘Oh hey, that’s where my father and my uncle and my grandfather sold newspapers, right out on that corner,’ referring to the Toronto Telegram.” The Toronto Telegram was a one-page afternoon publication in circulation from 1876 to 1971.
TorontoTransformed also illuminates the cultural evolution of a neighbourhood. In one image, Enchin presents two moments in time on Spadina Avenue: the Yiddish theatre taken from the archives and a photograph of a contemporary Chinese-Canadian woman. Enchin’s image shows that contemporary Chinatown, filled with Asian goods and culture, once catered to Jewish Theater-goers. While the collage presents two images of a specific past and present, it alludes to a larger story.
In the case of Spadina Avenue, Enchin explains, the immigrant-friendly area of Toronto has gone through many changes over the years, being associated with people of Jewish, Italian, African, Portuguese, and more recently, Chinese descent. The collage image yokes the past and the present, evoking nostalgia and curiosity from its viewers.
Enchin, who received the award for Best Computer Altered Fine Art Photography at the 2012 Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, will be showcasing dozens of new works this month at the Steam Whistle Brewery. You will recognize Toronto’s red streetcars, Canadian-brand storefronts and skateboarding passersby while discovering Toronto’s quirky past: bowler hats, stone architecture and immigrants hard at work. Free to the public, the exhibit is a chance to taste local beer and add your own stories to the city’s narrative.
TorontoTransformed runs until November 30 at the Steam Whistle Brewery.