Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek: Blog en-us (C) Henry VanderSpek / Culture Snap Photography (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) Wed, 15 Sep 2021 17:36:00 GMT Wed, 15 Sep 2021 17:36:00 GMT Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek: Blog 120 96 Bikes of Montreal After a long time at home in Toronto, it was a thrill to head to Montreal with my good friend Sammy (see his blog here) in mid-July 2021.

Sammy and I had plans to be in Montreal in April 2020 but that was of course not possible.

Strange objects, scrawled messages, light and shadow, and intriguing juxtapositions all call out to me when I'm walking around - but nothing quite draws my eyes the way a bike in a distinct setting does.

And so, I present to you, Bikes of Montreal! I hope you enjoy the ride! 

I love Montreal. I have great memories of many family vacations there from when I was younger, and have gone back many times since.

Bikes - even when leaning against a wall - can at times feel like works of art to me...


When they are found outside of an art gallery there's another level of atmosphere about them.

A bike in front of La Guilde, founded in 1906 to "preserve, promote and increase awareness for Inuit art, First Nations art and Fine Crafts from Canada".


The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (south side of Sherbrooke St W). "Twin 6' Hearts" sculpture by American artist Jim DIne.


The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (north side of Sherbrooke St W). The elaborate glasswork art is by Dale Chihuly.


Bikes add a stylish touch to almost any setting, whether a graffiti covered wall, or next to a beautiful mural (Montreal has plenty of those)...

A bike outside of Camellia Sinensis, a stylish tea shop in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood.


No Justice No Peace, by artists Louis Letters and Tshoko, working together as @salesmomesmtl.


Live Free. Love Life. Art (in the above three window spaces) by Montreal artist Adida Fallen Angel.


Old Montreal offered many moments to celebrate bikes...

A bike in front of the very tempting ice cream shop Mlle Catherine in Old Montreal.

Le Petit Dep in Old Montreal.



We had fun exploring the thrift stores and funky shops in the Plateau and Mile End neighbourhoods (near Mont-Royal and St. Denis)...

Super cool vintage store Hadio 514.

Paul's Boutique has an incredible collection of music and movies.


A scene from the window of Le Fameux Deli.

Mont-Royal Hot Dog


A Montreal classic - Wilensky's.

Schwartz's Deli is well worth the trip - but so is Wilensky's.

Be sure to check them out when you visit Montreal! (Right near Fairmount Bagel, another classic worth visiting!


We had a nice time strolling the pedestrian and bike-friendly Wellington Street of Verdun...

Employees of Cloud 9?! (The fictional store featured in the popular comedy series "Superstore".)

A Peugot outside of a Loco grocery in Verdun.


Stairs are a big feature of many Montreal homes...


Just like in Toronto, bikes in Montreal also have a mysterious way of coming apart!


A few more bike images before I end...

La Belle Province Restaurant

I've only previously seen bike parking like this in Europe. Well done Montreal.

Cleverly named bike store Bikurious.

The marquee at Club Soda music venue advertises a show for comedian Rosalie Vaillancourt.

Paix Peace

I've done three other "Bikes of..." blog posts:

- Bikes of Mexico City

- Bikes of Havana

- Bikes of New York City

And here are some of my favourite images of bikes as well as my Instagram feed, where bikes often appear in my images.

Many of my images are available as prints, so if you are interested, just send me a message and I'll be happy to help.


I will end with one of my favourite images that I took in Montreal - of Leonard Cohen overlooking a lone cyclist on Crescent Street.

Click here to learn more about the mural, which is based on a photo taken by Leonard Cohen's daughter Lorca Cohen.

Stay tuned as I hope to feature more posts of images from Montreal.

Thanks for looking and happy cycling wherever you may be!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) bicycle photography Bicycles of Montreal bike photography bikes bikes of Montreal Montreal Montréal Montreal tourism Quebec street photography Tourisme Montréal Vélos Vélos de Montréal Wed, 15 Sep 2021 16:20:02 GMT
Bikes of New York City - July 2019 For several years - until the pandemic hit - my friend Sammy and I did an annual trip to a unique city. On each trip Sammy would interview local creative leaders for his podcast, My Summer Lair, and I would find opportunities to expand my photo skills via workshops, conferences or by just exploring interesting neighbourhoods. In July 2019 our trip was to New York City.


It is spring in the northern hemisphere as I write this, and many are choosing two wheels as a safe way to navigate their hometown, so it feels timely to share images of bikes in all their glory.

Bushwick Colours

In this blog I will share:

- street scenes with bikes in them, including some taken on film, from New York City in July 2019

- info about street photography workshops in NYC

- info about bike advocacy

- links to my other bike related posts and images

My apologies if this post makes you want to shop for a new bike. If you've tried to buy a new bike this past year, you'll know how hard it is to find one given the global shortage. I wish you success if you are looking!

Brooklyn Heights Deli

Crossing Atlantic (Avenue)


Except Bikes


Psychic Crystal Readings


No Trash


Soho Grand Hotel


Amici Ristorante


Crossing Mulberry


Pershing Square

Thumbs Up

Great Minds


Crossing 42nd Street


E-bikes were not very common in Toronto in 2019, but in New York we saw them were everywhere we went.

They are much more common in Toronto now.


Sunshine I


Big Lies


Diamond Bike I

Diamond Bike II


Panama Wheels


Street Photography Workshops

Some of the images shared here were taken during a photo workshop I took one afternoon with Leanne Staples who runs Shoot New York City.

Leanne offers photo tours in a range of New York neighbourhoods. The Midtown Manhattan workshop that I participated in was a great experience. Leanne is a licensed New York City tour guide and a talented street photographer. She got to know each of the tour participants and shared personalized tips and insights and took us to unique spots that we likely would not have noticed otherwise.

Leanne is again able to offer workshops, following proper safety protocols, so if you can make it to New York City I highly recommend taking a workshop with her through Shoot New York City.

If you are interested in learning street photography in Toronto, please contact me. I run training sessions for individuals or small groups and will be ready to do so again once health conditions allow. Click here for details about what I can offer and click here to send me a message.

Business As Usual


All Year Long


Sunshine II


Spring Loaded


Bike Blues


Wings & Wheels


Ready to Rock



This next one is dedicated to my friend James, who I've shared many travel adventures with...

JAMES, New York


Shu Han Ju


Setting The Standard


Apple Parking


Defend The North


Manufacturers Trust Company


Wheels Up In Soho


Here also are some film photos of street scenes with bikes that I took in July 2019:

Brooklyn Black and White

Konica Auto S3, Kodak Tri-X 400

Golden City

Canon Sure Shot Look, Kodak Ektar 100


6th Avenue

Canon Sure Shot Look, Kodak Ektar 100


Long Island Restaurant

Canon Sure Shot Look, Kodak Ektar 100


Red Cap and Ready

Canon Sure Shot Look, Kodak Ektar 100

Bike Advocacy

If you have a bike advocacy organization in your city or region, I highly recommend becoming a member. Organizations like Cycle Toronto do excellent work to advocate for safe cycling conditions and to educate and inspire people to get out there and ride safely.


I Do Love Bikes...

Bikes have been a big theme for me in my photography.

In 2014 I did an exhibit at the Runnymede Public Library called "The Foot That Moves the Pedal"...

I've done two other "Bikes of..." posts:

- Bikes of Mexico City (2017)

- Bikes of Havana  (2019)

And here are some of my favourite images of bikes as well as my Instagram feed, where bikes often appear.

Most of my images are available as prints, so if you are interested, just send me a message and I'll be happy to help.

I will end with one last image from New York City, July 2019. A timeless rule to live by...

Love Your Neighbor

Canon Sure Shot Look, Kodak Ektar 100

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) Bicycles of New York bikes Bikes of New York City film photography New York street photography street photography Fri, 23 Apr 2021 17:35:01 GMT
A Year In Colour Film 2020 - Part II I am still enchanted

by the light you brought to me

I listen through your ears,

And through your eyes I can see

- Stuck In A Moment, U2


This post is Part II of "My Year in Colour Film 2020". Click here to see Part I.

Unless mentioned, all images here were taken with my Canon AE-1 camera.

Film types, and alternate cameras used, are indicated below each image.

OK See You

Kodak Colour Film

Canon Sure Shot Look

I was very disappointed to hear the news that one of my favourite shows, Kim's Convenience, will be ending with the current season. This show brought so much joy and laughter and will be dearly missed by so many.

I can't help but mention that one of my images will be on a future episode of this fifth season. I am so excited and thankful for the opportunity.

My best wishes to each of the Kim's Convenience creators and actors as they move to new projects.

Colours at Work

Kodak Ektar 100 120mm film

Fujica GS645W

Terry's Milk

Kodak Ektar 100 120mm film

Fujica GS645W

The faded yellow sign drew me in to take this photo. It has since been replaced with a newer one, proving that the best time to take a photo is now!

Crossing Spadina

Kodak Ektar 100


Kodak Ektar 100

I took this portrait of Carolyn, who has cut my hair for many years now, in June 2020. It was my first haircut in many months.

Carolyn is an artist and a very creative person who I am thankful to know. As with many who have been out of work due to pandemic related closures, it was also a tough go for her. One way that Carolyn made use of her time while away from her profession was by serving those without safe shelter living in a nearby park.

Heading East On Queen

Kodak Ektar 100

Steve's Music

Fuji Velvia 100

I love Steve's Music, one of the original stores of Queen Street West.

True Love Café

Kodak Ektar 100

The café is closed, but true love never dies. :)

Take What You Need

Kodak Gold 200

I love all the encouraging messages that I saw on the streets of Toronto over the past year.

I shared some of them in my Colours of Love blog post, seen here.

Won't Be Beat

Kodak Gold 200

Canon Sure Shot Look

Taken in Grand Bend, August 2020

Self Portrait

Kodak Portra 160

Taken at the lovely "A Room in Paris" store on Queen Street West.

You'll Love What You Find Here

Kodak Portra 160

Secure Checkout

Kodak Ektar 100

This cart full of security cameras left on Queen Street East was a real mystery.

Heaven is a place on earth

Kodak Ektar 100

Salonica Pant Shop

Kodak Ektar 100

Rode Klompen

Kodak Ektar 100

One of many colourful things in my mother's home.

Skyline Restaurant

Kodak Ektar 100

Be Kind. Thank you!

Kodak Color Plus 200

Olympus Stylus Zoom

Passing Portrait

Kodak Color Plus 200

Olympus Stylus Zoom

I have a photo of the auto shop in the background in Part One of this blog.

And It Was All Yellow

Kodak Ektar 100

A classic car in front of the classic Downtown Camera, where I get my film developed.

To know more about this vehicle, read the comments in my Instagram post of this image.

Toronto to the Core

Kodak Ektar 100

The Avenue Diner

Kodak Ektar 100

Blue Diamond Jewellers

Kodak Ektar 100

Find The Love

Kodak Ektar 100

A wonderful mural by Bareket Kezwer

Portrait of my good friend Sammy Younan, host of pop culture podcast My Summer Lair.

Rolling Through The Six

Kodak Ektar 100

Taking It In

Kodak Gold 200

What's In Fashion

Kodak Gold 200

Click here to see a black and white version of this scene that I shared on Instagram.

Latin Fever

Kodak Gold 200


Kodak Color Plus 200

B & B Fish & Chips

Kodak Color Plus 200

We Buy Your Books

Kodak Color Plus 200 Textures of Toronto

Kodak Ektar 100

What If We All Had Love?

Kodak Ektar 100

Wait Here

Kodak Ektar 100

Olympus Trip 35

Bench and Board

Kodak Ektar 100

Olympus Trip 35


Thanks for looking! Best wishes and stay well!

Most of my images are available as prints. To inquire, just click here and send me a message.

Related blog posts:

- A Year in Colour Film 2020 - Part I

- A Year in Black and White Film - 2020

- Favourite Photo Moments of 2020

- 120m Vision - Medium Format Film with a Fujica GS645W

- A Year in Colour Film 2019 - Part One

- A Year in Colour Film 2019 - Part Two

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) art photography best of 2020 colour film photography film photography Kodak film street photography Toronto toronto photography Toronto street photography Tue, 09 Mar 2021 18:35:53 GMT
A Year In Colour Film 2020 - Part I  I will not forsake, the colours that you bring

But the nights you filled with fireworks

They left you with nothing

- Stuck In A Moment, U2


Getting to know, first-hand, the unique qualities of a variety of colour film types over the past few years has been a lot of fun.

I shoot a lot more colour film than I do black and white, so will share my favourites of 2020 in two parts (as I did last year). So please stay tuned for a follow-up post.

The majority of images shared here were captured on my Canon AE-1, with a 28mm or 50mm lens. I will indicate the film type below each image, and alternate camera, when used.

Here we go...

Queen East Snowfall

Kodak Ektar 100

This auto shop has been converted into the Flying Squirrel Motorcycle Company. Read more here.


Capitalism Kills

Kodak Ektar 100



Kodak Ektar 100, Double Exposure

  Sideways Snow

Kodak Gold 200

Nikon Lite Touch compact camera


My Damn Self

Kodak Color Plus 200


Coming Soon

Kodak Color Plus 200

Ossington Love

Kodak Color Plus 200

Kaleidescope of the Senses

Winter Station by Charlie Sutherland of SUHUHA Architecture of Edinburgh, Scotland, seen on Woodbine Beach, Toronto

Kodak Ektar 100

Canon Sure Shot Look camera

This year's winter stations have been selected, but are delayed. Click here to see the very neat designs, hopefully coming soon.


Classy Corner

Kodak Ektar 100

El Mocambo

Kodak Ektar 100

If you follow me, you know I have a thing for this great music venue (link to their website).

Here's hoping live music will play there again in 2021.

Home TV Service

Kodak Ektar 100

Around the Corner

Kodak Gold 200

Morals on Church

Expired Black's 200 Film

Burt's Fish and Chips

Expired Black's 200 Film


ABC Books

Kodak Gold 200

Canon Sure Shot Look


The Saj

Kodak Gold 200

Canon Sure Shot Look

In This Together

Kodak Gold 200

Canon Sure Shot Look

Days A Week

Kodak Portra 400 120mm film

Fujica GS645W camera

Dolce & Gabbana

Kodak Portra 400 120mm film

Fujica GS645W camera

Housing 4 All!!

Kodak Portra 400 120mm film

Fujica GS645W camera

4 Bites More

Kodak Portra 400 120mm film

Fujica GS645W camera

24 HRS

Kodak Portra 400 120mm film

Fujica GS645W camera

Life Is Cancelled

Kodak Gold 200

Corona Capitalism

Kodak Gold 200

Capes For Kids

Kodak Gold 200

Classic Wheels

Kodak Gold 200

  City Bench

Kodak Gold 200

Made In Toronto

Kodak Ektar 100

Social Bubble

Kodak Ektar 100


Self Portrait

Kodak Ektar 100

New York Fur

Kodak Ektar 100

Social Norms

Kodak Ektar 100

Take Care Of Each Other

Kodak Ektar 100 120mm film

Fujica GS645W

Pappas Grill

Kodak Ektar 100 120mm film

Fujica GS645W

The Future Is Not Set (quote on poster by Shawn Micallef)

Kodak Ektar 100 120mm film

Fujica GS645W


Kodak Gold 200

Canon Sure Shot Look

I always enjoy meeting people while I am out taking photos. Charlene and I had a good conversation about the boarded up stores on Bloor Street that day. You can read more about our meeting in my Boards Up, Walls Down Part II blog post.

Thanks for looking! Stay tuned for a part two of this blog post.

Related blog posts:

- A Year in Black and White Film - 2020

- Favourite Photo Moments of 2020

- 120m Vision - Medium Format Film with a Fujica GS645W

- A Year in Colour Film 2019 - Part One

- A Year in Colour Film 2019 - Part Two

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) 35mm art photography believe in film documentary photography film photography Kodak Ektar 100 medium format street photography Toronto Tue, 02 Mar 2021 16:21:04 GMT
A Year In Black and White Film - 2020 Edition I have continued to enjoy shooting film since I came back to it in 2017.

In this post I share my favourite black and white film photos from 2020.

Most of these images were taken with my Konica Auto S3. I indicate which film type was used below each image.

Thirsty Branches

Kodak Tri-X 400

Wherever possible, I have included website and Google Maps links for the small businesses that appear in these images.

Please continue to support local businesses and to keep local alive.


A McCaul Moment

Ilford Ortho 80


The image below of a pedestrian getting splashed by a passing TTC bus, from February 2020, seemed to foreshadow what was coming in the year ahead - a deadly virus that caught most of us quite off guard.

Pape Puddle

Kodak Tri-X 400


Tasty Shadows

Ilford Ortho 80

I have another photo from this spot that has been popular at my art shows.


One Last Text

Kodak T-Max 400


Hung Up

Kodak T-Max 400


Reverse Psychology at Work

Private Salon

1038 Gerrard Street East

Ilford HP5+ 400


I enjoyed shooting 120mm/medium format film with my friend Simon's Fujica GS645W.

To see more medium format photos click on the 120mm below any of the next three images.

Vanity Co.

824 Broadview Avenue

Expired Kodak Acros 100 120mm film

Captured with a Fujica GS645W


Layers of Motion (Triple Exposure)

Expired Kodak Acros 100 120mm film

Captured with a Fujica GS645W


Ordinary Streets

Expired Kodak Acros 100 120mm film

Captured with a Fujica GS645W


Bring Joy

Kodak Eastman Double-X 5222


Danny's Hairstylist for Men

Kodak Eastman Double-X 5222



Kodak Eastman Double-X 5222


My Mommy is the Best

Lomography Potsdam 100


I met the owner of this classic Pontiac Parisienne while I was in Bobcaygeon last summer and he kindly let me take photos of his beautiful vehicle.

Bobcaygeon Parisienne

Kodak Tri-X 400


Danforth Free Bird

Kodak Tri-X 400


Too Much to Dream

Ilford HP5+ 400



Ilford HP5+ 400


John's Video

636 Pape Avenue

Ilford HP5+ 400


Pigeons of Parkdale

Ilford HP5+ 400


Katana on Bay

333 Bay Street

Lomography Berlin Kino 400


What's In Fashion

Fuji Acros 100 II


25% Off

Fuji Acros 100 II



Fuji Acros 100 II


Gus The Other Barber

701 Bloor Street West

Fuji Acros 100 II


Yonge & Dundas Square

Kodak T-Max 400


Going in Circles

Kodak T-Max 400


In Stitches

Kodak T-Max 400


Oppositional Forces

Kodak T-Max 400


Chair Shadows

Samaira's Restaurant

1056 Queen Street East

Kodak T-Max 400


Do You Love Freedom?

Ilford HP5+ 400


Seoul Shakers

1241 Bloor Street West

Ilford HP5+ 400


Colonialism Does Not Spark Joy

Ilford HP5+ 400


B-Side Bike

B-Side Barbers

428 St. Clarens Avenue

Ilford HP5+ 400



Ilford HP5+ 400


There are a number of black and white film photos from 2020 that I did not include here as I already posted them on Instagram. Click here if you'd like to see those ones also.

Despite the discouragements of 2020, I had a number of encouraging moments. Click here to see my Favourite Photo Moments of 2020.

Here are my favourite Black and White photos from 2019, and 2018.

Most of my images are available as prints. If interested, click here to send me a note and I'll be happy to help.

Best wishes to you in 2021!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) believe in film black and white film photography film photography street photography Toronto toronto photography Toronto street photography Thu, 11 Feb 2021 16:11:20 GMT
Favourite Photo Moments of 2020 "They tell me everything is gonna be alright,

But I don't know what alright even means"

- Bob Dylan, Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door


The above song by Bob Dylan was one of several songs that frequently came to my mind in 2020.

While 2020 was quite discouraging at times, my family and community were a great support in getting through.

Throughout any discouragements, I remained deeply aware of how much I have to be thankful for.

In that spirit of thankfulness, I share my annual post of my favourite photo moments of the past year...


Kodak Ektar 100 Film, Double Exposure


1. You Are Here Exhibit

I was happy to have my image "From Mind to Body" included in the "You Are Here" exhibit.

"You Are Here"  was exhibited in March 2020 by the University of Toronto's Faculty of Information Studies at the John B. Aird Gallery on Queen Street West.

The exhibit brought together many talented artists with a wide range of styles and methods.

I was honoured that my image was chosen for the poster and promotional materials.

2. Film Photography

I continued to shoot film photos throughout the past year...

Classy Corner

Kodak Ektar 100 Film


I mainly used my old Canon AE-1 for colour film, and my Konica Auto S3 for black and white.

Wash & Fold Service

Kodak T-Max 400 Film


One fun change for me was shooting 120mm medium format film with my friend Simon's Fujica GS645w camera.

4 Bites More

Expired Kodak Portra 400 film


Click here to see my blog post about shooting 120mm film with the Fujica GS645w.

Be Kind - Thank You!

Kodak Color Plus 200 Film


I recently added a blog post of my favourite black and white film photos of 2020, which can be seen here.

I will also add links to my favourite colour film images of 2020, once I post those to my blog.

One Last Text

Kodak T-Max 400


3. Documenting Scott Mission

In the first week of the pandemic I was able to capture images of the staff of The Scott Mission at work.


The Scott Mission, does excellent work assisting those living on the street and who are facing income challenges with a range of services.


2020 brought extra challenges to all shelter and street-serving agencies, and to those that they serve, making their work more important than ever...

The Scott Mission social mediaThe Scott Mission social mediaMy images, taken during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, are being used on The Scott Mission's social media channels to show how they are adapting in order to continue serving Toronto's vulnerable homeless population.


I am thankful that my images of The Scott Mission staff serving Toronto could be used in a large number of their email, social media and print campaigns (all of the images shown here were taken by me).

Click here to visit The Scott Mission's website, or here to follow them on Instagram.


If your organization needs help with telling your story in images and in words, I am available to assist. I have 15 years experience working for non-profit organizations, and several years more in documenting the meaningful acts that they do every day. Here are some kind words about my work. I can be contacted here.


4. Running/Phone Photography

Running (at a safe distance from others) was one of the few activities that I was able to continue doing during the 2020 lockdown.

Having my phone with me while running allowed me to document many of the changes I was seeing due to COVID-19.

Simon's Wok, 757 Gerrard St. E.


It was heartbreaking to see how local small businesses were affected by the pandemic.

Stunning Nails, 272 Danforth Avenue


I was encouraged by the many community efforts to shop local though.

Riverside Toronto BIA sign


Here are some of the blog posts I shared in 2020 that mainly feature images I captured with my phone while out running:

- Signs and Streets of the Quarantine - Part One

- Signs and Streets of the Quarantine - Part Two

- Expressions of Love in 2020

- Street Photos of 2020 - Phone Edition


5. Street Photography

Going out to capture street scenes once a week (at minimum) is part of my artistic discipline.


- in front of A Room In Paris, at 1631 Queen Street West.


I naturally had to pause my street photography once the March 2020 lockdown happened, but after a few months I was able to establish a safe approach to doing so once again.

A Yonge Moment


Love Yourself


Here are some additional blog posts of street scenes that I shared in 2020:

- Boards Up, Walls Down - Part One

- Boards Up, Walls Down - Part Two

- COVID Messages


6. A New Online Store

I normally participate in some 8-10 or more art shows every year.

Photo by Jan Willem van Swigchem

Taken several years ago at the Danforth East Arts Fair


These events are where I normally sell my photos, as well as pillows, bags and other items with my images on them.

Honest LightHonest LightA street scene outside of Honest Ed's, captured in early 2016.

Product Details:
- 20" x 14"
- Made in Montreal, QC, Canada
- durable 100% polyester canvas
- 50,000 double rub count for extra durability
- Printed with fade-resistant solvent-free inks
- YKK Zipper enclosure
- Synthetic down pillow inserts available (a small extra cost)
To order just
email me the link of which style(s) and quantity, along with your mailing address, and I will send you a quote with shipping.
Honest Light

Unfortunately I was unable to participate in any such events in 2020.

Thankfully I was able to benefit from a program called Digital Main Street/Shop Here that helps artists and businesses get their products online.

I now have a website called where almost all of my art products can be purchased!

My thanks to those who run Digital Main Street/ShopHere!

If you are an artist or own a small business and want to get your work online, be sure to check them out.


7. Good News

While 2020 was a slow year for my art and event photography, I did have at least two extra good news moments:

- Kim's Convenience

In the fall of 2020 I was invited to have one of my images used in the very popular CBC sit-com Kim's Convenience. My image, shown below, will appear in the upcoming Season 5, Episode 13. I'm so excited to see the episode and am very thankful to the Kim's Convenience team for this opportunity.

Kim's ConvenienceKim's ConvenienceA long-exposure of the storefront representing one of Canada's most popular sit-coms, Kim's Convenience.
I am so thankful that this image was used in several scenes of the final episode of Kim's Convenience. The show was such a gift of joy and laughter that comes from honest expression of our shared humanity - something all of us can share in and aspire to.
This image is available as a print and in photo art products that I sell, including a pillow. Visit for more details or send me an email to inquire.

- SNAP Toronto

I was very happy to learn in 2020 that two of my images were selected for the SNAP Toronto Auction, which raises money for the AIDS Committee of Toronto. I  have submitted images to this event once or twice in the past, but this is the first time my work has been selected.

Life is Cancelled

Kodak T-Max 400 Film

Gryphons of College Street

Lomography Potsdam 100 Film


While I received both of these good news points in 2020, they each happen, or come to life, in 2021 - so expect to see these mentioned next year in my blog looking back on 2021!


8. Shoe Store Project

Since late 2017 I have been documenting older shoe and shoe repair stores of Toronto.

Shoe Lasts at Nick's Custom Footwear & Repair, January 2020


I am thankful that I was still able to do a number of interviews for this project in 2020.

Interviewing City Councillor Brad Bradford at Aviator Restaurant on the Danforth.

Thanks to Stewart Pope for this photo.


I am looking forward to May 2021, when I will be exhibiting Old World Shoes in the Contact Photo Festival. Stay tuned for details!


9.Through Our Eyes Collective

In the spring of 2020 I joined up with several other photographers to form the Through Our Eyes Collective, thanks to the leadership of Nicole Cyhelka.

In a time of social distancing, having this group to connect with via Zoom meetings, was a real gift.

Being part of a community of photographers is something I really value, and the TOEC helped to keep that alive this past year.

In early June we did our first online exhibit featuring images each of our members captured during the early part of the pandemic.

In the fall each of us worked on interpreting the phrase "Colours of Love" in our images.

We then presented our work in our second online exhibit, appropriately titled "Colours of Love".

I shared my images from this exhibit in this blog post, Expressions of Love in 2020.

The TOEC continues to meet on a regular basis to encourage each other in our photography skills and creative vision.


10. Good Friends

For the past several years I have enjoyed an annual trip for educational and cultural purposes with my good friend Sammy Younan.

Mexico City, 2017

I would attend a conference or workshop on photography, and Sammy would interview talented authors, start-up innovators, or artists for his podcast My Summer Lair.

Sammy interviewing Ali Hassan in Toronto, December 2019.

Sammy and I were scheduled to be in Montreal in April 2020, but of course that wasn't possible. Instead we found a few times to meet up for socially distant walks here in Toronto - exploring and taking photos, much like we did when visiting other cities.

Sammy in front of Find The Love mural by Bareket Kezwer on the Danforth.

Kodak Ektar 100 film

Even though we couldn't travel in 2020, and perhaps not in 2021 either, I'm thankful for good friends like Sammy.

Seen on Sammy's website: "Batman had Alfred, pop culture has me."

If you like lively interviews with interesting authors, artists and more, be sure to check out My Summer Lair or follow Sammy here and here on Twitter.


11. Light Up Live

I observed many campaigns on Toronto's streets in 2020.

Keep Your Rent - Gerrard Street East


Toronto Speak Out

Signs against racism by East York community members posted outside Michael Garron Hospital.


Housing 4 All!!

Coxwell Avenue

Expired Portra 400 120mm film


I am thankful for all who are standing up in support of the most vulnerable, for social justice and for equality - during the pandemic and at all times.

One campaign that I had the chance to document more intentionally was the Light Up Live campaign.

Light Up Live was a campaign to raise awareness of the challenges facing the live event industry. Live music and theatre venues all across Canada took part.

Meridian Hall

While I really miss live music and theatre, I expect no one misses these as much as those involved with running these arts organizations...

Canadian Stage Company staff gather outside of the Berkeley Street Theatre on Sept 22nd 2020, in recognition of the Light Up Live campaign.

Click here to see more images of the Light Up Live campaign in Toronto.


Many issues remain, so let's stay engaged and active for good in 2021. Doing that will get us closer to finding what "alright" means.


I will leave you with this image, captured in early 2020 while on a run along Kingston Road...

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?


Best wishes and stay safe in 2021!

P.S. If you wish to see any of my Favourite Photo Moments of past years, click the links below:

- 2019

- 2018

- 2017

- 2016

- 2015

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) art photography documentary photography favourite photo moments Toronto toronto photography year in review Wed, 27 Jan 2021 16:02:18 GMT
Street Scenes of 2020 - Phone Edition "Nothing happens when you sit at home.

I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times...

I just shoot at what interests me at that moment."

— Elliott Erwitt


In this blog post I share my favourite street scenes that I made with my phone in 2020.

Danny's Hairstylist for Men

I shared several posts in 2020 featuring scenes that directly relate to COVID-19 and the pandemic:

Birds of Gerrard Street East

In this post though, I only share street scenes that are free from COVID-19 events or messaging (as much as they can be, given that they are from 2020).

Rainy Skyline

Most of the images I share here were captured while out on runs - an activity I was already doing before the lockdown, but which has been very helpful for my physical and mental health.

Wok & Roast Chinese BBQ

Running allowed me to see parts of the city I would simply not have gotten to this year, given the lockdown and my busy life at home.

Free From Time

I ran at least three times a week, distances ranging from 5 or 6 kms on weekdays, to 20-22 kms on my weekend run.

So while it may appear that I took photos more than I ran, that was not the case! :)

Lucky Star Restaurant

I've always loved the look of the Lucky Star Restaurant. There is clearly such character and history in this place. Unfortunately I believe it has recently closed.


China Lily

China Lily is another place that I love the appearance of (click here to see a photo I took here a while ago).

Sadly the China Lily sign was recently taken down - a likely indicator of changes to come at this spot.


Count me in on any old school signage and typography - such as is found at the Leslieville Variety...

Leslieville Variety


Some scenes seemed to tell a story...

Altered Priorities


I live close to the Danforth, and love the character and variety of what can be found there.

So naturally I am drawn to Danforth signage...

(Each of the above images were taken on different dates.)


Pape Avenue always offered interesting scenes...

Vincent on Pape


I Acknowledge

(A land acknowledgement in a store window.)

Take For Free


At the Crossroads


Early in the summer I was in Ottawa and went for a run through the city...

Statue honouring the life and music of Oscar Peterson by Ruth Abernathy.


The Canadian Bank of Commerce on Sparks Street


Running for Office

(Canadian Parliament Buildings, view from Wellington Street)


Back in Toronto I encountered a number of things that made me smile...

The Original Tweet

Call Mom

Hello wonderful

Nooo Men

Slow Dance With Me

Free Compliments


These scenes from a summer trip to the Kawartha Lakes region also made me laugh...

No Trespassing Paul

(So specific!)


0 Assing


Some of my runs took me through downtown Toronto...

The Saj

Spadina Morning


You & Me



Dundas Dragons


Let's Go


The Solitude of Yonge

Condos Ahead!

Full Of Style

  Prince Edward Viaduct


Shopping carts made a regular appearance in curious ways...

Canadian Cart

Stay Well Toronto


Free Free Now


Secure Shopping


Broke Every Record


This early morning sky took my breath away...

And this neon scene made an evening run extra sweet...


Circus Books and Music often caught my eye...

Across the Lines


Along A Long Road


Book Ends


Curious items and arrangements caught my eye...

Fenced In


True Prep

90% Angel


First Class Seat - 2020 Edition


Lines Are Drawn


Over the months I observed changes in graffiti...

This is stupid, for good!



(This graffiti artist is very active in this area, near Woodbine and Gerrard.)


I enjoyed a number of runs along the scenic boardwalk in The Beach neighbourhood...

I'll share a few more scenes from along the Danforth...

Mary's Brigadeiro

(A wonderful Danforth chocolate shop. Click the above link to visit them online.)

Trail of Toffee

Heading East


Two more from Gerrard Street East...

Birds of Gerrard Street East II

Wheels on Gerrard


And I will end with this...

Lonely Nights In Toronto


I am very thankful I could get out the door in 2020 to run, and to take photos.

Thank you for sticking with me, and for viewing my images.

Please stay tuned for a post with my favourite photo moments of 2020. (An annual tradition for me.)

Best wishes to you in 2021!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) 2020 iPhone 11 Pro shot on iPhone street photography Toronto toronto photography Toronto street photography Mon, 11 Jan 2021 17:50:58 GMT
Colours of Love: Expressions of Love in 2020 What the world needs now is love, sweet love

It's the only thing, that there's just too little of

- What The World Needs Now, Burt Bacharach


In early December I joined with fellow members of the Through Our Eyes Collective in presenting the online exhibit Colours of Love.

Colours of Love was presented by Zahra Baksh, Nicole Cyhelka, Sabrina La Vista, Ahely Shemontee, Lorraine Stanislaus, and myself, and facilitated by Deena Rich. Each photographer brought a unique vision of the theme Colours of Love which they shared in images and their accompanying narrative.

Click any of the above links to follow these talented photographers, and here to follow the Through Our Eyes Collective.

In this blog post I share my presentation for the Colours of Love exhibit, which I entitled "Expressions of Love".

(Lights at Meridian Hall)

While 2020 has brought so much hardship, I have been moved by the many methods people have taken to spread love this past year. I have grouped these into seven points, with some overlap between them:

  1. Creative Interventions
  2. Black Lives Matter / Anti-Racism Movement
  3. Artist: Mrs. D.
  4. Support For Frontline Workers
  5. Artist: Unicorn Shannon
  6. Light Up Live
  7. Words Of Love

Many of these images were taken on my cell phone while running - an activity that helped keep me in balance during this very tough year.

1. Creative Interventions

This may be the largest category that I observed this past year - caring people using creative means to help us see the world with fresh eyes, and to free us from negative perspectives that may understandably set in due to the pandemic.

1.a - On This Day Signboard

I spotted this whiteboard off of Donlands in East York while out on a run in the spring...

...and again many times since. What a great way to engage people with thoughtful and inspiring moments from history!

Follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @UBIboard to keep up with their daily signs.

1.b Free Roses

"Have A Rose. Have A Great Day." So simple and so kind and encouraging.

(Seen a few times along Mortimer between Coxwell and Woodbine in East York).

1.c Free Plants and Seeds

This kind soul on Mortimer, a little east of Broadview, had a very organized giveaway of plants and seeds on their front lawn. The cards and messages found there were especially touching - and, as seen above, this person is also running a "bike project" of some sort!

There are clearly many wonderful people in this world that we never hear about - but who are doing so much to show love to others.

1.d Humour

I expect humour helped many of us break out of our doomscrolling, right? I've laughed so many times in 2020 thanks to memes that pointed out the absurdity of all that we are experiencing this year.

(Found in East York earlier in the year.)

1.e Kindness Rocks

If you look closely, there are some very nice messages to be found on these stones.

My thanks to all who took the time to make and to place these where we would see them and be encouraged.

(Seen in multiple locations in East York and The Beach.)

1.f Public Art

So much could be said on this point! I actually single out two artists that inspired me later on in this blog post, but the point needs to be said clearly: art was even more meaningful to many this year due to the pandemic.

The Distillery District had art with encouraging messages that many needed to see and hear.

STEPS Initiative, local BIAs like the Danforth Mosaic BIA and the Royal Bank brought public art all over Toronto via the I HeART Main Street Art Challenge. Such a great program!

Thank you to all the artists who shared their love and creative vision in 2020!

2. Black Lives Matter / Anti-Racism Movement

2020 was a massive year for facing up to racial injustice and inequality, as well as personal privilege and biases.

I was moved by the many voices and actions calling for change. I observed many of these in signs around the city...

Tokyo Smoke (formerly HMV music) boarded up in advance of Black Lives Matters protests (as many downtown stores were that weekend) due to a misplaced fear of violence.

To see more of boarded up Toronto please visit Part One and Part Two of my "Boards Up, Walls Down" blog posts.

Some horrible acts of hate occurred at construction sites around Toronto, including at the Michael Garron Hospital in East York. The local community responded powerfully with signs and messages of defiance of these acts, and in support and of love for all people.

These signs and messages really made me proud, and showed the deep well of love that resides in local citizens of Toronto.

A very detailed mural in Scarborough that shows the heartbreaking loss of Black lives over the years.

(Seen while out for a run. I believe this was by Rosetta McLain Gardens on Kingston Road, south of Danforth Avenue).

(Seen a few blocks north of Broadview and the Danforth).

I saw similar additions to several of these signs in East York.

(On Haldon Avenue by the entrance to Taylor Creek Park.)

Use Your Love! Not Your Hate.

(Michael Garron Hospital)

Thank you to all who stood up against hate and for love of all people in 2020. May we continue to do even more for justice and equality in 2021.

3. Artist: "Mrs. D"

One of my running routes this year took me past a post that was regularly updated with fresh artwork...

They were all signed by someone known as "Mrs. D".

I especially love those birds with the big eyes.

My thanks to "Mrs. D" for taking the time to share her art all throughout 2020 for all to see. You shared love with many and it made a difference!

(See on Woodfield Road, near Wapole Avenue in East York)

4. Support For Frontline Workers

A very clear expression of love this year, shown throughout the world, was all the messages in support of Frontline Workers. Here are some that I observed...

A number of trees and lightposts along Mortimer Avenue had rainbows on them, all in support of essential workers. This was done in connection with a campaign called Abbey's Goal (click the link to learn more about this great campaign).

Homes in East York

Seen at Michael Garron Hospital

(Seen on Mortimer Avenue, between Coxwell and Woodbine.)

(Seen in a storefront window in The Beach.)

Thank you Frontline Workers!

Thank you to all who shared love and support for them as well!

5. Artist: Unicorn Shannon

I noticed this great artwork on the wall at Michael Garron Hospital wall earlier this year.

Later I began seeing this artist's work in other places around East York.

East End Arts (a wonderful Local Arts Service Organization!) did a nice feature on Unicorn Shannon earlier this year, which helped me to know who was making this lovely artwork.

Thank you Unicorn Shannon for bringing love and creativity to Toronto!

Follow Unicorn Shannon on Instagram @unicornstudiostoronto.

6. Light Up Live

There were many dedicated campaigns this year in support of those most vulnerable during the harsh economic reality brought about by COVID-19 closures and restrictions. I am thankful for each of these and the love and passion put into them.

One campaign that I documented more intentionally this year (with my Nikon DSLR) was the #LightUpLive campaign.

Meridian Hall, lit up in red for Light Up Live

Light Up Live was a national campaign in support of live event workers of all types - in the music industry, theatres and beyond - all who have lost their livelihoods due to the shutdown of the live event industry.

Live event venues across Canada lit up for one night, on September 22nd, to raise awareness of their struggle.

Workers at the Canadian Stage Company gather outside the Berkeley Street Theatre in recognition of the Light Up Live campaign.

As someone who loves live music and theatre, and has photographed many live events, I dearly miss this industry and all the joy that they bring to our lives.

My thanks to the Light Up Live organizers for engaging Canada with this important campaign. May we attend live events once again in 2021!

(To see more images of this campaign please visit my Light Up Live blog post.)

7. Words of Love

Much of what I have shared here could fall under this category, but I needed a separate section to share the random messages of love that I encountered throughout Toronto in 2020.

So here goes...

It's Okay To Have A Bad Day

Love Yourself

Live More Worry Less

(Lomography Potsdam 100 Film, by Foot Locker on Yonge Street)

Be Kind - Thank You!

(Kodak Color Plus 200 Film, at the Queen Street East Value Village)

Spread Love! Not Hate! Seriously!

(Parliament Street near Lakeshore)


It seems fitting to close with the question raised in this next image:

What If We All Had Love?

(Kodak Ektar 100 Film, near Lakeshore & Leslie)

Indeed, what if we all had love?

Perhaps the best way to find out is to keep on showing love to those around us?

Imagine what 2020 would have been like if no one had shared all of the above creativity? Imagine what 2021 can be like if we see even more of this?

If you have an idea for a creative and artistic intervention - consider making it happen 2021!

Art by Unicorn Shannon

Thanks to all who brought love in 2020! Let's keep it going in 2021!

Best wishes to you for a healthy and successful New Year!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) 2020 art photography Colours of Love COVID-19 Expressions of Love Toronto Toronto street photography year in review Thu, 31 Dec 2020 17:00:12 GMT
My Favourite Photobooks - Great Gift Ideas! With this being gift-giving season, it's the perfect time to finally write about my favourite photo books.

Each of these books will make a great gift for the photographer or photography lover in your life.

As life is still in lockdown for many of us, what better to curl up with and enjoy than a wonderfully engaging photo book?

I am including eleven books, each chosen based on what draws my interest and what I enjoy. They are not in any particular order.

I will start with a Canadian legend of colour film...


1. Modern Color by Fred Herzog

The late Fred Herzog was an early pioneer in shooting colour film. He captured Vancouver in a way that few have done then or since. His work is a real inspiration to me and how I capture street scenes.

Fred Herzog is represented by Equinox Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. I noticed that Modern Color is on sale on the Equinox Gallery website until December 19th, 2020.

If you love street or film photography, or just art that reveals unique human moments and insight, then I highly recommend this book.


2. San Francisco Noir by Fred Lyon

I saw an interview with Fred Lyon on an Adobe Youtube channel a few years ago and fell in love with his wonderful images of San Francisco.

There is something about Fred Lyon's timeless black and white images that is so engaging.

I highly recommend San Francisco Noir. Even if you don't buy his book, do pay a visit to Fred Lyon's website to enjoy more of his images.


3. Small World by Martin Parr

Many years ago I told a few friends how I'd love to see a coffee table book about tourists - not just about the destinations that tourists love to visit. I had lived overseas for a while and had seen all kinds of painful behaviour by tourists where I was living. So when I encountered the work of Martin Parr many years later - thanks to a photography class I took at Ryerson - it was a real "Yes!" moment.

Small World shows images captured by Martin Parr of tourists - and the tourist culture that surrounds them - in all of their absurd glory.

I heard Martin Parr speak at the AGO and had the chance to meet him afterwards also - a very fun moment.

There is so much more that could be said about Martin Parr's work. I recommend exploring the large catalogue of books that he has released over the years.

If you appreciate poking holes through false surfaces, or have a taste for the absurd, then give Small World a try, or at least visit Martin Parr's website.


4. Music Makers by Lisa MacIntosh

I first met Lisa MacIntosh several years ago through Twitter. Before we even met in person, it was clear to me that Lisa is a wonderful human being - the kind who takes time to say kind words and to give encouragement, even to those she has not yet met. 

Lisa knows many in the arts community in Canada and well beyond. Her photo book Music Makers: Portraits at The Great Hall is a testament to this fact. Even more so, Music Makers illustrates how skilled Lisa is at creating unique and delightful portraits.

Whether you come for the portrait skills, or for the musicians you know and love, Music Makers: Portraits at The Great Hall is well worth buying and enjoying. Unfortunately it is sold out! You can still see many of the Music Makers portraits on Lisa's website though. I recommend following Lisa on Twitter and discovering her fantastic ASK series on Instagram. Thank you Lisa for being a bright light to so many.


5. Fashion Climbing by Bill Cunningham

If you love New York City, or photography, and haven't watched "Bill Cunningham: New York" then you are missing something vital. I highly recommend it. The story of this lovely human being and dedicated New York street fashion photographer is inspiring and very moving, I guarantee it. (The film can be seen on Kanopy for free if you have a Toronto Public Library Card - click here to sign in to Kanopy).

Once you get that done, and perhaps wipe a tear or two away from your eyes (OK, maybe it was just me?) then there is a good chance you will want to know more about Bill Cunningham's life. If so, then you will enjoy reading Fashion Climbing. It is not a photo book, but it is a touching auto-biography of the life of Bill Cunningham and how he moved through the world of fashion to become the person you see in Bill Cunningham: New York.

Bill Cunningham shares some incredible stories and insider information on the world of high fashion. I really enjoyed reading this book.

If you want a book that shares Bill Cunningham's street photos directly, then have a look at Bill Cunningham: On The Street (click the link for a great write-up about the book). It is on my Christmas list for this year!


6. Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind The Photographs

I can hear critical voices responding to this selection. Isn't a bit cliché to suggest the work of classic National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry? Isn't he from another time? His type of photography out of date?

Well perhaps yes, but I still admire Steve McCurry's work. His images will be undoubtably with us forever and the stories of how he got his most famous photos remain inspiring.

Hard work, ingenuity, people skills and even good luck will always be important for any photographer who wants to succeed, and Steve McCurry's stories prove this to be true. This book adds much insight into his journeys over the years, and includes artifacts and elements that add to the whole story of his life and work.

(By the way, I met Steve McCurry a number of years ago. It was quite a fun moment. I may have to blog about it some day!)


7. Street Photography: A History in 100 Iconic Images by David Gibson

I received this book as a gift a while ago, and found myself a bit skeptical given its title. "Who can really tackle the history of street photography in 100 images?" I found myself thinking. I was still grateful though for the thoughtful gift and for the chance to continue learning about a genre of photography that I love.

I enjoyed the book's layout and found myself pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of photographers that were included - not just the "usual suspects" that I often hear about but a solid range of international photographers whose work does not receive the attention of as the likes of Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand and other prominent names in street photography.

I found a balanced review of this book at which echoed my concerns and raised some valid points, but still in the end gives it a recommendation. If you want to go wider than some of the usual names, but aren't ready for a heavy duty text book such as Joel Meyerowitz's Bystander (which I'd also recommend if you're up for a heavier tome), then this is a great book for you or a friend.


8. Bathers by Ruth Kaplan

Ruth Kaplan is a skilled Canadian documentary photographer and an instructor at Ryerson University and at Gallery 44. I feel privileged to have taken a few courses with Ruth, and to have received guidance and input from her on my Taxi Drivers of Toronto project.

A while ago I purchased a copy of her book Bathers. This piece from Artbook gives a good description of Bathers:

"Bathers, by Toronto-based photographer Ruth Kaplan, explores the social theater of communal bathing. Kaplan’s journey began in the nudist hot springs of California in 1991. By participating in the baths, Kaplan gradually became accepted and was able to make photographs of her fellow bathers, occupying the dual role of voyeur and participant. From California she then traveled to Eastern Europe, seeking a more traditional form of the practice in the spa towns of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania. The unique display of individual body types and ages became a component of the work, as did the decaying architecture of the interiors. She then traveled to higher-tech spas in Germany, France, Italy and Denmark, completing the series in 2002 in Moroccan hamams and Icelandic hot springs. Hedonism, sensuality, innocence and social bonding are some of the underlying themes that emerged."

In 2020 PhotoEd Magazine (a great Canadian photo magazine worth subscribing to!) put out a call asking people to submit names of Canadian women photographers that everyone should know. Many names were submitted and a vote was held to select the top five, which were then put onto a tote bag.

I was very happy when they announced the final list and learned that it included Ruth Kaplan. (You can read a list of those who were selected or considered here.)

Explore Ruth Kaplan's work, and consider buying a copy of Bathers as well.

Please note that there is nudity in Bathers.


9. 100 Ideas That Changed Photography by Mary Werner Marien

If you want to get a wider understanding of where photography has come from, and in many cases where it is headed back to (exploring old film processes is very popular now), then this book is worth a look.

It is divided into easy to digest sections that bring forward the most interesting points about important developments and innovations in photography over the years. You can jump in anywhere in this book and find something fascinating to read about.

100 Ideas That Changed Photography is a great book for anyone who wants to broaden their understanding of the history of photography. As I mentioned earlier, many of the techniques and processes listed in this book are still being used or reinvented today.


10. How to Read A Photograph by Ian Jeffrey

When I got this book, I thought it would do as the title says - teach me how to analyze images by each of the great photographers found within. What it does do is offer great insights into each of the photographers' works, approaches, and the times they lived in - which may be the next best thing.

While a history of photography textbook can be daunting (something I may have experienced while studying History of Photography at Ryerson University), a book like this allows meaningful insights into each photographer without committing to forty pages of dense reading.

This is an enjoyable book for anyone who loves classic photography and learning more about the moments and themes that shaped each photographer's creative work.

11. Coincidences by Jonathan Higbee

I was aware of Jonathan Higbee's very fun street photography work, so when I came across this book at a local thrift store it was an exciting moment.

The beauty of Higbee's work is making his images look like just that, coincidences.

Having seen Jonathan Higbee apply his skills in a YouTube video, it is clear that he works very hard, even over several visits to the same location, to get the kind of image that he is after. He is very dedicated.

If you or someone you know enjoys playful street photography, then this book is well worth a purchase.

In Conclusion!

There are so many photo books out there. What I have shared here is just what I especially enjoy from my own collection. I hope this list is a useful starting point, but keep exploring - you are bound to discover so much more.

As a random example - have a look at these fun photo books about cats and dogs in Hong Kong by Dutch photographer Marcel Heijnen.

Here is a handy directory of Canadian booksellers for finding one near you. Consider supporting independant booksellers when making your purchase. Small retailers give personal service and contribute to warm local culture that is so vital to any community.

Enjoy curling up with a good photo book this winter! Thanks for looking!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) book lovers Christmas gifts for photographers gift ideas gifts for photographers photography books Fri, 11 Dec 2020 16:48:22 GMT
120 Vision - Medium Format Film with a Fujica GS645W Camera Earlier this year my friend Simon Madore - a talented filmmaker and director - lent me his very nice Fujica GS645W camera.

- photo by Simon Madore


The Fujica GS645W shoots 120 medium format film and has a fixed 45mm lens, which is roughly equivalent to a 28mm field of view on a 35mm camera.

- photo by Simon Madore


I often use a 28mm lens on my Canon AE-1 (a 35mm film camera), so framing images with the GS645W felt familiar to me.

The Danforth Music Hall

Expired Fuji Across 100


I had two rolls of 120 film in my fridge that were overdue for usage (expired by 8-9 months) so I appreciated the opportunity to borrow Simon's camera.

Naturally I bought two fresh rolls of film so I could make the most of my time using this camera!

City Dig

Expired Fuji Acros 100


In this post I share some of my favourite images from those four rolls of 120 film, as well as a few comments on using the GS645W.


Expired Fuji Acros 100


The GS645W creates images with 6 x 4.5 dimensions, hence the "645" in its name.

Each roll of 120 film gave me 14 exposures, vs 24 or 36 images from a 35mm roll of film.

Vanity Co.

Expired Fuji Acros 100


Ordinary Streets

Expired Fuji Acros 100


The GS645W is relatively compact compared to many medium format cameras - something I appreciate as I often carry more than one camera on my photo walks, and don't want to be too weighed down.


Here is a series of images shot on the GS645W with Kodak Ektar 100 film, the first three are from on The Danforth...

See You All Soon!


Body Blue


Pappas Grill

I live near Danforth Avenue and love the great shops and restaurants found there.

Check out the Broadview Danforth BIA and The Danforth Mosaic BIA websites to explore and plan a visit.


Thank You


The Future Is Not Set


120 film is much larger than 35mm film so each exposure offers a higher level of resolution and detail - something us photographers tend to enjoy.


Here are some of my favourites from a roll of expired Kodak Portra 400 film...

No Bills


Days A Week


Dolce & Gabbana

To see more boarded up Toronto click here and here.


Canadian Drycleaners


Housing 4 All!!

Click here to see more "COVID Messages"


4 Bites More


24 HRS


I shot a second roll of Kodak Ektar 100 film, one of my favourites film types...

Shut Down Hate

I am proud of my community in East York and Danforth East. People have risen to the challenge of hateful acts with determination and with love. The signs posted above were made by many, many individuals who wanted to show what our community overwhelmingly stands for.

Toronto East Anti-hate Movement, or TEAM, are one of the groups leading these actions. The good people at the wonderful Old's Cool General Store are also great leaders in this movement.

Thank you neighbours and all who are standing up against hate with love and positivity.


Continuing on with my neighbourhood, here are a few images from Woodbine Avenue...

Woodbine Auto Service

Kodak Ektar 100


New Stars Video

Kodak Ektar 100


Terry's Milk

Kodak Ektar 100


Beer Store

Kodak Ektar 100


Terry's Milk Part II

Kodak Ektar 100


A favourite landmark in the east end...

Wheels East

Kodak Ektar 100

The last image I'll share is one that I find quite intriguing...

Layers of Motion

Expired Fuji Acros 100

This is an accidental triple exposure that I somehow created in-camera.

The scenes in the above image are as follows:

1) runners passing Bloor Street United Church

2) a cyclist near Spadina Avenue

and 3) a person crossing McCaul street with their dog.


I loved using the Fujica GS645W camera and am very happy with the images it helped me to create.

To see more film images by me, please explore my blog.

Thanks to Simon Madore for lending me his camera, and thank you for looking!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) 120 film believe in film film photography Fuji Acros 100 Fujica GS645W Fujifilm Kodak Ektar 100 Kodak Portra 400 medium format film street photography Toronto toronto photography Toronto street photography Tue, 27 Oct 2020 13:52:22 GMT
Light Up Live - A Call to Action for the Live Event Industry "Red, I love you and the world"

- Red, by Daniel Lanois


It was a Tuesday night when Canada went red.

On Tuesday September 22nd, 2020, live event venues of all kinds lit up red in acknowledgement of the crisis facing the live event industry.

The Light Up Live campaign brought together "Organizations, grassroots groups, and individuals..." to illuminate live event landmarks in red in order to bring light to "the many performers, creators, technical, logistical, and management support personnel who drive a $100 billion Canadian economic engine."

There was an amazing list of organizations that participated. Click this link for a map showing venues in every area of Canada (zoom in to see details).

With close to 70 venues participating in Toronto alone, there was no chance I could get to all of them, so I planned a route that would take me to some of my favourites.

One of my first stops was the Berkeley Street Theatre, where I encountered a friendly group of Canadian Stage Company staff hanging out together in recognition of the Light Up Live camapign.

Young People's Theatre was clearly showing their support...

Meridian Hall (formerly Sony Centre, formerly Hummingbird Centre) had a great array of red lights...

The great lights there compelled me to stay and capture a few more scenes...

Meridian Hall's sign at Yonge and Front also helped to spread the campaign message...

From there I went to one of my favourite spots - the Princes' Gates at Exhibition Place, which was also lit up in red...

My final destination that night was Ontario Place, which allowed me to get more images of another favourite structure, the Cinesphere...

While the main Ontario Place sign and the Budweiser Stage were lit in red, the Cinesphere wasn't, so I made some adjustments to help it join the campaign...

On my way back to my car I captured skyline photos of Toronto, with the CN Tower lit in red for the Light Up Live campaign.

May each of these venues - all of them across Canada - be back to full steam creativity reaching thrilled audiences once again soon. To paraphrase Neil Young, "Long May They Run".

Thank you for reading this post. If you share it on social media please use #LightUpLive and/or #EclaironsLesScenes.

Please continue to support local art in whatever way that you can. Keep Live Alive!

Click here to see more of my blog posts.

Best wishes. Masks and social distancing work. Stay healthy and stay well friends.

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) documentary photography Light Up Live Live Events Toronto Live Music Toronto Toronto toronto photography Toronto Theatre Scene Tue, 06 Oct 2020 18:05:59 GMT
COVID Words: Pandemic Messages Found On Toronto Streets Got down on my knees
Grabbed my pen and bowed my head
Tried to summon all that my heart finds true
And send it in my letter to you

Things I found out through hard times and good
I wrote 'em all out in ink and blood
Dug deep in my soul and signed my name true
And sent it in my letter to you

- Letter to You, Bruce Springsteen


In the months since we went into lockdown I have seen many messages on Toronto's streets.

Freeze Rent, Coxwell Avenue


In this post I share messages found on the street that address the COVID-19 pandemic, or issues that became more severe during the pandemic.

Unlike Bruce Springsteen's Letter (see lyrics at the start of this blog post) these messages are not signed. They are anonymous and are not associated with any business, nor approved by the city or the property owner where they are posted.

Unless indicated, all images taken with my iPhone 11 Pro.


Some incorporate art in their messaging...

Whatever, Artist Unknown, McCaul Avenue

Lomography Potsdam 100 Film

Konica Auto S3 Camera

If you know this artist, please share their social media contacts so I can properly credit them!


Wash Your Hands, Coxwell Avenue

(definitely referencing The Simpsons character, Milhouse)

By an artist named Cosmo Cam of Scarlet Begonias Tattoo Studio

Virtual Reality, Pottery Road

Keep Ur Distance

(Very Banksy-like)

Seen on the bridge connecting Riverdale Park East with Riverdale Park West

Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay ?

Jones Avenue

Stay Safe

Queen Street West

(I see pieces by this street artist a lot around Toronto.)

If you know any of the above artists please share their contact info so I can credit them here.


Some are discouraging...

Life is Cancelled, Millwod and Overlea

Kodak T-Max 400 Film

Konica Auto S3 Camera


Life is Cancelled

Kodak Gold 200

Canon AE-1 Camera


Some are upset...

"How are we supposed to wash our hands frequently???

Washrooms at Queen's P(ark) and City Hall are open.

Here the washrooms are closed. Why?"

- Found on the Beach Boardwalk


Some spread conspiracies...

Messages found on Gerrard Street, east of Carlaw.



Gerrard Street East and Victoria Park Avenue

Wake Up!!

Kingston Road

Some feel angry and keyed up for a fight...

This is How It Starts... Fear(Less), Woodbine Avenue

I suspect someone added the "Less" as it looks quite different from the rest of the text. Fight or Obey, Woodbine Avenue

Don't Belelieve This Shit, Woodbine Avenue


Others (myself included!) are more concerned...

I Give A SHiT


Some spots have a clash of voices, sending mixed messages...

People Over Profit

Danforth & Donlands Avenue

Some encourage political activism...

Housing 4 All!!

Coxwell Avenue

120mm Kodak Portra 400

Fujica GS645W Camera

Or question our economic order...

Corona is the Virus, Capitalism is the Pandemic

Eastern Avenue

Kodak Gold 200 Film

Canon AE-1 Camera


And challenge our opposition to systems that are more compassionate and just...

"When I give food to the poor they call me a saint.

When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist."

- Helder Camara

Dundas Avenue East


Some address how society has changed...

Social Norms Has Been Reset to Factory Settings

Queen Street West

Kodak Ektar 100 Film

Canon AE-1 Camera

I found these words and scene very engaging, so took a number of photos there...

Also a couple in black and white...

Ilford HP5+ 400 Film

Konica Auto S3 Camera


While many messages were intended to challenge and provoke, thankfully many were made to encourage and inspire...

Coxwell Avenue

Donlands Avenue

Woodbine Avenue

Spread Love! Not Hate! Seriously!

Cherry Street and Lakeshore Boulevard East

Live More, Worry Less

Yonge Street, across from the Eaton Centre

Lomography Potsdam 100 Film

Konica Auto S3

Love Yourself

Gerrard Street East

" is the courage to continue that counts."

- Winston Churchill

Sammon Avenue

We Love You Ever!

Woodbine Avenue

Don't forget to Be Kind...

Be Kind - Thank You!

Kodak Color Plus 200 Film

Olympus Stylus 35-70 Zoom camera


I'll end with this heartfelt message...

You've Got A Heart of Gold

Logan Avenue

Let's all live up to that and show our hearts of gold.

There's no doubt that we need more love and kindness these days, especially as the pandemic carries on much longer than any of us would like.

Thanks for reading and viewing this post!

Visit some of my recent blog posts for more:

- Boards Up, Walls Down In Toronto - Part One and Part Two.

- Remembering the Raptors Victory Parade

- Signs and Stores of the Quarantine - Part One and Part Two.

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) documentary photography documenting the pandemic film photography graffiti inspirational messages street art street photography Toronto toronto photography Fri, 18 Sep 2020 15:15:09 GMT
Boards Up, Walls Down in Toronto - Part Two Multiple protests against anti-black racism took place in downtown Toronto on June 6 and 7, 2020.

(iPhone image captured near Lawrence and Avenue Road)

The protests followed in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and many other horrible events that unfolded in the United States, but were also in response to the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet here in Toronto, who died while police were present.

(iPhone image captured the morning of June 6th, 2020)

Out of concern for violent actions taking place during these protests, many businesses in downtown Toronto boarded up their storefronts. Thankfully these fears were misplaced, and no such violence took place.

(iPhone image captured the morning of June 6th, 2020)

In my previous blog post I shared images of a boarded up Toronto that I took with my phone on the morning of Saturday June 6th, 2020.


In this post I share images taken in the late afternoon of Saturday June 6th.

The majority of images in this post were taken with my DSLR (Nikon D750). A few others were taken on my iPhone or on film, and I have indicated this below those images.

Sign outside of Aritzia: "How Does Canada Treat Its Indigenous"

Sign outside of Aritzia: "Canadians Are Racist Too" (iPhone image)

A group of friends read and discuss the signs outside of Aritzia.


Van Cleef & Arpels (a view of Birks Jewelry Store)

Maison Birks

All Merchandise Has Been Removed

Banana Republic


Sephora Sign

Welcome to the Future

Holt Renfrew Men

The Most Reliable Way


Beam of Shadow

Royal De Versailles

Dolce & Gabbana


While outside Dolce & Gabbana I met Charlene Ashby.

As Charlene was approaching, I heard her expressing her feelings about the stores being boarded, so I started a conversation with her.

Charlene had come downtown to shop and expressed how she's "disgusted" and "disappointed" at the stores being boarded up and closed for the weekend.

I learned that Charlene has lived in Toronto for 25 years, and had appeared on Kenny & Spenny when they came downtown to film for an episode.

Charlene mentioned that "right now I'm trying to set something up with Drake, because Drake knows me" and how Drake's "on Instagram right behind me".  

Alternate portrait of Charlene

(Kodak Gold 200 film, taken with my Canon Sure Shot Look)

I enjoyed meeting Charlene. She carried on her way, and so did I with my photos...

J. Crew


Mulberry sign

Winners / HomeSense


Gucci Escada

Bloor - View From Above

Max Mara

Mont Blanc

I crossed the road to the north side of Bloor and headed east...

Louis Vuitton

Tiffany & Co.

I chatted with a security guard* outside Intermix.

She was on a long shift - which saw no violence - and was looking forward to finishing.

(*Unfortunately I misplaced her name, so cannot share it here. I will update this post if I find it.)

Winners / HomeSense

Brooks Brothers

J. Crew

I crossed back to the south side of Bloor for a few moments, as there was something about the light and colours there that caught my eye...

Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana

(Fujica GS645W camera with expired 120mm Kodak Portra 400 film)

Royal De Versailles

Royal De Versailles


Holt Renfrew Men

Holt Renfrew sign


I headed north into Yorkville...


lululemon sign


(Kodak Gold 200 film - taken with my Canon Sure Shot Look camera)

Yes We're Open

Brunello Cucinelli



(Fujica GS645W on expired 120mm Kodak Portra 400 film)


Christian Louboutin (red store in background)

Yorkville is always great for spotting beautiful cars. The 1958-62 model Corvette - as seen above - is one of my favourite classic cars.


I headed back to Bloor and east towards Yonge...

Harry Rosen

Banana Republic Banana Republic sign

Nordstrom Rack

(Kodak Gold 200 film, taken with my Canon Sure Shot Look)


I'll end with this image...

Welcome to the Future

Click here to see part one of this blog post.

To see more of my work please follow me on:

- Instagram

- Twitter

- Facebook

And/or join my email list to find out about my latest exhibits and events. I only email 6-8 times per year. To join, just click here and send me a note that you'd like to join and include your email.

Thanks for looking and stay well!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) black lives matter boarded up documentary photography Fashion District street photography toronto toronto photography Yorkville Wed, 22 Jul 2020 16:04:47 GMT
Boards Up, Walls Down in Toronto - Part One I recently published two blog posts which document the signs and storefronts of businesses in East Toronto during the coronavirus lockdown.

Simon's Wok (797 Gerrard Street East)

I found these handwritten and personalized signs very moving. (Click here for part one, and here for part two to see more of this photo series).

John's Hairstyling (742 Broadview Avenue)

In this blog post I share images of stores that were boarded up due to a perceived threat of violence that might occur during protests against anti-black racism that were planned for the weekend of June 6 and 7 2020.

Aritzia (50 Bloor Street West)

While violence did occur in Toronto ten years ago during the G20 protests (an event I was present at and documented elements of) - mostly due to a group of "Black Bloc" actors who infiltrated the protests (see this BlogTO article for more on the "Black Bloc") - the Black Lives Matter marches and protests that happened June 6 and 7 were peaceful and free of any violence.

Roots Eaton Centre (220 Yonge Street)

I was unable to attend the protests, though I would have liked to so I could listen, learn, and show my quiet support.

The images shared in this post are from a run through downtown on Saturday morning, June 6th, and are all taken with my phone.

I returned in the late afternoon that same day, and captured more images of a boarded up downtown with my DSLR and on film. I will share from those images in a second blog post in the next few  weeks.

Royal De Versailles (101 Bloor Street West)

Winners and HomeSense (110 Bloor Street West)

Gucci (130 Bloor Street West)

Max Mara (151 Bloor Street West)

The white Ghost Bike is in acknowledgement of the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard.

ARC is the most current site I can find for more information about ghost bikes in Toronto.

Visit CycleTO for current information on safe cycling in Toronto.

Louis Vuitton (150 Bloor Street West)

I headed south off of Bloor and came across this sign at College and Spadina...

Seeing strong advocacy movements and activism always makes me encouraged for the future of Toronto.

I headed east across Queen Street and made a quick stop at Toronto City Hall...

Lone Pigeon

Sunlight on the Square

I then headed east on Queen and back up Yonge Street.

Sweat and Tonic (225 Yonge Street)

Burger King (243 Yonge Street)

Roots Eaton Centre (220 Yonge Street)

Shoppers Drug Mart (279 Yonge Street)

Formerly Friar's Tavern, an important site of music history in Toronto.

Who Is With Me?

10 Dundas East Shopping Centre

  Rogers Store (302 Yonge Street)

Tokyo Smoke (333 Yonge Street)

I'll always remember this address as the site of HMV, one of the great music stores
on Yonge Street that I loved to frequent along with Sam the Record Man

and Sunrise Records (which is thankfully still in business, although no longer on Yonge Street).


Some businesses were not afraid to remain open...

Ginger Viet Famous Food (355 Yonge Street)

Zanzibar (359 Yonge Street)

Some businesses were boarded up well before the June 6-7 weekend, due to the coronavirus lockdown/quarantine,

and had artists/artist collectives such as make amazing artwork on their boarded up exteriors.

Here is a great write-up - "The Art of Appreciation" - about with lots more details about these.


While fear led to the boarding up of shops, a quote that I saw along my run on the morning I took these photos seems quite appropriate - for the weekend's circumstances, and for the times that we are living in...

"Here is the world.

Beautiful and terrible things will happen.

Don't be afraid."

- Fredrick Buechner

From "Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABCs of Faith"


I will share another post soon with images captured later this same day (June 6, 2020) with my DSLR and my film cameras.

Let me end with a photo I saw (not during this morning run) on Avenue Road, north of Lawrence, which delivers the message that was being communicated during the protests happening on June 6 and 7, and at events since then - a message that I/we need not fear, but acknowledge and face up to and take action based on...

Visit these links to learn and to take action:

Black Lives Matter

Across Boundaries


]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) Black Lives Matter boarded up documentary photography Toronto toronto photography Toronto street photography Mon, 29 Jun 2020 14:12:37 GMT
Remembering the Raptors' Victory Parade One year ago today the Raptors celebrated their victory in the NBA Finals - and all of Canada joined in the celebration.

It certainly felt like all of Canada was present at the parade in Toronto. The crowds were incredible.

My family and I arrived early on University Avenue, a little after 9:00 AM, and settled into place. We heard that the parade should come by around 10:30 - 11:00 AM. It soon became clear that that wasn't going to happen.

We waited with a very friendly crowd in the hot sun for hours. People shared snacks and water. It was a great atmosphere. People did the wave...

The crowd built up over the hours and seemed to fit into every possible spot...

It wasn't until after 1:30 PM that Superfan Nav Bhatia came through.

Soon after came a boom camera, a very upbeat Masai Ujiri, and then Nick Nurse.

The Raptors' mascot took the stage and streamers fell from the sky...

Then the players came through and the crowd really went wild. I'll let the photos speak from here...

Many thanks to the Raptors for the amazing accomplishment and the joy that it brought to our city. Go Raptors Go!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) celebration NBA Champions parade Raptors Toronto victory parade Thu, 18 Jun 2020 03:50:45 GMT
Signs and Streets of the Quarantine - Part Two In my previous blog post - Signs and Streets of the Quarantine - I shared images of storefronts in East Toronto and their hand-written or more personalized signs regarding their closures.

In this post, Part Two, I share images of a wider range of signs and scenes in East Toronto.

I captured all images in this post with my phone, while out for socially distant runs, between mid-March and early May 2020.

In order to make shopping local easier to do, I have attempted to include websites and street addresses for every business or organization featured in this post.

As the situation is continually changing, please check directly with each business or organization to find out their current status.

While it is now commonplace, in the early days of the lockdown it was a bit jarring to see masks and hand sanitizer for sale in convenience stores.

Platon Variety and Dollar Store

781 Danforth Avenue


Donation boxes covered with tape to prevent possible contamination was also a new sight.

And this sign, in the window of the above organization, OASIS Movement Addiction, Recovery and Employment Services (921 Danforth Avenue), is likely one of the toughest signs I have read:

Thankfully the sign below it notes that staff are still available.


I noted many churches with messages to communicate...

Greenwood Gospel Chapel

949 Greenwood Avenue

The IEMELIF Church of Canada

719 Greenwood Avenue


Danforth Community Church

1050 Danforth Avenue


Forward Baptist Church

1891 Gerrard Street East


Danforth Mennonite Church

2174 Danforth Avenue


I noticed the Madinah Masjid (1015 Danforth Avenue) thanking frontline workers and reaching out to help those in need:

Sign near Madinah Masjid

1015 Danforth Avenue

And while messages of fear and conspiracy are out there...


Many are doing great work to help those who need it most...

St. John the Compassionate Mission (155 Broadview Avenue) runs many meaningful programs, which can be read about here

I first discovered the mission through their bakery - which offers delicious sourdough bread and other goods - many years ago at the East York Farmers Market.

St. John's Bakery also serves as "a place of employment for individuals less fortunate".

The bakery remains open at 153 Broadview Avenue.


Some wonderful businesses along the Danforth had messages to share...

Lalibela Cuisine

1214 Danforth Avenue


The Dylan

1276 Danforth Avenue

Red Rocket Coffee

1364 Danforth Avenue


This poem by J.G. Lutes on a bike post (Danforth Avenue, a little east of Woodbine) caught my attention.

I don't know if this was posted before or after the lockdown.

Either way, the poem takes on added meaning in our current context.


Vintage Depot

2777 Danforth Avenue


Lisa Nails

2831 Danforth Avenue


Farther east along the Danforth, a gas station signaled their change in service...

Danforth Gas and Wash

3561 Danforth Avenue


I admired the Riverside BIA's messaging in support of local businesses.

One of those Riverside stores had this great artwork in their window...

Untitled Toronto

792 Queen Street East


A little further east, in the Leslieville BIA area...

Good Neighbour (935 Queen Street East), with its stylish clothes and home products,

shares a positive message it their window:

"We are all in this together."



The stores in "Olde East York Village" on Coxwell (between O'Connor and Plains Road) were also communicating their status:

A fun window display of pet names at

Tails My Pet Store

1035 Coxwell Avenue

I discovered that Tails is now closed.

They are referring customers to Wag on the Danforth (1918 Danforth Avenue).

I know one of the owners of Wag on the Danforth - he is a talented photographer and a very nice person.

Please support their store, if you can!

Pulp and Paperie - a wonderful local gift shop

1042 Coxwell Avenue


I found the sign in this barber shop window rather surprising...

The coronavirus is definitely more than just a "seasonal outbreak".

C'Gents Barber Shop

1000 Coxwell Avenue


The signs at my local library branch, S. Walter Stewart, also caught my eye...

And this chalk graffiti (enhanced to make the words more apparent), at the same branch, made me smile:

S. Walter Stewart Library

170 Memorial Park Avenue


Some people are especially committed to sharing a "stay safe" message...

Seen off of Don Mills, south of Eglinton.


Unfortunately some are missing a key point of the stay safe messaging...

I see this poor behaviour so frequently while out running that I stopped taking photos it early on in the quarantine period.

I've seen many social media posts expressing frustration and amazement at this phenomenon.

Why do people improperly dispose of PPE - used to protect themselves - and potentially expose others to the coronavirus?

To quote Mr. Mehta in the wonderful CBC show Kim's Convenience, "The mind boggles."


Thankfully some are communicating the need to stop such ignorance...


I'll end with some words of encouragement that I've found along my runs...



To see more signs and streets of the quarantine, click here for my first post.

In the coming weeks I will share another post of street scenes that I've captured recently.

Thank you for reading this post. Please continue to support local small businesses as you are able in this tough time.

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) COVID-19 documenting the quarantine in Toronto life under lockdown in Toronto quarantine Toronto Toronto documentary photography Thu, 14 May 2020 15:57:25 GMT
Signs and Streets of the Quarantine As I write this post we are into our sixth week of the stay-at-home order in Ontario, Canada.

The April 1st, 2020 Toronto Star, with a poem by Toronto Poet Laureate Al Moritz on the cover.


My experience of this time has likely been similar to many others: it is hard. Hard to not go to one's favourite café, hard to miss exciting work assignments and associated earnings, hard to be at home - especially home with active kids (whom I love dearly!) - all day long.

Maintaining good health has never been more necessary, but also never more challenging.

One important part of my physical, emotional and mental health over the past several years has been running.

My view heading up the Verrazzano Bridge while running in the November 2019 New York City Marathon - the biggest highlight of my running journey so far.


Since the social distancing and stay-at-home messaging began, I have found solo running - done at a safe distance from others - an even more vital part of maintaining my overall health.

Shooting street photograpy weekly has been part of my artistic discipline - and has contributed to my emotional and mental health.

As I can no longer explore unique corners of Toronto with my larger digital and film cameras - I recently began capturing images with my phone while running.


What caught my eye early on was the many closed stores, and the signs posted in their windows.

While the signs on corporate stores, such as the one above from Tim Hortons, communicate necessary messages, it is the hand-written signs and the personalized notes in windows of small businesses that are especially touching.

They are heartfelt, moving and only serve to deepen my concern for the future of small businesses in Toronto.

Bell's Martial Arts at 2200 Danforth Avenue.


This blog post features images of stores in East Toronto, and their associated signs.

Wherever possible I have included links so that you can, if you wish, support these small businesses during this challenging time. (At the end of this post I suggest additional actions you can take to support local businesses.)

Images shown here were taken between March 17th to April 21st. Businesses may have updated policies about their services so check directly with them to get their latest news.

The Handwork Department, 1884 Danforth Avenue, one of my favourite stores along Danforth East.


Queenie's Cards at 1808 Danforth Avenue, another of my favourite Danforth East shops. (There are many!)

Click through and see all the unique stationary and gifts that they have!


Simon's Wok at 797 Gerrard Street East.


CH Hardware at 789 Gerrard Street East.


Mi Mi Restaurant at 688 Gerrard Street East.


Farside Toronto at 600 Gerrard Street East.


Easy Living Depot at 328 Broadview Avenue.

Love the name and love the look of this place. They seem to offer almost everything.


John's Hairstyling at 742 Broadview Avenue, just south of The Danforth.


Mike's Music at 105 Danforth Avenue, just east of Broadview.


La Di Da on The Danforth, at 128 Danforth Avenue (Currently offering free delivery on orders of $25 or more.)


Stunning Nails at 272 Danforth Avenue


La Diperie at 372 Danforth Avenue.


All About Eve Boutique, 602 Danforth Avenue.


Circus Books and Music, 866 Danforth Avenue.


Meating on Queen 1160 Queen Street East.


The Framemaker at 1171 Queen Street East.


Sweet Bliss at 1304 Queen Street East.


Ritz Restaurant, 310 Donlands Avenue.

Ritz was the last restaurant I ate in before the lockdown. It was my first time eating there and I loved it.

The staff and customers were very friendly and the food was delicious.

I look forward to eating there again after the stay home order ends.


Since I started documenting local stores, news of small businesses closing due to financial hardships has been on the rise. A recent survey by the Broadview Danforth BIA found that "61 per cent of Toronto small businesses will close within three months unless further rent relief programs are implemented."

Small businesses are truly what make our cities, and our neighbourhoods, unique and vibrant. It would be devastating to local culture to have so many close.

There are some things that we can do:

1) Sign this petition to support small businesses.

2) Shop at local stores, if it is safe for you to do so. Many have safe-distance shopping policies and/or offer take-out or contactless delivery.

3) Some businesses are offering gift cards which can be redeemed later. This allows them to survive now.

3) Share ways to support small businesses with your social media feed. (Your local BIA will normally list this information.)

If you know other ways to support small businesses let me know and I will update this list.

I will share more blog posts of images captured while out running, as time allows, in the coming weeks so please stay tuned.

May 14/20 Update: Click here to see Part Two of this post, with a wider range of signs and scenes of East Toronto.

Please stay home, stay well and take all necessary precautions for essential outings.


P.S. I don't have photos, but I want to offer a shout out to Legacy Indoor Cycling Studio (1506 Danforth Avenue). My wife and I have been members for several years and Andy, the owner, hosts a gallery of my work there, which I am very thankful for. Legacy has been hosting live workouts on their Instagram and Facebook feeds. Be sure to follow them and to join workouts - a great way to stay healthy during life under lockdown!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) COVD 19 Danforth East documenting the quarantine East End Love East Toronto Gerrard Street East Quarantine signs of COVID 19 Toronto Photography Toronto store closures Toronto street photography Fri, 24 Apr 2020 14:07:01 GMT
New York in Black and White Film I had some good adventures in New York City last summer with my friend Sammy Younan, host of the very engaging podcast "My Summer Lair" (also found here).

I've made a few blog posts from that trip already (links found below), but have a few more that I'd still like to share.

Here are my favourite black and white film images from NYC taken in July 2019. All except three were taken with Kodak Tri-X 400 film.

I am writing this post during winter, but it is worth mentioning that New York City was in the midst of a full out heat wave while we were there. Every day was sweaty with the only relief being the air conditioning found in major chain stores, which we naturally visited often to cool down.


We started by hitting the gritty streets of Brooklyn...

Wheels and Shadows

Kodak Tri-X 400


Which included passing through Broadway Junction Station...

Broadway Junction Station

Kodak Tri-X 400


And seeing the Brooklyn Heights Deli...

Brooklyn Heights Deli

Kodak Tri-X 400

By the way, if you love film photography, be sure to look up Brooklyn Film Camera when in Brooklyn! They're only open on weekends but are very nice people and have a great selection of film!


We added thousands more steps on the streets of Soho...

Bikes on Broome

Kodak Tri-X 400


The following five images were captured while on a Midtown Manhattan photo walk with Leanne Staples of Shoot New York City.

Lowering Prices

Kodak Tri-X 400


Boots, Beard, Beret.

Kodak Tri-X 400

Tony Fung

Kodak Tri-X 400

Tony shoots with a Graflex camera during his lunch break. He shared how he gives young people rolls of Ektachrome as a way of encouraging them to try and shoot film. It was great to meet him and talk film photography for a few minutes before moving on with the photo walk.


Kodak Tri-X 400

Sport & Diamonds

Kodak Tri-X 400

If you want to explore New York City with a camera I highly recommend joining a street photo session with Shoot New York City. They offer a photo walks in a number of different areas of the city as well as creative workshops, such as abstract street photography. I had a great time with them.


After the photo walk I passed by a protest about immigration policies near the Central Library. Some protesters were arrested and taken away on an MTA bus.

On the Bus

Kodak Tri-X 400


Greenpoint Avenue Station captured my imagination...

On Delivery

Kodak Tri-X 400


We caught a train to meet the incredible New York photographer Jamel Shabazz...

Platform A

Kodak Tri-X 400

Sammy Younan interviewing Jamel Shabazz in his home

Kodak Tri-X 400

Jamel Shabazz

Kodak Tri-X 400

Sammy Younan and Jamel Shabazz in Jamel's office

Kodak Tri-X 400


This visit was a real gift. To see and learn more about Jamel, please see my blog post "Vision and Purpose: The Inspiring Life of Jamel Shabazz".

In that post you can also find a link to Sammy Younan's podcast interview with Jamel.


We visited the local architecture-for-instagram's-sake phenomenon known as the Hudson Yards "Vessel"...

What Next?

Kodak Tri-X 400

Focal Point

Kodak Tri-X 400

Below the Vessel

Kodak Tri-X 400



I captured some street scenes near the Javits Conference Centre...

Between Two Shrubs

Kodak Tri-X 400

Cash Only

Kodak Tri-X 400


New York Minute

Kodak Tri-X 400


Who is Oliver?

Kodak Tri-X 400



Kodak Tri-X 400

Food Town

Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400


Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400



Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400



Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400


Thanks for looking!

To see more of my NYC photos, please visit these blog posts:


]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) believe in film black and white film film photography Japan Camera Hunter Kodak Kodak Tri-X 400 New York City New York Street Photography Street Pan street photography travel photography Tue, 03 Mar 2020 15:56:15 GMT
Havana on Film I had a great time visiting Havana in March 2019, and have posted several blogs about it (see below for links).

In this new post I share my favourite film photos captured in Havana.

I used three types of film, as indicated below each image.

Hope you enjoy!

Havana Skyline

A panorama of two images stitched together

Kodak Ektar 100


I loved seeing the old architecture of the city...

Pillars of Home

Kodak Ektar 100

Palms and Arches

Kodak Ektar 100


We had a great visit to the Sephardic Synagogue and Malpaso Dance Company...

Leg Up

Kodak Ektar 100


Visiting the Cuban School of Boxing was a great experience...

Gimnasio de Boxeo

Kodak Ektar 100

Escuela Cubana de Boxeo

Kodak Ektar 100


Seeing the classic cars of Havana never got boring...

Pink and Blue

Kodak Ektar 100

Old Red

Kodak Ektar 100

Silver and Grey

Kodak Ektar 100

Road Worthy

Kodak Ektar 100

We passed by some Havana hot spots...


Kodak Ektar 100

Lafayette Restaurant

Kodak Ektar 100

We met friendly locals...

Se Vende La Casa

Kodak Ektar 100

Havana Style

Kodak Ektar 100

Exploring back streets and capturing street scenes was perhaps my favourite thing...

Havana Shadows

Kodak Ektar 100

Sun and Shade

Kodak Ektar 100

Sidecar and Sidekick

Kodak Ektar 100


I captured a few frames on 120mm film with my old plastic Lomography camera...

Sliver of Light

Lomography Colour Negative 400 Film

An accidental exposure captured while visiting a produce market.

The colours on the left are from my shirt, and on the right is Cuban photographer Alfredo Sarabia, who was our very helpful guide.

The dots and numbers seen in these two images is due to the film's backing paper fusing to the film (which was well past it's expiry date).

Shades of Blue

Lomography Colour Negative 400 Film


I captured a few frames on Kodak Ektachrome as well...

Window View

Kodak Ektachrome 100

Ron a Granel

(Bulk Rum)

Kodak Ektachrome 100


Kodak Ektachrome 100

One last image to share...

Open Line

Kodak Ektar 100


Thanks for looking!


To see more images from Havana, please visit my previous blog posts:

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) 120mm film 35mm film Cuba Cuba photography film photography Havana Havana photography Kodak Kodak Ektachrome 100 Kodak Ektar 100 lomography Lomography Colour Negative 400 street photography Thu, 20 Feb 2020 17:48:24 GMT
A Year in Black and White Film - 2019 2019 was another good year in film photography for me.

I shot quite a few rolls of colour film, and a lesser number of black and white ones.

I recently shared my favourite colour film photos of 2019, in two posts (found here and here).

Here now, are my favourite black and white film images (of those taken in Toronto) - of 2019...


Park Discount

Ilford HP5+ 400

Bamboo Drapes

Ilford HP5+ 400

Sud Forno

Ilford HP5+ 400

View From St. Lawrence Market

(Click here to see a colour film version of this scene)

Kosmo Mono 100

Matador Club

Kosmo Mono 100

Hudson's Bay Bike

Kosmo Mono 100

Time is a Train

(A U2/Zoo Station reference)

Kosmo Mono 100


Old school Yonge continued to draw me in...

VIP Billiard Club

Kosmo Mono 100

Yonge Street Mission

Kosmo Mono 100


I returned to City Hall with black and white film...

Kosmo Mono 100

Kosmo Mono 100 Kosmo Mono 100 Luminous City

Kosmo Mono 100 Crossing the Square

Kosmo Mono 100


Ilford HP5+ 400 Share the View

Ilford HP5+ 400

Free Day Care

Ilford HP5+ 400

Stretch Out

Ilford HP5+ 400 Breaking it Down

Ilford HP5+ 400 Stairwells to Climb

Ilford HP5+ 400

Union Pillars

Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan


Island Airport View

Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan

Cutting Clouds

Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan


Fuji Acros 100

Ahead of the Curve

Fuji Acros 100

Nuit is Near (B&W Edition)

(see a colour view of this scene in this blog post)

Fuji Acros 100 On Notice

Fuji Acros 100

Due West

Fuji Acros 100


I thought I'd make a rare appearance..

Selfie, captured in a mirror-like utility box at Berczy Park.

Fuji Acros 100

Skyline Restaurant

Ultrafine 100

The Report

Ultrafine 100 Heart and Soul

Ultrafine 100 Serano Sunlight

Ultrafine 100

Weather Like This

Ilford HP5+ 400

Princes' Gates

Ilford HP5+ 400 Out of Order

Ilford HP5+ 400

Roncscevalles Shadows

Ilford HP5+ 400

Gifts Come True

Ilford HP5+ 400 Crossing Dundas at Broadview

Ilford HP5+ 400


Thanks for looking!


To see more film images, here are some additional links:


To follow my latest work and learn about upcoming events, follow me on social media:

- Instagram

- Twitter

- Facebook



]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) 35mm 35mm film believe in film film photography street photography toronto toronto black and white film photography toronto photography Thu, 30 Jan 2020 21:44:02 GMT
A Year in Colour Film 2019 - Part Two I had a good year capturing film in 2019. I previously shared part one of my favourite colour film images of 2019.

This post is part two, featuring colour film images captured from late June until the end of December

As with part one, this post only includes Toronto street scenes. I am sharing film photos captured elsewhere in other posts (such as here and here of NYC).

OK, here we go...



Kodak Ektar 100

Eddie's Convenience

Kodak Ektar 100

Renfrew Reno

Kodak Ektar 100


Kodak Ektar 100

The Kingsbrae Diner

Kodak Gold 200

Crossing McCaul

Kodak Gold 200

Good Luck Buddha

Kodak Gold 200

Stan Wadlow Sky

Kodak Gold 200


Kodak Gold 200

Keeping Live Alive

Kodak Gold 200

High Wire Act

Kodak Gold 200

Last Quarter

Kodak Gold 200

Dundas Crossing

Kodak Gold 200

Ossington Bikes

Kodak Gold 200

United Drug Mart

Kodak Gold 200

Buddhist Association of Canada

Kodak Gold 200 Jazz Bistro

Kodak Gold 200 Never Meet Your Heroes

Kodak Gold 200


Kodak Gold 200 Toronto Supreme

Kodak Gold 200 FO5H Was Here

Kodak Pro Image 100 Big Smoke Brass

Kodak Pro Image 100 Nuit Is Near

Kodak Pro Image 100

Sunset Grill

Kodak Pro Image 100


Kodak Pro Image 100 King Spic & Span

Kodak Gold 200 Simply Beautiful

Kodak Gold 200 Icy Souls

Kodak Ektar 100

Eagle Gas

Kodak Ektar 100

Bike Sale

Kodak Ektar 100

Light Maintenance

Kodak Ektar 100

Sauntering Through

Kodak Ektar 100


Kodak Ektar 100

A Friend With Wheels

Kodak Ektar 100


Thanks for looking!

Stay tuned as I will soon share my favourite black and white photos of 2019.

In the meantime, here are some of my other film photo blog posts:


]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) believe in film favourite film photos of 2019 film photography Kodak Kodak Ektachrome Kodak Ektar 100 Kodak Gold street photography Toronto Thu, 23 Jan 2020 17:51:01 GMT
A Year in Colour Film 2019 - Part One 2019 was another good year in film photography for me.

This is part one of my favourite colour film images of 2019.

The images in this post were captured from January through June 2019.

All images shared here are from Toronto. Images I captured elsewhere are shared in other blog posts (such as here and here of NYC).

Here we go...

Coxwell Snowfall

Kodak Gold 200 Temple Gates

Kodak Gold 200

Colour With Me

Kodak Gold 200 We Create Illusion

(artwork by the wonderful Time and Desire, also known as St. Marie Walker)

Kodak Portra 400 Crossing University

Kodak Portra 400 We Create Illusion, Pt II

(artwork by the wonderful Time and Desire, also known as St. Marie Walker)

Kodak Portra 400



I did a number of photo walks between Bloor and Queen in 2019,

capturing what remains of old school Yonge Street.

Here are just a few images from those walks.


Kodak Gold 200 XTC

Kodak Gold 200 The Big Slice

The Big Slice was very popular for late-night pizza on Yonge Street.

Sadly it closed in 2016 after forty years in business.

This was one of my more popular film images that I shared on Instagram in 2019.

Kodak Gold 200 Doors on Yonge

Kodak Gold 200

Disassembly Required

Kodak Portra 400


I experimented with Ektachrome for the first time in 2019...

Fashion Choices

Kodak Ektachrome E100


I keep coming back to the El Mocambo...

Since 1948

Kodak Ektachrome E100 City Business

Kodak Ektachrome E100

Looking West at Yonge and Dundas

Kodak Ektachrome E100

AGO Shadows

Kodak Ektachrome E100


Kodak Portra 400



I developed another roll of expired Lomography 120 film (click here for more)

Double exposures and images that fused with the backing paper made for interesting effects.

Woodbine Beach Park

Creativity Is




Take me anywhere old school and I'll be sure to bring my camera...


Kodak Ektar 100 Laundry Seats

Kodak Ektar 100

Matador Dancing

Kodak Ektar 100

Matador Club

(The Matador Club may be come a six storey "mixed-use residential building"

that preserves some elements of the original venue. More details here.)

Kodak Ektar 100 Blood and Bandages

Kodak Ektar 100 Please, Ring The Bell

(The view from Sunflower Camera Repair on Lansdowne)

Kodak Ektar 100

Coming Soon-ish

(I'm very happy to have the Paradise Theatre back again. They've done such

a great job bringing it back to life, and the film line-up looks fantastic.)

Kodak Ektar 100

Downtown Signs

Kodak Ektar 100 Queen & Jameson

Kodak Gold 200
Abuse of Power

Kodak Gold 200

Breaking Bread

Kodak Gold 200


Thanks for looking. Stay tuned for Part Two!

(Click here and here to see my favourite film images of 2018).

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) believe in film favourite film photos of 2019 film photography Kodak Kodak Ektachrome Kodak Ektar 100 Kodak Gold street photography Toronto Thu, 16 Jan 2020 20:10:16 GMT
Favourite Photo Moments of 2019 2020 is here and I am excited for all that it may hold.

Before jumping into 2020 though, please join me as I celebrate my favourite photo moments of 2019.


1. Exhibiting my Work

I had the privilege of exhibiting my work in a number of shows this past year:

- InFocus 2019 (February 2019)

For the third year in a row I had images in this national photo exhibit held in Edmonton, Alberta. In 2019 I had two images - Grid City and Gooderham Snowfall (seen below) - in the show.

Gooderham SnowfallGooderham SnowfallCaptured on a beautiful snowy night in late 2017. This image will be on exhibit in the annual InFocus Photo Exhibit in Edmonton, AB in February 2019 and is eligible for the People's Choice Award.
This image is available as a print, on a greeting card, or also as a pillow.


- Nikon Contact Photo Exhibit

I was honoured to have two of my images - Grid City and Cuban School of Boxing (shown below) - selected to be in Nikon Canada's Contact Photo Festival show.

Cuban School of BoxingCuban School of Boxing

The images were on exhibit the same night as a talk by talented and accomplished photographer Caitlin Cronenberg. I really enjoyed learning more about Caitlin Cronenberg's career, which has included shooting many celebrities, such as Toronto's Drake.

Thank you Nikon Canada for celebrating Canadian photo artists!


- Streetcar Exhibit

In June 2019 the Artists' Network held a wonderful exhibit of artwork inspired by Toronto's beloved streetcars. There were all types of mediums represented - oil, collage, photography, and more.

I was proud to have my Broadview Hotel Snowfall image on display in the good company of so many talented artists.


- Elaine Fleck Gallery

In early November I had two images of my images in the Elaine Fleck Gallery's New Submissions exhibit.

It was great to have my images alongside talented artists from a range of styles, and to also share a few words about my work with those present at the opening reception.


- A Way With Words - Toronto Library Arts Program

For the month of November I had an exhibit entitled "A Way With Words" at the Northern District Library near Yonge and Eglinton.

- Photo by Sammy Younan

The show consisted of my favourite Toronto street photos where words have a role to play in each scene.

I was encouraged by some great feedback on my work in the guest book I had on display, as well as by several inquiries about purchasing images that came from this exhibit.

To read more about this show, please see my blog post about it.

To view more of my art images, including ones featured in the "A Way With Words" show, please click here.

My thanks to the staff at Northern District Library - and to those running the Toronto Library Arts Program - for this opportunity!


2. Event Photography

I worked for 15+ years in the non-profit sector, prior to launching my photography career, so I feel a strong affinity to any organization doing meaningful work for social good.

It was a gift then, to be able to capture and tell the stories of several non-profit organizations this past year. Here are some of them:


- Metcalf Foundation

Early in the year I was hired by the Metcalf Foundation to capture two important events for them.

Additional images from these events may be found on the Metcalf Foundation's website:


- Institute for Canadian Citizenship

I captured two citizenship ceremonies for the Institute for Canadian Citizenship this past year.

One ceremony was just before Canada Day in The Bentway (a unique park beneath the Gardiner Expressway), which I documented in a blog post

I captured another ceremony in mid-November at Ryerson University.

I always find these ceremonies quite moving, and a wonderful reminder of all that we in Canada stand for and represent as a country.

My thanks to the ICC for the opportunity to work for them again in 2019.


- Woodgreen Foundation

I captured the Annual General Meeting for Woodgreen Foundation at the East York Civic Centre in late September.

It was a moving night with many powerful stories of transformation. My thanks to the Woodgreen Foundation for the opportunity to capture this significant event!


3. Visiting Havana

In March I visited Havana with my family. I'm very thankful we arranged for a local photographer (Alfredo Sarabia) to guide us around, as he offered us an insider's view of Havana that we would never have had otherwise.

Havana is such a beautiful city. I would gladly visit there many more times again.

I have written about the experience in several blog posts, which may be seen here:

- Sephardic Synagogue and Malpaso Dance Company

- The Cuban School of Boxing

- Street Scenes of Havana

- Bikes of Havana

- Classic Cars of Havana

I have at least one more blog post to share - of film photos taken in Havana. Stay tuned for that in 2020!


4. Magazine Features

My Silver Dollar Room image was featured in Photo Life Magazine's regular feature called "Showtime".

I was thrilled to have several of my film images featured in a two page spread in PhotoEd Magazine's online edition also.

Thank you to Photo Life and PhotoEd magazines!


5. My Photo Art Pillows on TV

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Funkyture in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood, I had set decorators purchase my pillows for two different TV shows. My Gooderham Snowfall and BUY pillows were bought to be on the sets of In the Dark and of Glamorous.

While Glamorous was shot as a pilot only, and has not been broadcast, In the Dark aired a full season of episodes. I managed to get a screen capture from that show where you can see one of my pillows in the background:

That's my Gooderham Snowfall pillow on the couch in the background! To see all my pillows please visit this link.


6. Visiting New York City

In July 2019 I visited New York with my good friend Sammy Younan, host of a very engaging podcast called "My Summer Lair" (found here on Apple podcasts, and here for online listening) .

We had a great time visiting many corners of the city.

I try to find learning opportunities wherever I travel, and this trip was no exception. I had an excellent time joining Leanne Staples of Shoot New York City on a mid-town Manhattan photo walk. I hope to share more about that experience in an upcoming blog post.

Here are my posts so far from that trip:

- Vision and Purpose: The Inspiring Life of Jamel Shabazz

- Colours of Coney Island - Captured on Revolog Kolor Film

- New York Subway Scenes

- City of Liberty: NYC Street Scenes Shot on Colour Film

I expect to have at least two more blog posts about New York City, including film photos, so please stay tuned!


7. On-Set Photography for "Mesdames of Mayhem"

In 2017 I worked for director Cat Mills as on-set photographer for her very fun "Big Men, Small Dogs" documentary.

In 2019 I had the privilege to again work for Cat Mills on her latest short documentary, Mesdames of Mayhem. It felt good seeing my photos in a number of spots on CBC's website...

It was very fun learning more about this collective of authors!

Be sure to check out the documentary here, and to learn more about the mystery authors at their website, here.


8. Film Photography

I only shared two blog posts of film images in 2019:

- Colours of Coney Island - Captured on Revelop Kolor Film

- City of Liberty - NYC Street Scenes Captured on Colour Film

I shot a lot more 35mm film in 2019 though than what I've shared in the above two posts. All of it was developed by the good folks at Downtown Camera.

I've recently added Part One of my Favourite Colour Photos of 2019.

Please stay tuned as I will share more of my favourite colour and black and white photos of 2019 in the coming weeks.


9. Photography Training

In 2019 I began offering street photography training.

I enjoyed providing one-on-one sessions with several individuals in Toronto.

Thanks to an invitation from Diana Nazareth, founder of Project Kids and Cameras, I also was a guest photographer with the Crescent Town Club's PhotoVoice project.

While there, I had the opportunity to share about doing documentary work and to coach participants on approaching people to share their stories and to have their portrait taken, as a way of telling the stories of their neighbourhood. It was inspiring to see the students succeed in taking on this challenge.

I also ran a week-long summer camp for my daughter and her friends in August.

The camp included...

Visiting The Stephen Bulger Gallery, and getting a tour from Stephen Bulger himself. Meeting and learning from local photo talents such as John Jethi.

And visiting Gallery 44's darkroom, as well as other significant Toronto photo galleries and organizations. My thanks to each of them for opening their doors to us and helping my students learn!

I look forward to doing more photo training in 2020. If interested, please contact me for details.


10. Documentary Work

Since showing my "Taxi Drivers of Toronto" exhibit in 2017, I have been working on a new project that celebrates older shoe stores of Toronto.

In 2019 I visited ten different shoe selling and shoe repair stores to document their work, some of them for repeated visits in order to interview customers and/or their students.

It was a joy to learn of their stories and how they have contributed to Toronto's rich cultural life.

I have a few more stores to document in early 2020.

I am planning for an exhibit, but dates are still to be determined. Please stay tuned for details.


Thank you!

It has been quite a year. Thank you for being part of it!

To stay connected just message me with your email (I send only 6-8 emails a year) or follow me on social media:

- Instagram

- Twitter

- Facebook

Best wishes to you in 2020!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) art photography street photography Toronto toronto photography Toronto street photography Fri, 10 Jan 2020 14:43:44 GMT
City of Liberty: New York City Street Scenes Shot on Colour Film In July 2019 my friend Sammy Younan and I went to New York for a week of adventures. Naturally I took both digital and film cameras.

Self-portrait in The Jane Hotel (shot with my Nikon D750 camera).


In this post I share some of my favourite New York City street scenes shot on colour film - primarily from three rolls of Kodak Ektar 100 colour film that I shot while there this past summer.

So let's get started...

Believe. A mural on the Houston Bowery Wall by the artist known as Queen Andrea.

"I am deliberate and afraid of nothing." - Audre Lorde.

As seen through the window of the Word Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Read more powerful quotes by this activist poet here.

Golden City

Tick Tock

City of Liberty

Apple Parking

Imagine a Future

The Y

The Rolling Stone

Poets of Gesture

Welcome to the Met

Flatiron Crossing

Beneath the Flag


Love Your Neighour


Montero Bar & Grill

Cheat Death

Show Your Whole Face


Look Twice

American Society of Buddhist Studies

Car Park

Home of the Brave

Rockefeller Station

"Since 1904"

Remembering Lennon

A couple gazes at the south entrance to The Dakota, the site where John Lennon was killed.

Click the above link to learn more about this historic building, and the many notable figures who have lived there.


I'd like to end with a final image shot on Revolog Kolor film. It's a leftover frame from the roll I shot in Coney Island.

It isn't Kodak Ektar 100, like the others in this post, but the words in the below scene seem to fit with other images in this blog.

Don't Be Afraid of Anyone


Thanks for looking!

Stay tuned for more New York City blog posts. In the meantime, here are a few others I have already posted:

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) believe in film film is not dead film photography Kodak Ektar 100 Kodak film New York City New York City street photography street photography street scenes of New York City Fri, 13 Dec 2019 20:16:43 GMT
A Way With Words: Toronto Street Photography Where Words Have a Role to Play In November I had the privilege of having my work in two exhibits. I had two images - Grid City and Broadview Hotel Snowfall - in a two week exhibit at the Elaine Fleck Gallery. It was a very nice experience showing my work alongside such beautiful art by other talented artists.

I also showed some of my favourite street images in an exhibit called "A Way With Words: Toronto Street Photography Where Words Have a Role to Play". This was in the Northern District Library near Yonge and Eglinton and it ran for the entire month of November.

Photo by Sammy Younan


Words appear in every street. Some words - such as those found on road signs - serve an official purpose, while some, such as graffiti, are less official.

BowlingBowlingA scene captured at the former Marty Millionaires store at the corner of Queen and Parliament, Toronto. This image was featured in a Blog TO article about ghost signs shortly after I shared it on Instagram. Bowling

I have always been drawn to how words, symbols and human presence interact to create scenes that have greater resonance and impact. After years of shooting images in Toronto and elsewhere, I have accumulated a large number of such images that still speak to me, and putting them together into a show made a lot of sense.

Dive DeepDive DeepTaken at the corner of Broadview and Queen, in front of the newly redeveloped Broadview Hotel. Dive Deep

This was my third show in a Toronto public library. I am so thankful to the Toronto Public Library Arts program for giving me this opportunity once again.

Book LoversBook LoversTaken in front of the former "World's Biggest Book Store" on Edward Street, Toronto.

All images © Henry VanderSpek / and not to be copied or used without direct permission.

Book Lovers


My first show - "The Foot That Moves the Pedal", showing creative images with bicycles from around the world, was at the Runnymede Library in 2014.

Rwanda PhoenixRwanda PhoenixClose-up of a Rwandan cyclist's foot and bicycle brand name "Phoenix".
Dimensions: 10" x 16"

All images © Henry VanderSpek / and not to be copied or used without direct permission.
Rwanda Phoenix


My second library exhibit, "Taxi Drivers of Toronto" was also at the Northern District Library, shortly after I exhibited it with Artscape at the Daniels Spectrum building in the May 2017 Contact Photo Festival.

Photo by Diana Nazareth of Project Kids and Cameras

I held an opening event for my "A Way With Words" exhibit early on in the month.

Photo by Sammy Younan

With my good friend Sammy Younan, host of a fantastic pop culture podcast entitled "My Summer Lair".

Late October and early November were quite busy for me (I ran the NYC marathon on my 50th birthday in early November!), and I didn't manage to invite many out, so the opening wasn't a big affair. I did have a few friends come out, including former Toronto City Councillor Janet Davis, who has been a big supporter of my work (Several years ago she invited me to exhibit my images in her City Hall office - something I am still so thankful for!)

I have shared a few of my favourite images from the show in this blog. The images from the show that are not shown here, and others where "words have a role to play", may be found in the art section of my website.

Thanks again to the Toronto Public Library Arts Program - and to each of you for looking and for your support!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) A Way With Words I'm Library People Library Arts Program Northern District Library Toronto Toronto art exhibit Toronto Public Library Toronto street photography Fri, 06 Dec 2019 15:39:46 GMT
New York Subway Scenes I love visiting New York City. I especially enjoy the atmosphere in the city's gritty subway system.


This blog contains New York City subway scenes captured in July 2019.


Every journey seems to tell a new story.



The subway is a point of reference for all New Yorkers...

You know when you travel the subway, there will always be some tales...

So descend you must, with skateboard in hand...

Or tophat up top...

Into the wilds of the underground...

You might be heading Uptown...

Or just looking for a place to catch some shuteye...

You might be a suit hanging tight, trying to stay afloat in the market...

A sleepy tourist...

Or just looking for a snack...

You may miss a train...

But when you get to your stop, there'll be a spring in your step...

You may get a little lost...

So take some time to rest...

And reflect...

Imagine peace even...

Or maybe hum your favourite T-Pain song...

Life moves fast in the big city...

Don't let a hard day's work get you down...

It's not the end of the line, but the start of a new journey...

Let the subway breeze sweep you away...

You have a show at MSG to look forward to tonight...

Eventually it's time to head up...

Into the city light...

To deliver that briefcase of diamonds...

Or to meet your friend Slim, with the rocket popsicle socks...

But first there's just one more ride...

Maybe one more snooze...

Whichever it is, I know that you'll get to your destination...


Dedicated to the people of New York City and the hard working staff of the MTA. Thanks for making NYC great!


To see more from NYC please visit:

- Vision and Purpose: The Inspiring Life of Jamel Shabazz

- The Colours of Coney Island - Captured on Revolog Kolor Film


Thanks for looking!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) MTA New York City New York City subway photography New York street photography NYC street photography subway travel photography Thu, 24 Oct 2019 18:03:05 GMT
Colours of Coney Island - Captured on Revolog Kolor Film In mid July 2019 I spent a wonderful week in New York City. I had a long list of places I wanted to visit. One of those was Coney Island.

Welcome to Coney Island

(Nikon DSLR image)

For as long as Coney Island has been around, it has been a source of fascination to artists of all kind. Just scanning this wikipedia page on the topic is a bit exhausting, but also amazing. I remember reading from Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Coney Island of the Mind in high school English class. Nevermind how many novels, movies and music videos take advantage of Coney Island's compelling atmosphere.

(Nikon DSLR image)

Before visiting Coney Island, I made sure to visit Brooklyn Film Camera early on in my trip. Brooklyn Film Camera is a fun place, with limited hours, tucked away in a very cool neighbourhood of Brooklyn. They list themselves as "one of NYC’s premier destinations for analog photographers" so I just had to go.

(Nikon DSLR image) (Nikon DSLR image)


Brooklyn Film Camera indeed had a great selection of cameras and film types. One film that caught my eye was Revelog Kolor 200. The film is pre-exposed with different colours, which delivers a surprise in the developed images. I immediately thought this would be perfect for my Coney Island visit later in the week, so I bought a roll, along with a stylish Brooklyn Film Camera t-shirt.

Take Home Food

So - this blog post shares my favourite images of Coney Island shot on Revelog Kolor film (starting with the above image). All were captured on a little Canon Sure Shot Look camera, which I purchased just prior to this trip. I hope you enjoy!

They Came, They Ate, They Conquered.

Coney Island is home to the famous annual hot dog eating contest - hosted by Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, which is also based there.

Bumping Disco

Trust Zoltar. He knows, sees, tells all!

(Visit the Zoltar official site for more!)


(Two film images stitched into a panorama.)

Bowery and 12th

The Wonder Wheel is a bit like Zoltar - it looms above and "sees all" on Coney Island



Look Up


The Claw

(Spot someone in the background?)


One cannot visit Coney Island without exploring the magnficent boardwalk.

Karaoke on the boardwalk drew quite a crowd.

Up on the Boardwalk

Boardwalk Bench

Boardwalk Busker

The Flavor of New York

The Meaning of Life

Officer John - one of several friendly police officers that I spoke with while in NYC.

Apologies for misfocusing my little Canon Sure Shot Look! Officer John may appear in sharper focus in a future blog post, captured with my Nikon DSLR.

Candy Apple, Cotton Candy

Nathan's Famous at Night

Coney Island is quite a colourful place - so many bright signs, neon lights and interesting characters. Revelog's Kolor 200 film brought it's own dynamic colours into the mix.

The colours that the film added to my images were more subtle than the sample images on Revelog's official page for their Kolor film, but nonetheless it was a neat experiment with fun results.

Revelog does have a wide variety of films which add intriguing effects to images. I'd recommend that you have a look at them. If you are in or near Toronto you can currently find a range of Revelog film types at Downtown Camera.

I will be blogging about New York City more soon, including images captured with my DSLR in Coney Island. Thanks for looking and please stay tuned!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) 35mm 35mm film Coney Island Coney Island film photography Coney Island Photography film photography New York New York City New York Photography New York street photography Revelog Kolor film street photography travel photography Thu, 17 Oct 2019 14:51:37 GMT
Vision and Purpose: The Inspiring Life of Jamel Shabazz What does it mean to live a life of vision and purpose? And how does one do so with a camera?

Over the past year I have had two opportunities to encounter someone who has done just that - and inspired many others to do the same - and it has been a real gift.

In November 2018 my friend Sammy Younan and I had the privilege of hearing accomplished photographer and humanitarian Jamel Shabazz speak at a joint presentation of Ryerson's Tanenbaum Lecture Series and International Issues Discussion Series.

Jamel Shabazz's work has been published in numerous books and has been exhibited in galleries around the world. In 2018 he was recognized with the Gordon Parks Foundation Award. His photography and his leadership have inspired many. Hence we were quite excited to hear him speak.

It was a powerful night, with many wise words and inspiring stories shared. You can hear the entire talk by clicking this link.

After the talk Mr. Shabazz was very warm and open to greeting all, including my friend Sammy and I.

Jamel Shabazz greeting an attendee of his Ryerson Talk

Jamel Shabazz signing one of his books for a fan

Jamel Shabazz and Sammy Younan

Jamel Shabazz and yours truly

We had a good conversation and Sammy exchanged contact info with Jamel, with the plan to interview him for his podcast show "My Summer Lair" (also available on Apple Podcasts) when we visited New York in 2019.

Jumping ahead now to July 2019, when Sammy and I spent a week in New York City. Sammy had arranged to visit Jamel in Long Island, and we took a train ride outside of Manhattan.

Jamel warmly welcomed us into his home and Sammy set up to interview him.

Here are some powerful quotes from Sammy's interview:

"For me it was bigger than photography. It was about really connecting with people, and the camera became a compass that led me to different situations and people. And the photograph became evidence of the conversation."

"As a young child I absorbed books. I was always looking for photography. There was something about that language of photography that just drew me in. My father was a photographer. He had a vast library within our home so I was always moved by the images. He taught me how to develop. So I developed an appreciation early on for that slow process of creating an image. You know, to really absorb the essence of photography and what it is to create images."

"When I returned back to America in the summer of 1980 after serving time in the United States Military I came back to a very changing time. It was a moment in New York history when a lot of young men were dying prematurely of violence. There was a lot of hatred in the city, and I realized that I had to make a difference."

"I returned back to my old neighbourhood and I had my camera in tow, and my chessboard, and I realized that I had to use my voice to speak to young people, to be a guide and mentor to them in a way that I wasn't really guided on my path."

"I look at the camera as a compass. Once I started to appreciate the science of photography and image making, it put me on a particular path that... led me to a place where I was able to connect with people all over the globe, based off this language of photography. I did not know when I picked up the camera that I would be on this path. It took me 35-plus years to understand what this camera represented. It allowed me to understand the fact that I was an alchemist. That I had the ability to take something out of nothing and bring it into life."

"It has led me to an incredible path. I have met people around the world under the language of photography. People who are using this craft to make the world a better place."

"When I first saw the light and possibility it was on a local level. It was beautiful at that point, but I never would have imagined that my path would lead me to this stage of my life right now, where I have met people from everywhere. I get emails from people from Russia, from Korea, Japan... South America. We may not speak the English language, but it is through the image - that language of photography."

"One of the greatest accomplishments of my life is in the making right now, where I am curating an exhibition of people that I met on social media. I've decided to curate an exhibit called "Perspectives"*. At this stage in my life I've been able to bring together from different cultural backgrounds under that one umbrella of photography and using individual voices to address issues that are presssing right now. And that's what the path has led me on."

*Perspectives was shown at Photoville New York in September 2019. Click here for a summary of the exhibit.

"So that has been the direction that for all these years I've been on  - trying to understand what is my purpose in life, and I struggled with it. Now at this stage I have total clarity - it's about coming together, under that language, like never before - and not only photographers but artists in general - and using art as a form of activism to make this world a better place."


I encourage you to listen to the entire interview on Sammy Younan's podcast "My Summer Lair". Click here to listen online, or click here to listen on Apple Podcasts.

What does it mean to live a life of vision and purpose? How can one use their talents - whether photography, the arts or any skill - to make a difference?

Meeting Jamel Shabazz, and learning from his life, it is clear that each of us have the possibillity before us to do just that.

Thank you Jamel Shabazz for your leadership and for your inspiring example of how to live.


To learn more about Jamel Shabazz visit the below links:

- Jamel Shabazz's website

- Jamel Shabazz on Instagram

- The podcast interview of Jamel by Sammy Younan - online and on Apple podcasts

- An interview with Jamel Shabazz, that includes some of his photos, on Afropunk

- Back in the Days (book by Jamel Shabazz)

- Jamel Shabazz: Sights in the City, New York Street Photographs (book by Jamel Shabazz)

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) Brooklyn documentary photography inspiring International Issues Discussion Series interview Jamel Shabazz leadership Meeting Jamel Shabazz New York City Ryerson University Sammy Younan Tanenbaum Lecture Series Thu, 10 Oct 2019 17:06:00 GMT
Classic Cars of Havana In March 2019 I had a wonderful time visiting Havana with family. While there I did a one-day photo walk with talented Cuban photo artist Alfredo Sarabia.

Since then I have published four blog posts about my travels there:

For this fifth Havana post I will share my favourite images of cars in Havana.

Havana is known around the world for its classic cars. These have remained, no doubt, due to the trade embargo imposed upon Cuba for many years. Importing foreign vehicles was a challenge and hence cars that remained in Cuba were well maintained out of necessity. Now they won't go away due to nostalgia and tourism - and, perhaps, possibly due to a renewed trade embargo by a certain large neighbouring nation.

To learn more about cars in Cuba, here are a few links:

- History on Wheels - an excellent article from

- The Cars of Cuba - a video documentary found on Youtube

- Three classic cars that define Cuban History

And on to the photos...

A short walk from the port of Havana brings you to one of many spots found throughout the city where classic cars sit, waiting to be hired.

We hired a somewhat simpler car - a Plymouth...

And piled in!

Me with my nephew and my daughter.

We headed to the Sephardic Synagogue, training centre for the Malpaso Dance company (covered in this blog post), where another classic Plymouth was parked out front.

Floridita, known as one of Ernest Hemingway's favourite hangouts in Havana. To learn more click here.

Cool Story Bro

Fairlane 500

Climbing the hill to see the statue "El Cristo de la Habana"

"El Cristo de la Habana"

The view from the lookout point next to the "El Cristo de la Habana" statue - well worth the ferry ride and walk.


And back to the cars!

The Best

Long live classic Cuban cars!

Thanks for looking! All images are available as prints. To inquire, just send me a message at this link.

To see more of my images from Havana, please view one of the below links:

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) art photography cars cars of Havana classic cars Cuba Habana Vieja Havana Old Havana travel travel photography Fri, 27 Sep 2019 15:35:52 GMT
A Citizenship Ceremony in Toronto's The Bentway Citizenship is such a valuable part of our identity. It connects us with others, grants us rights and responsibilities, and - in multicultural Canada especially - provides us an opportunity to go deeper in our understanding of one another, to build bridges, and to strengthen our ties to our fellow Canadians.

I must admit though, that those thoughts aren't always at the forefront of my mind. Life is busy and I often have less lofty goals to strive for - getting kids to appointments, picking up groceries, work to complete, household chores...

The opportunity to document a Canadian citizenship ceremony for the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, held in late June - just days before Canada Day, helped to bring those more meaningful thoughts and convictions back to my heart and mind.

I'll share some highlights of the event in this post.

The ceremony was held in The Bentway - a popular new public space beneath Toronto's Gardiner Expressway.

A large number of volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds came together to be hosts for roundtable discussions.

Hosts for discussion groups were prepared for their role - to facilitate meaningful conversations about citizenship with those present at their table.

Lively discussions were held at each table, with participants sharing stories of their journeys to Canadian citizenship.

Following these meaningful discussions, individuals came forward to share thoughts from their table groups.

There was much excitement leading up to the ceremony...

The ceremony proceeded with all swearing the Canadian Oath of Citizenship.

New citizens received a certificate of Canadian citizenship...

The singing of the national anthem was an emotional moment for all...

Words of insight and inspiration were shared by Yasir Naqvi, the CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship...

After the ceremony and inspiring words, new citizens gathered with family and friends for photos and to continue their celebration.

Mary Wiens of CBC Radio interviewed new citizens following the ceremony. Elder Laureen Blu Waters, present as an honoured guest and speaker at the ceremony, celebrates with new Canadians.


I love how these events model meaningful dialogue and inspire all who attend to live as active and engaged citizens.

Congratulations to all the new Canadian citizens and thank you to the Institute of Canadian Citizenship for the opportunity to serve them once again!

(I previously captured images for them in August 2017 - click here to see my post from then - and had an equally wonderful and moving time.)


]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) Canadian citizenship Celebrate Citizenship citizenship event photography Identity Inclusion Institute for Canadian Citizenship The Bentway Toronto Wed, 11 Sep 2019 21:12:15 GMT
Bikes of Havana In mid-March 2019, my family and I had a wonderful time visiting Havana, Cuba. One of our days was with the very talented Cuban artist Alfredo Sarabia, who gave us a tour to highlights of the city. I have shared some of our adventures already in these three blog posts:

- Sephardic Synagogue and Malpaso Dance Company

- Cuban School of Boxing

- Street Scenes of Havana

With World Bicycle Day having just passed (see my Instagram post in honour of that day), a blog post sharing my favourite bike images of Havana feels like a natural next step. I've thrown in a few extra related images here too, just for good measure!

Let's begin!

After our time at the Sephardic Synagogue and Malpaso Dance Company, we walked along through local streets.

We came across this corner food vendor. There was a bike so naturally I took a photo. We then stopped by to say hello...

We received a warm greeting from Helena, who ran this clearly popular corner shop.


We then walked onwards to the Vedado neighbourhood, where we were going for lunch.

Classic cars and bikes go together well in Havana.


We had a great lunch in a paladar (privately owned restaurant, as opposed to one run by the government) called El Atelier. I didn't take many photos there, but here is one from inside the restaurant:

We then headed to the Cuban School of Boxing. Funny enough, one of the athlete's bikes appeared in several of my favourite images...

The above image is probably my favourite image from our time in Havana. It was exciting to have Nikon Canada feature the above image, and another of mine called "Grid City", as part of a 60 image exhibit in their Contact Festival Gallery Night at the Hot Docs Cinema on May 29th. Talented photographer Caitlin Cronenberg was the guest speaker and shared about her journey as a photographer and her fascinating work photographing celebrities.

But I digress. Back to bikes in Havana!

The bike taxi is extremely popular in Havana. Here is a series of images showing them at work...

This fellow (named Williams, I believe) talked me up for a bit. I got distracted, I confess, by the scene over his shoulder.

Calle Habana


Everyone needs a break once in a while...


Bikes are naturally important for transporting goods as well...



Later in the day we took a ferry across to the other side of the bay, to a place called Casablanca.

The ferry offered us a good view of the city and of the cruise ship that my family and I were travelling on.


On board the ferry there was a bike, well stacked with goods...


The architecture of old Havana is very beautiful. Even when in a state of repair and reconstruction, bikes just add to their beauty and atmosphere.

There's a great bike rental program in Havana called Habici which started in November 2018. Below are a few Habici bikes in action. (If you can read Spanish, here is a handy article about the program).


Long live bikes and long live Havana!


Many images featured on my blog are available as art prints. Just send me a note, if interested.

My next blog post will be about Cars of Havana. Stay tuned!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) bicicletas de la Habana bicycles bike bikes bikes of Havana Cuba Habana Vieja Habici Havana Havana street photography travel photography World Bicycle Day Thu, 06 Jun 2019 20:52:05 GMT
Street Scenes of Havana Continuing my series of thematic blog posts of images in Havana, here is my latest: Street Scenes of Havana.

Plymouth Walk

This is a collection of images captured over two days in Havana in mid-March while visiting there with family. On our first day we were guided by talented Cuban artist Alfredo Sarabia, which made it a wonderful experience.

(Follow these links to see my images of the Malpaso Ballet Company and of the Cuban School of Boxing.

Please, read poetry.

Fridge, on delivery.

Public Phones

Along the Malecon

King of the Castle

A street in the Vedado neighbourhood of Havana.

On Break

A line-up for goods at the Royal Palm Mercado. Our guide told us that Havana "is a city of lines".

View through a souvenir shop window.

Bringing home the groceries.

A Hard Day's Night

Streets of Jazz

Many cafes and restaurants in central Havana had live music playing, which of course added to the ambience and mood of this beautiful city.

Checking in with friends.

Nobility and Joy

My daughter spent some time talking (as she was able, with her limited Spanish) to these two girls. I love the contrast between the dog's expression and the girls' laughter and joy.

San Juan de Dios Park

It is clear where wifi access is, as you'll find many using their cell phones nearby.

Thanks to our guide we were able to visit the home of a family in Central Havana. I captured the above scene as we left their building.

Lafayette Restaurante

The BBC recently shared an article about restoring Havana's neon, and featured this sign in the article's lead image. The article featured the work of Cuban artist Kadir Lopez. Thanks to our guide, Alfredo Sarabia (who knew so many people in Havana), we were able to get an advance preview of Kadir Lopez's new neon exhibit which was being prepared while we were there. I'll try to update this blog post with some photos from that visit when I have time.

I Heart Cuba


Late Day Shadows

Towards the Light

Convento de San Francisco


Jose Marti

Busts of Jose Marti, a national hero in Cuba, can be found in many spots throughout Cuba. Alfredo Sarabia, Cuban artist and our guide for one of our days in Havana, has done a very engaging photo series on these which may be seen here.

Fresh Produce

Vendors of fresh produce may be found throughout Havana. My photographer friend Natalia Shields has done many wonderful images of these during her travels to Havana, which may be found if you scroll through her great Instagram feed. Have a look!

  Hasta la Victoria Siempre

Tourists walk back towards the port after a day in Havana. "Hasta la Victoria Siempre", a popular quote by Che Guevera found on a t-shirt in the above image, when translated means "Ever Onward to Victory".

See more of my Havana images at these links:

- Sephardic Synagogue and Malpaso Ballet School

- Cuban School of Boxing

I will next share images of Cuban cars and Bikes of Havana! Please stay tuned and thanks for looking!


]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) cuba havana havana street photography street photography street scenes travel photography Thu, 09 May 2019 15:30:02 GMT
A Day in Havana - The Cuban School of Boxing In mid-March I had the privilege to tour Havana with talented Cuban artist Alfredo Sarabia, a professor of photography at the Havana University of Art.

This blog is the second of a series of posts sharing images I captured that day. To see the first post, please click here.


In early afternoon we visited the Cuban School of Boxing (Escuela Cubana de Boxeo).

- A view of the street from inside the Cuban Boxing School in Havana


We were running late after a wonderful lunch at a local paladar (a privately owned restaurant), and so the boxers were already in the ring sparring. We were  welcomed to begin taking photos.


Some neighbourhood children came by to watch.


I appreciated the walls, which were covered with inspirational artwork and quotes about boxing, or Cuba.

"Boxing is me." - Eligio Sardinas (Kid Chocolate)

"The attack is only half of the art of boxing."

- "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Your hands cannot hit what your eyes cannot see. " - Muhammad Ali

"I dedicate my victories to Fidel" - Julio Cesar de al Cruz, world champion Cuban boxer

- "No Latin-American country has done more than Cuba for sport." - Fidel Castro

- "I believe in Fidel like any religious believes in Christ." - Mario Kindelan


Coach Miranda took some athletes aside to train on specific skills.


Coach Michel continued to work on sparring skills with other athletes.


All of the boxers then did a circuit training routine, moving from station to station in timed sessions.

- "A champion is someone who gets up when he cannot."


The athletes then stretched and cooled down back in the ring.


David, who arrived a bit later than others, continued to work on his skills at the punching bag.

And gave us a final one-two punch for the camera.

Many thanks to the boxers, the coaches, and to Alfredo Sarabia for allowing us to be there with them.

This is the second of several bog posts I am doing from my visit to Havana. To see the first, about a ballet school and synagogue visit, please click here.

Thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) boxing boxing in Havana Cuba Cuban boxing Cuban boxing photography Havana Havana photography photo essay travel photo essay travel photography Tue, 16 Apr 2019 16:22:31 GMT
A Day in Havana - Sephardic Synagogue and Malpaso Ballet Company I recently went on a cruise with my extended family which included a day and a half stop in Havana, Cuba. Needless to say I was very excited to finally visit this beautiful and historic city.

Panorama view of the Terminal Sierra Maestra (cruise port area) of Havana

In advance of my trip I communicated with a local Cuban photo tour agency to ask about a guide who could show me and some family members around. I was thriled when, after a few rounds of emails, I was paired with a professor of photography at the Havana University of Art. I could not have been happier about this arrangement.

Panorama view of Havana from the opposite side of our cruise ship

We met Alfredo Sarabia, a professor of photography and an accomplished Cuban artist, in the main square (Plaza de San Francisco de Asis Square) near the cruise port, and headed out for a full day of discovery. Alfredo had a list of places planned for us to visit, but left of plenty of time for us to take photos of whatever inspired us along the way.

This blog will be the first of several I will do about our time in Havana, and will focus on our first stop, at the Malpaso Ballet Company of Havana.

After walking a short distance (very slowly as some of us needed photos beside the classic cars!) we took a taxi to the Sephardic Jewish Centre Synagogue of Havana.

I learned that the synagogue was founded in 1954 and is the only Sephardic Synagogue in Havana. Sephardic Jews are Jews who were expelled from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. Here is a brief but helpful article saying more about this.

The synagogue also serves as an education centre in memory of the Holocaust and to raise awareness of ongoing persecution against Jews around the world.

We were led inside the synagogue sancturary where members of the Malpaso Dance Company were practicing their skills. We were welcome to take photos without interrupting their training.

We should not have been surpised at the incredible skills of the dancers, as the Malpaso Dance Company is internationally renowned, and has toured in many countries. Nonetheless were were captured by the beauty of their form and technique as we watched them practice.

We were also free to explore, and take photos, throughout the entire synagogue.

A fisheye view from the balcony.


Window views from inside the synagogue.


After some time there, we went back out into the street to continue our tour of Havana.

Many thanks to the Sephardic Synagogue of Havana and the Malpaso Dance Company for the opportunity to visit and discover both history and contemporary dance together!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) Cuba dance photography Havana Havana Dance Company Havana photography Havana Synagogue Malpaso Dance Company Sephardic Synagogue of Havana Fri, 29 Mar 2019 16:05:41 GMT
Beach Snowfall The snow was falling quite heavily last week Wednesday in Toronto, but I had an appointment in The Beach neighbourhood, so I pushed through.

Naturally I took my camera with me and created photos before and after my appointment.

Here then, are a few images from last week.

The path I often run - with fellow runners from the Beach Running Room - was completely covered with ice and snow.

The weather doesn't phase power line workers.

The wind and snow made beautiful formations in the sand.

I discovered just how powerful the wind was once I walked on the beach - bits of sand and snow continuously pelted my face.

The wind formed long trails of snow across the beach. (Not ideal conditions for beach volleyball!)

Nothing stops Beach residents from walking their trusty canine friends.

Toronto cyclists constantly inspire me.

Artik Ice.

The famous Leuty Lifeguard Station braces against the powerful winds.

Thanks for looking! Try to stay warm!

]]> (Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek) art photography Beach Snowfall street photography The Beach The Beaches Toronto Toronto Beach toronto photography Tue, 05 Mar 2019 17:01:05 GMT
Favourite Photo Moments of 2018 It's time for my favourite blog post of the year - my look back at the past year's highlights! Here, without any further ado, they are...


InFocus Exhibit

I was privileged to participate, for my second time, in the annual InFocus Photo Exhibit in Edmonton, Alberta. The show took place in February 2018. This time I had my image "The Silver Dollar Room" in the show.

The Silver Dollar RoomThe Silver Dollar RoomThe Silver Dollar Room - one of Toronto's truly great and historic music venues. So many legends have played there. Here's hoping The Silver Dollar Room survives a proposed condo development for the site and retains it's distinct character. The Silver Dollar Room

The 2019 InFocus Exhibit will take place in February 2019. I am thrilled to again be part of the show. This time two of my images - Grid City and Gooderham Snowfall - are part of the show. Gooderham Snowfall is eligible for the annual People's Choice Award. The winner is chosen by voting, which is daily until February 6th. I would love your vote!


Picture 2050

I had a wonderful time participating in Picture 2050 - a photo contest with an environmental theme that invited participants to envision what Toronto could be like in the year 2050. I was thrilled to receive some recognition for my images which were part of a gallery in City Hall.

Island KayaksIsland KayaksA view of the city from the Toronto Islands.

This image was selected as an Honourable Mention in the
Picture 2050 photo contest.
To read more about the contest, you are welcome to view my blog post here.
Island Kayaks - an image selected for exhibit by Picture 2050

Picture 2050 images on display in Toronto City Hall.

To learn more and view additional photos please visit my blog post about Picture 2050.


Photo Ed Field Trip

In early May PhotoEd Magazine held a forum for teachers who teach photography. I was allowed to participate as someone who intends to teach photography. It was a wonderful event. Below is a photo I captured that day. To hear and see more about the event, click here to see my blog post about the day.

Give Love

Guest Photography

On several occasions I have had the opportunity to be a guest photographer with Project Kids and Cameras - a wonderful program run by talented photographer Diana Nazareth. In late May 2018 I had the opportunity to do so once again. This photo is from one of my visits in 2017...





Click here to learn more about Project Kids and Cameras upcoming workshop opportunities!


Live Music

I haven't shot live music in clubs very much in the past year or two, but in 2018 I got out to capture a few bands for Canadian Music Week once again. Here are a few highlights...

Booklyn Doran at Night Owl

Royal Prospect, from Sweden, performing at Night Owl

Sean William Clarke at The Paddock

In related music matters - I have had a great time being the official photographer for Air Guitar Canada for the past several years. Here are a few images from the 2018 championships - the winner of which went to represent Canada at the World Air Guitar Championships in Finland...


Art Shows

I love getting out to art shows to share my work. People are so kind and the feedback on my images is very encouraging. This year I participated in the Danforth East Arts Fair, Queen West Art Crawl, Spring and Holiday Artisans Market at Sick Kids, The Leslieville Flea Holiday Market, and the West Rouge Holiday Market. Below is an Instagram post featuring some of the fantastic volunteers at the Queen West Art Crawl.


View this post on Instagram

Many thanks to the hardworking organizers and volunteers of the @queenwestartcrawl, including Anna, Fan and Troye, pictured here, who came by my booth to lend a hand. Thanks also to my friend @thabulos for helping me set up and tear down my booth. And thanks to you for visiting and for supporting my work! Art shows are a lot work. I definitely can't do them on my own. I am especially thankful as this was the best weekend art show I've ever done! Stay tuned as I will be participating in some holiday markets in November and December. Thanks again all! #QWAC #queenwestartcrawl #queenstreetwest #westqueenwest #artshow #artsfair #artsTO #artphotography #booklovers #gooderhambuilding #ilovetoronto #torontolife #blogto #toronto_insta #streetsoftoronto #SeeTorontoNow #culturesnap #culturesnapphotography

A post shared by Henry VanderSpek (@culturesnap) on






To see my art images and photo pillows click here. To receive updates on my shows and photo art news, send me your email and I will add you to my e-mail list (only 4-6 emails per year).


Trip to Portland and Seattle

I had a wonderful time visiting Portland and Seattle with two good friends in July 2018. Here is a photo that I shared on Instagram that I will include in an upcoming blog post (or two!) about the trip...





Event Photography

In November 2018 was invited to document National Children's Day for Children First Canada - a meaningful organization that works to raise awareness, and to implement change, so that children are respected and can live healthy childhoods. National Children's Day gathered participants from across Canada to discuss issues that are pressing to children and youth. Here are a few images from the day...

Contact me to discuss how I can help document the great work of your non-profit organization!


Documentary Work

Since late 2017 I have been working on a new documentary project that celebrates older shoe and shoe repair stores of Toronto. I have photographed and interviewed on video owners of about seven stores since I began. The below Instagram post shows one store that I visited in November 2018.