Top Photo Moments of 2017

January 29, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Happy New Year! I wish you the best as you head out into the new opportunities before you.

Each year brings new things, and one never knows what will be around the next corner. 2017 again brought me new surprises and opportunities that I am very thankful for. I am happy to share my top photo moments of 2017 with you here...

1. InFocus Photo Exhibit

In February 2017 I had two of my images in the InFocus Photo Exhibit - a national showcase of emerging Canadian photographers' work that takes place in Edmonton, Alberta. My images "From Mind to Body" and "I Felt the World", as seen below, were both shown at this exhibit.

From Mind to BodyFrom Mind to Body

I Felt the WorldI Felt the WorldA street scene that includes a piece of Dionne Brand's poetry. Dionee Brand was Toronto Poet Laureate from 2009 - 2012. Read more about her here.
This image was one of two I had on exhibit at InFocus 2017, a national showcase of the work of emerging Canadian photographers.

2. Weekly Street Shooting

I have maintained a discipline of going out at least once a week to shoot street scenes of Toronto - or whichever city I find myself in. This is a sure way for me to mainain my photo shooting skills and creativity, as well as to keep producing new engaging images for my art photography.  Even though I feel good about a number of the images from these weekly shoots, many don't make it onto my site - or onto social media. Here is are a few examples of images I captured last year on weekly photo walks, but have not yet shared elsewhere...

3. Film Photography

In early 2017 my Father gave me his old Canon AE-1 camera, and suddenly - after twelve or more years away - I was back in the film shooting business. I had a lot of fun shooting film in 2017, and exposed about six rolls of 35mm film in total, including Kentmere 400, Kodak Portra 400, Ilford HP5+, Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400, and a 15-20 year old roll of Kodak Max from my Dad's camera bag that turned out remarkably well considering its age. I will do a few blog posts in the future about my experiments with film, but here are some examples of what I captured...

Victory Tattoo Parlour - shot on Kentmere 400 film (my first roll of film in 12+ years)

Power Lines - Shot on Kodak Porta 400 film

Crossing Shuter - shot on Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400 film

Dangerous Dan's - shot on Ilford HP5+ 400 film

4. The Silver Dollar Room

The architecture and streetscapes of Toronto are constantly changing. Living in this city has proven one thing - that if I don't stop and take a photo the moment I see something interesting, it may be gone, or significantly changed, the next time I am in the area again.

I knew The Silver Dollar Room was going to close in the spring of 2017, and made sure to go by there early in the year to get a photo of the iconic music venue. Once there, I took my time and tried a few different angles. The pigeons milling about and a stripped bike frame added to the street intrigue that drew me in. I captured several passersby, but one walking a dog was perfect as the pigeons rose in a flutter while they walked through the frame.

I am happy to say that this image will be in the 2018 InFocus Exhibit in Edmonton, Alberta. It is part of the InFocus People's Choice Award which may be voted on now until February 7th, 2018.

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.

5. Taxi Drivers of Toronto

A real highlight for 2017 was having my Taxi Drivers of Toronto series part of the 2017 Contact Photo Festival at the Daniels Spectrum building in Regent Park. CBC Toronto, CBC Radio, the Beach Metro and Now Toronto all covered the exhibit, with Now Toronto including me in their "must-sees" of the festival. Two months later, in July, I showed this exhibit at Toronto's Northern District Library. Many thanks to all who helped support this exhibit, including the curator, Elle Alconcel of Artscape Toronto, and Beck Taxi, who sponsored the Contact exhibit.

Mary Ashene, Beck Taxi Driver, in front of Casa Loma

Yours truly, on opening night of Taxi Drivers of Toronto, at Daniels Spectrum building in Regent Park (Photo by talented photographer Diana Nazareth, who runs the wonderful Project Kids and Cameras)

6. Capturing Yorkville Village

In August I was hired to shoot photos of the Yorkville neighbourhood for the official Yorkville Village website. The images they used may be seen here and here, as well as a few samples below.

I received great feedback on my images and hope to capture more such imagery for other neighbourhood BIAs in the future.

7. Non-Profit Photography

I love to help tell the story of non-profit organizations, whether through images or words. It is in my blood, I suppose, after working for non-profit organizations for some 15 years or more. 2017 brought me several opportunities to continue doing this. Early in the year I created staff portraits for a great organization called Transforming Faces. (Have a look at their website!).

In August I had the pleasure of capturing a citizenship ceremony in High Park for the Institute of Canadian Citizenship. I was very impressed with ICC's values and model of creative engagement around a citizenship ceremony, and so wrote a blog post about it, which can be found here.


In late November I captured the gathering of friends and supporters of A Rocha - an international faith-based environmental charity. I really admire and respect their work, so it was a privilege to help share their night in images.

8. Art Shows

I love participating in public art shows and continued to do so in 2017, incuding the Sick Kids Spring and Holiday Markets, the Danforth East Arts Fair (my sixth year participating!) and the Leslieville Flea Holiday Market (my first time participating). To stay up to date on my art shows, please send me a note and I will add you to my infrequent (5-6 times a year) email updates.

Me at the Danforth East Community Arts Fair (DECAF). Photo courtesy of my talented cousin, Jan Willem of Van Swigchem Design.

9. Big Men, Small Dogs

I love creative and meaningful documentary projects, so was happy to be invited to take portraits of the subjects of a short documentary called "Big Men, Small Dogs". It is a very fun film and worth watching. On January 18th, 2018 the "Big Men, Small Dogs" Facebook page noted that the short documentary had received 998,000 online views - quite an impressive number!

Director Cat Mills (second from left) with some of the subjects of her short documentary film, "Big Men, Small Dogs".

10. Mexico City

International travel is always calling me, but I don't get to travel as often as I used to these days. So it was a thrill to travel to Mexico in late September with two close friends. We had a wonderful time exploring local culture and connecting with one of my friend's many contacts there. Below are a few Mexico City images that I have not yet posted, followed by links to two blog posts about my time there.

- Doors of Mexico City

- Bikes of Mexico City

Thanks for reading my blog and for following my work! To see more and to stay connected, follow me on social media:





Culture Snap Photography features the work of Toronto-based photographer Henry VanderSpek. Henry specializes in documenting the work of local and international non-profit organizations, special events, live music, street and art photography. To hire Henry for an assignment, please click here to get in touch.
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