COVID Words: Pandemic Messages Found On Toronto Streets

September 18, 2020

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.

 

COVID Is A Hoax

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

"...it 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 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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