Favourite Photo Moments of 2020

January 27, 2021

"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...

Alright

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.

Self-portrait

- 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 ShopCultureSnap.ca 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 ShopCultureSnap.ca 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 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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