Favourite Photo Moments of 2021

February 04, 2022

2021 brought many good things and I am happy to share about them in this, my annual post looking back on the previous year.

 

1. Kim's Convenience

I was sad to see the wonderful Kim's Convenience show come to an end. I watched it from the start and loved the stories of the Kim family and how the show represented life in Toronto.

While feeling sad, I had the unique thrill of seeing my image - one that I created four years earlier - appear more than once in the final episode of the show.

I laughed out loud when Jung (played by Simu Liu) said to his sister Janet (played by Andrea Bang), "I thought your photography was getting better?" as he handed a photo that I had taken back to her!

The photo is used in a more meaningful way later on in the episode as Jung pitches a business plan to his family that would add a variety of business opportunities to the store.

 

OK See You!

A film photo I captured in June 2020.

My thanks to the creator of Kim's Convenience, Ins Choi, and to all the actors, for bringing this show, that is so filled with joy, to life.

Thanks to my photo being on the show, I was able to connect with the great people behind KimBits - a group of fans who have done so much to support the community of people who love this show! Click here to follow them Twitter where they continue to spread the love for Kim's Convenience and for the show's actors as they rise in their careers.

For those who may be interested, I have a few items available at my ShopCultureSnap.ca store with the Kim's Convenience image on it, including a pillowcase, a wood block print and a tote bag.

 

2. Film Photography

I shot a lot of film again in 2021. Many thanks to the good people at Downtown Camera for their great work developing it for me.

Suitable for Framing

Ilford HP5+ 400

Love Is Good, Good People

Kodak Pro Image 100

I intend to share blog posts of my favourite colour and black and white images of 2021. Please stay tuned!

Update: Here are my Favourite Black and White Film Photos of 2021!

And here are my Favourite Colour Film Photos of 2021!

 

Unique Film Types

Every once in a while I like to try to shoot with film types that are a little different than the usual colour and black and white films that I use.

Lakeview Restaurant

Cinestill 800T

Kew Gardens Butterfly

Lomachrome Purple 100-400

I think these films may deserve a separate blog post. Stay tuned!

Update: Here are my blog posts about these film types:

- Purple Poses - Playing Purposefully With Lomagraphy's Purple XR Film

- Still of the Night - Toronto Street Scenes With Cinestill 800T Film

Expired Film

I found myself with quite a number of rolls of expired film in 2021.

Work To Be Done

Kirkland Colour 100

Crossing Queen at Spadina

Kodak Gold 400

These expired film images may also deserve their own blog post. I will try! Stay tuned!

 

3. Street Photography

My artistic discipline involves doing a photo walk at least once a week.

A Train to Catch

This is good for my heart, mind and soul and also good for ensuring I create interesting photo art.

Rare and Ancient Treasures

A street view alongside the wonderful Acadia Books, one of the oldest book stores in Toronto.

 

Street photography also helps me meet interesting people!

The friendly staff of Steve's Music

Follow me on Instagram to see my latest street images (film and digital).

 

4. Being Featured

- SNAP Auction

I learned in late 2020 that two of my images would be in the 2021 SNAP Toronto Auction to raise funds for the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT).

Screenshot Screenshot

The auction went ahead in March 2021 and I'm very happy to say that together my images helped to raise over $1200 for the AIDS Committee of Toronto's important work.

- Photo Ed Magazine

I was very happy to have four of my images in PhotoEd Magazine's issue about Black and White photography.

PhotoEd is the only photo magazine left in Canada. They are very supportive of photographers and photo artists and subscriptions are low cost.

By subscribing to PhotoEd Magazine you support Canadian publishing, Canadian artists and get to enjoy wonderfully creative content - so definitely consider doing so!

 

5. Montréal

I was scheduled to attend a conference in Montréal in late April 2020, but it had to be cancelled. So it was a gift to be able to travel once again in 2021 - and to be able to visit one of my favourite cities, Montréal.

My friend Sammy and I had a great time exploring many wonderful neighbourhoods and meeting up with a good friend there which made our time even more enjoyable.

I've shared one blog post from the trip - Bikes of Montreal - but hope to share more this coming year.

Mural of Willie O'Ree (seen on a wall in Montréal), the first black player in the NHL, by street artist Pints.

 

6. Humans of the Danforth

In the summer of 2021 I had the privilege of working on Humans of the Danforth - a project led by the wonderful people at East End Arts and the Greektown on the Danforth BIA and run in partnership with STEPS Public Art, the Toronto Library and the TTC.

Humans of the Danforth on display in Chester Station (left and right side windows).

The project was understandably delayed a few times so it was exciting to finally get started in the summer of 2021

Humans of the Danforth in Pape Library

It was challenging getting 26 businesses on board and then scheduling interviews and photo shoots all within a very short window, but I loved every minute of it!

George of Apollon Pharmacy

I heard many challenging stories from business owners as they shared about some of their hardest months of the pandemic, but I also heard many wonderful accounts of how their customers and fellow business owners showed their support.

Lina and Dustin of Greenwood Smokehouse

The exhibit lives on online thanks to STEPS Public Art. Click here to see the portraits and to listen to people's stories (scroll down to the "Walking Tour" and click on the grid of portraits to get to the tour). You can also hear them via YouTube here. Kudos to Anahita Dehbonehie as well for editing the audio from the interviews.

Click here also for a ArtSkool Educational Guide about the Humans of the Danforth project!

Me holding a photo of Stacia of IQ Living, outside of their store window

My sincere thanks to East End Arts for giving me such a great opportunity to use my skills to do what I love - celebrating people! Keep shopping local and keep supporting small businesses like these!

 

7. Kanesatake and Nunavut

In October I had the wonderful opportunity to meet indigenous leaders in two communities. I met Harvey Satewas Gabriel in Kanesatake, outside of Montréal and Jonas Allooloo in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Harvey Satewas Gabriel holding a book of the four gospels in Mohawk, as translated by his great grandfather Chief Sose Onasakenrat (also known as Joseph Swan), in Kanesatake United Church

Jonas Allooloo in his office at St. Jude's Anglican Church in Iqaluit, Nunavut

I was hired to take photos of Harvey Satewas Gabriel and Jonas Allooloo as an assignment for a faith based publication which was doing a story about their work translating the Bible into Mohawk and Inuktitut, respectively.

A copy of the Kanesatake Mohawk Dictionary, created by Harvey Satewas Gabriel.

After many years their translation work is nearing completion. Finishing the translation is significant not only for local faith communities but for the preservation of language and culture as well.

Iqaluit Sunrise

A view of St. Jude's Anglican (centre) and Koojesse Inlet (right) in Iqaluit, Nunavut

There is so much I could write about this assignment that a blog post is definitely necessary.

 

8. Old World Shoes

After two previous exhibit dates were cancelled due to the pandemic, it was wonderful to finally have my Old World Shoes project go ahead in December 2021.

Opening Night of Old World Shoes at Daniels Spectrum, part of the 2021 Contact Photo Festival

L-R: Emmanuel Farré of Farré by Emmanuel, Peter Feeney of Peter Feeney Bespoke Footwear, George of Yiorgos the Cobbler, Henry VanderSpek and David and Richard Markowitz of DAVIDS.

Opening night was a real joy.

Peter Feeney of Peter Feeney Bespoke Footwear and myself on opening night

Emmanuel Farré of Farré by Emmanuel and I Emmanuel Farré was kind enough to loan me a pair of his beautiful hand-painted shoes for the opening night. I felt like a star!

See this page for more details about the exhibit (currently on until Feb 19th at Capri Shoes), including media coverage, as well as my thanks and acknowledgements of the many who helped to make it happen! A special thanks to Olga Schellenberg, along with other Artscape staff, who helped so much with making it happen!

My friend Sammy Younan interviewed me for his podcast about my photography and Old World Shoes. I got a bit choked speaking about my Dad, but I think it was a good discussion thanks to excellent interview questions by Sammy. Please have a listen!

 

9. Assisting With Two Documentaries

In early 2021 my friend, filmmaker Simon Madore, spoke with me about a project he was working on called "Excluded by Design" which is part of a program by Hot Docs called Citizen Minutes.  The theme of the film - about Notice of Development signs and how governments can improve their civic engagement, featureing Toronto activist Dave Meslin - aligned with a photo series that I have been working on. In the end I was able to contribute three of my images for use in the project. Here is one of them:

 

In late 2022 I had another opportunity to work with Cat Mills, a documentary filmmaker who has made a number of creative and meaningful films.

I had a great time working as an on-set photographer for Cat Mills on Big Men, Small Dogs and Mesdames of Mayhem, so when a new opportunity came up, I could not say no!

This new documentary, titled "The Billboard Squad", is about illegal billboards in Toronto and, funny enough, also features author and activist Dave Meslin's work to raise awareness and to provoke action on them.

Dave Meslin has been a leader on so many important issues regarding civic engagement, and is the founder of both the Toronto Public Space Committee and Cycle Toronto, so it was a privilege to capture images of him taking creative action on this issue.

 

10. Being Thankful

Like many artists, I have moments of discouragement and self-doubt. I wonder whether what I am doing is meaningful or making a difference, or where I am headed with my work. Looking back on the past year like this helps me to listen to logic over emotion, and to recognize that I have received many good opportunities, and have much to be thankful for. I feel that very much as I look back on 2021, and indeed give thanks.

I will close with this image...

Beauty

"It's true today as it ever was. He who seeks beauty will find it."

- Bill Cunningham (said in Bill Cunningham: New York)

Best wishes and stay well!

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

- 2020

- 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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