Contact Photography Show "Reality" and May Photography Programs at TRL

May 7, 2018 | Bill V.

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You may know that May is the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival in Toronto? 

The Arts Department of the Toronto Reference Library is hosting a exhibit called Reality by Allan Cullen, photographer and disability activist, up on the 5th floor during the month of May as part of the Open Exhibitions under the Contact Photography Festival

To quote Allan, "The photos speak for themselves, but the Library amplifies my voice."

Reality Photography Show by Allan Cullen

Future Shop part of the Reality Show by Allan Cullen

Cullen's work, based on his own lived experience, focuses on men who are marginalized, live in poverty, are homeless, or who suffer from disability and mental and physical health problems. His work is moving, and often even disturbing, but he aims to show the endurance and life-sustaining spark of these men. These are a sample of his photos.

Allan Cullen Sweat Beauty Offers 

You First part of the Reality show by Allan Cullen

There are works by Cullen in a glass display case in front of the elevators on the 5th floor as well as a video show on a screen near the information desk. Cullen's work focuses on people in difficult situations but he also does some "artsy fartsy" work (his own words!) and these are more abstract. Cullen uses the resources of the Digital Innovation Hub at the Toronto Reference Library for its equipment, classes, staff expertise and also the chance to meet other artists.

Parking Garage part of the Reality show by Allan Cullen

Man in the Mural part of the Reality show by Allan Cullen

During May, the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival and the Arts and Special Collections departments also offer a full slate of other programming related to photography that might interest you.

Century of Ontario Photographs Archives of Ontario program

A Century of Ontario Photographs: Discover some of the highlights from the Archives of Ontario's extensive collection of more than 6.4 million photographs! This presentation explores the work of government, amateur and professional photographers, and explains how the Archives manages and preserves its photographic holdings.  Presented by Danielle Manning of the Archives of Ontario.

Tuesday May 15, 2018 from 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm in the Beeton Hall, main floor, of the Toronto Reference Library. This is a free program and all are welcome.


Monk with a camera the life and journey of Nicholas Vreeland

Monk with a Camera: The Life and Journey of Nicholas Vreeland: In 1984, Nicholas Vreeland grandson of fashion icon Diana Vreeland left behind his jet set life to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He later resurrected his photographic career to raise money for the reconstruction of the Rato Monastery in India.

Free showing on Friday May 18, 2018 from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm in the Hinton Learning Theatre on the 3rd floor of the Toronto Reference Library.



The true meaning of pictures Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia

The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia:  Shelby Lee Adams has been photographing the eastern Kentucky Appalachian mountain people for 30 years, and has been both praised and derided for his portraits of impoverished Appalachian families. Accused of perpetuating stereotypes and exploiting his subjects, this documentary explores the controversy as the director allows Adams, his critics and the subjects of his work to speak their minds.

Free showing on Monday May 28, 2018 from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm in the Hinton Learning Theatre on the 3rd floor of the Toronto Reference Library.


Ordinary Miracles The Photo League's New York

Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League's New York: a feature-length documentary film which tells the story of the rise and politically motivated fall of the Photo League (1936-1951). For 15 years, the Photo League served as the centre of the documentary movement in American photography at a time when the camera was held to be, in James Agee's words, "the central instrument of our time." The Photo League's membership roster reads like a Who's Who of leading American and emigrant photographers.

Free showing on Monday May 28, 2018 from 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm in the Hinton Learning Theatre on the 3rd floor of the Toronto Reference Library.


Finding Vivian Maier

Finding Vivian Maier: A film about the mysterious nanny, who became a worldwide sensation shortly after her death, when thousands of her photos were discovered and became an online sensation. She is now seen as one of the best street photographers in the world, and an artist with a profound vision of American society in the postwar 50s and 60s.

Free showing on Wednesday May 30 2018 from 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm in the Hinton Learning Theatre on the 3rd floor of the Toronto Reference Library.

We also have a blog post called I Found Vivian Maier that you may find interesting.


Dorothea Lange Grab a Hunk of Lightning

Dorothea Lange, Grab a Hunk of Lightning: Her Lifetime in Photography: Explore the life, passions and uncompromising vision of the influential photographer, whose enduring images document five turbulent decades of American history, including the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War II Japanese internment camps. Cinematographer Dyanna Taylor directs and narrates this intimate American Masters documentary.
Free showing on Thursday May 31 2018 from 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm in the Beeton Hall, on the main floor, the Toronto Reference Library.
We also have two Discover talks on the 5th floor that touch on photography during May.
Discover Arts (5th floor) Saturday May 12th, from  2:30-3 pm
"Everything We Have on Shelley Niro (So Far)". Niro is an acclaimed Mohawk photographer from Ontario, winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Contact Photography Award.

Shelley Niro


Discover Special Collections (5th floor) on Saturday May 19, from 2-2:30 pm. 

Panoramic photographs from the Canadian Documentary Art Collection 

Panoramic view  Toronto Harbour  1907

Panoramic view, Toronto Harbour, 1907

If you're interested in knowing more about the Toronto Public Library Digital Archive, then the following program will be of great interest:

In this computer class, you will learn how to search historical images from the library's digital collections. Get hands-on practice exploring the library's treasure trove of rare digitized photos, posters, maps and more. Discover vintage postcards of Ontario towns, learn about image copyright, and learn how you might use these digital items for your own projects. All are welcome. Call 416-393-7209 to register. Presented by the Preservation and Digitization Department.

For something more practical, you may also be interested in:

Learn the basics of digital photography, including camera features, shooting modes and common composition techniques during this presentation for beginners. See here for free registration.


Toronto Reference Library display on 2nd floor of local photographers works from the Digital Archive.

Lastly, on the 2nd floor of the Toronto Reference Library, near the stairs, you will find three looping video screens showing staff-curated works from the Toronto Public Library Digital Archive highlighting the work of the following photographers:

  • James Victor Salmon (1911-1959 - the library owns a large collection of his works)
  • Toronto Star photographer Erin Combs (one of Toronto's first female newspaper photographers)
  • Toronto Star photographer Reg Innell.