35-year-old photographer captures all of the mammals that call Toronto home
When people think of Toronto's best features, its captivating wildlife usually doesn't even make the list. However, photographer Andrew Budziak, 35, has given himself the project of documenting the natural beauty found within the city's green spaces.
Having started in December, Budziak is attempting to photograph every species from a list he compiled of 42 mammals that regularly call Toronto home — everything from raccoons and squirrels, to deer and coyotes.
"This project really came out of two things, just loving urban wildlife and wanting to document it and hoping that this could be some kind of reminder that we have this green space that we love," Budziak told blogTO.
"I'm really used to travelling and using the camera to open peoples' eyes to new things, and now I feel like I'm able to do that right at home through this project of documenting the animals we have in this city."
In a time before travel restrictions were put in place, Budziak had previously shot all over the world including countries such as England, Japan, India, Pakistan, and coast-to-coast in Canada.
His subject matter ranged from wildlife photography to videos documenting disaster relief, though after moving to the Don Valley and being mesmerized by the wildlife he saw, Budziak knew there was a story to tell.
While wildlife photography often consists of spending days camping in the wilderness, sleeping in tents or lodges out in the middle of nature, urban wildlife photography paints a different picture. It works to showcase the beauty that can be found in the city when you look past the condos and concrete parking lots.
"It's so crazy how close we are to these animals and how these two realities are existing right up against each other," Budziak explained. "I'll walk out of the bush and I'm standing in the parking lot of a TD bank."
As the city shut down green space including nature paths and parks as part of COVID precautions, residents wondered why it was still fine to go to a crowded Walmart but walking through a quiet nature path was against the rules.
With green space being directly linked to mental health, Budziak was just one of many who questioned why the city would close off access to it during a health criss.
He's using this project of capturing Toronto's wildlife to show just how wonderful the city's natural areas are and what kind of amazing experiences can be had for those who venture off the pavement. The hope is that it will inspire more people to speak out in preserving these areas and prevent the urban sprawl from taking over.
"Toronto is becoming this grey place. We like to tout ourselves as a green city but really we're losing that," stated Budziak. "We are losing our green space and if we're not careful it could all go away. But the green space that we luckily still have available to us is so rich and so vibrant."
Many people simply aren't aware of the stunning animals that live in Toronto, how more than just hungry raccoons call the city home. Budziak shared a story of a time when he was watching a deer and looked over to his right to see people waiting at a bus stop unaware of the beautiful animal nearby.
This project, which could be followed via his Instagram, exists to highlight the incredible diversity found in Toronto's wildlife. While developers work to put grass on the rooftop of condos and call that adequate green space, Budziak is here to show what nature in the city really looks like.
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