surreal Toronto

Urban Surrealism in Toronto

Toronto is full of many weird and wonderful sights. Photographers in our city have known this for ages. Putting these ideas together, it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite pastimes involves wandering around the city's nooks and crannies, camera in hand.

I decided to depart slightly from my urban exploration theme this week, and assemble a series of what might at first appear disparate images, yet all have the theme of the surreal -- bizarre and dreamlike images of Toronto. I will move through three phases of this urban surreality, beginning with scenes and places that are bizarre in their own regard, images made this way by photo processing, and finally, ordinary scenes made surreal by the elements of nature.

The title-image was a particularly peculiar photographic occurrence. While having the appearance of something

surreal Toronto

dadaism

surreal Toronto

-approved, it is actually an un-edited image, created by a red-glazed reflection at an odd angle near Avenue and Bloor. All very ordinary elements, combining to form something completely unreal...

surreal Toronto


surreal Toronto

The urban space in our city which seems to me the most unreal, however, is that of forgotten places. Often times no more than a vacant house, the pattern of Toronto's abandonment issues will occasionally manifest itself in the form of

surreal Toronto

massive industrial ruins

surreal Toronto

...

surreal Toronto


surreal Toronto

At the other end of the spectrum are the places whose aesthetic was specifically engineered and created to shock the viewer...

surreal Toronto

A more spontaneous element in capturing a unique image requires the photographer to merely be in the right place, at the right time...

surreal Toronto


surreal Toronto


surreal Toronto

The post-processing of images (especially in digital format) has made for leaps and bounds when it comes to the creation of surreal photography. This is not to say that images were not manipulated before the digital darkroom, but the simplification of techniques such as

surreal Toronto

HDR

surreal Toronto

make these processes more commonly available, and has the ability to take an ordinary image (or series of images), and transform them into something truly unique...

surreal Toronto


To be honest, I am not a huge fan of the technique (probably because my attempts usually end up making my eyes bleed). Not that it can't be useful, but because in my mind, it is too easily abused. However, there are those who use the style very subtly, with beautiful images resulting. No matter what one's views on the matter, though, there is no doubt that the resulting images are surreal...

Of course, the most natural transformation of the built environment has, and always will be, nature. I am particularly drawn to fog, as its obfuscation of only certain elements of our visual spectrum creates an almost dream-like vision.
The veil which a heavy morning fog drags over the city is spectacular to witness, especially from an elevated position. The bizarre prospect of knowing what is hidden behind its mask, and at the same time not being able to see it with eyes wide-open, is utterly dream-like.
While visually amusing, I am often forced to question the artistic legitimacy of images such as these. Is surreal photography relegated to "neat," or does it say something deeper about both the artist and the viewer?

There is something strangely appealing about seeing the familiar (to urbanites, often the mundane) transformed into something new and beautiful. It happens to us often in dreams, as familiar elements of our daily lives -- quite often its places -- appear suddenly bizarre, while still holding their familiarity.

Every morning, I write down my dreams as vividly as possible in a small book I keep by my bedside. For the rest of my waking hours, I record them in my camera.

(To see the rest of the images, as well as high-res. versions of the ones pictured above, you can see my flickr slide-show below.)


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