blogerati_oct14.jpg

The Blogerati Files: The Toronto People Project

This week in the Blogerati Files - "The Toronto People Project"

Describe The Toronto People Project in ten words or less.
The Toronto People Project is a continually-growing online gallery of photos I've taken of people around Toronto. Because I shoot with film, I tend to add bunches of photos at intervals. So it's not really a photo-blog, in the sense that I don't update it every day. It's more like a gallery that's slowly expanding.

Why did you start the Toronto People Project?
I've always been fascinated by people and people-watching. And I dig photography, so it was kind of a natural combination. Often as I go about my business through the city, I'll notice someone and think 'that person is very interesting; I'd like to record them.' Now I do. I originally had the people photos on my main web site (neilgunner.com) along with other photo projects, but this felt like it deserved its own thing - especially since it's going to get much bigger.

What inspires you to take someone's photo?
When I go out shooting, I look for people with interesting expressions or interesting looks. As you go through the photos, a lot of the people look tired, or thoughtful, or angry or whatever. I especially like people who have a 'don't mess with me' expression. I think a lot of it is me thinking 'if I could be a fly on the wall to that person.'

Do most people agree to have their photo taken? How do people react generally? Do you find some neighbourhoods photo-friendlier than others? Strange reactions?
Much to my pleasant surprise, most people do say yes when I ask to take their picture. It's probably about two-thirds yes to one-third no. But there's no real pattern to the responses, and those who say no all have different reasons. Almost everyone is polite and approachable, but hey, that's Toronto. In terms of who is photo-friendlier, I haven't noticed any big differences between neighborhoods; but there are so many parts of the city that I haven't shot in yet. I wouldn't say anyone has reacted strangely, but there was one photo I took of a young woman, where her boyfriend called me that evening, demanding to know what I was doing. He assumed I was only taking pictures to pick up girls; he just couldn't get his head around the fact that it was a photography project, and very few of the shots were of people's girlfriends.

Do you have a favourite photograph from your blog? Why is it your favourite?
Ah, I have many favourite photos! The ones I like best are shots where I've really captured a mood, like the girl on the streetcar or the night shift worker on the subway.

Where's your favourite place to take pictures?
I think the nature of Toronto People Project demands that I continually explore new neighbourhoods. So, you know, I'm still exploring. The whole city is my playground.

How long have you been taking pictures in general and can we see your work in spaces other than the Toronto People Project.
I started taking pictures in earnest back in the late 90's, when I was a student at Miami Ad School in Miami Beach. Miami Ad School is a school where people train to get jobs creating advertising. They have a rule that if you're making an ad and it requires a photo, YOU have to shoot that photo. You can't use some pre-existing shot, or some stock shot. But they train you to shoot. My first photography course was called 'experimental photography' where we learned all these cool techniques, and I fell in love with the whole process. And the light in Miami Beach is so amazing. You can see my work in other places, mainly on my main web site at neilgunner.com. I display a number of ongoing photography projects there, including a series on Rush Hour and a very foggy High Park. I'm also looking to display my work in the real world, although a gallery show is out of my price range right now. So if anyone has any suggestions.

Are you inspired by other photography based projects in Toronto? Which and why?
A number of photography projects inspired me, but they're not all in Toronto. At PS1, which is a gallery in New York City where I used to live, I saw an exhibit where a guy sat with a hidden video camera on a subway train and simply let the camera record whoever was sitting in front of him, in real time. Then he strung together a whole series of these side by side, so it was like you were sitting on a train as it traveled all the way down the line, only you could stare at whoever was sitting across from you all you wanted.

I also really like what Clay Enos is doing with Street Studio (clayenos.com) where he sets up a mobile studio and photographs strangers in cities all over the world. And Roark Johnson did something he called Stranger A Day (roarkjohnson.com) where he photographed a different random person each day for a year. In Toronto, I'm a big fan of happyniceday.com, slowmotionlandscape.com, daily dose of imagery (topleftpixel.com) and thenarrative.net.

What's happening in Toronto right now that the rest of us should be watching?
I love the fact that all the different neighbourhoods each have a street festival; we just had the Ukrainian festival in Bloor West Village, the Polish festival is coming up. This isn't news to anyone but it really is a great, unique thing about our city.

Anything else you'd like to add...
I also sell t-shirts at transmegacorp.com, and I have a blog called The World of Screetus, at screetus.blogspot.com.


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in People

Get to know a Chef: Susur Lee

Get to Know a Chef: Grant van Gameren, Bar Isabel

Toronto through the eyes of Martin Short

Toronto through the eyes of Owen Pallett

Get to Know a Chef: Rosa Marinuzzi, 7 Numbers

Get to know a bartender: Quenton Fortune, Churchill

Get to Know a Chef: Basilio Pesce, Porzia

Get to know a bartender: Aja Sax, The Emerson