Contact Photography Festival Guide: 10 must-see exhibits at the world’s largest photography festival

Contact Photography Festival Guide: 10 must-see exhibits at the world’s largest photography festival

Seal Heart (from In the Playroom) by Jonathan Hobin

The Contact Photography Festival turns Toronto into a de facto art installation. For the next month, billboards, subway stations, cafes, retail stores and even airport terminals become galleries, joining institutions like the ROM and MOCCA in showcasing more than 1500 artists across 175 venues. With almost 200 exhibits spread across the city, even the savviest gallery-goer can be overwhelmed. We whittled the wonderfully massive list to 10 must-see showpieces to give you an insider edge on where to see the most awe-inspiring images, from iconic photographer Michael Snow’s mind-bending new work to the hauntingly poignant photography of up-and-coming artist Jonathan Hobin.

The Viewing of Six New WorksMichael Snow
The city’s most notorious, and arguably most beloved (the AGO houses 82 of his works), art star is showcasing “Viewing of Six New Works,” a recent piece in which a state-of-the-art projector displays six channels of light onto a wall in order to toy with the viewer’s sense of perception. Snow calls it “the art of looking at art.” We call it must-see art from a Toronto legend.

Scotiabank Photography Award ExhibitArnaud Maggs
Ryerson Image Centre, 33 Gould St.
The first major public display of Maggs’ work since his death late last year reveals how his subjects got progressively weirder over the years—from shaggy German students and art world luminaries in their dotage to 19th century French carpentry diagrams and the artist himself dressed up as sad sack clown Pierrot.

In The PlayroomJonathan Hobin
Gladstone Hotel (2nd Floor), 1214 Queen St W.
The controversial exhibit depicts reenactments of serious, often tragic events—9/11, Original Sin and nuclear testing in North Korea—with children as the principal actors. Jarring in theme and captivating in detail, Hobin’s big, bright photos pop with colour. His commentary on modern media is impossible to ignore.

24hrs in PhotographyErik Kessels
Contact Gallery, 80 Spadina Ave 310
Kessels printed all the photos uploaded to Flickr over a 24-period—all one million of them—and collected a subset of 350,000 in a single room. Visitors can wade through the heaping piles, which sprawl like so much detritus in a landfill, experiencing the powerful commentary on the modern obsession with self-documentation.

Forever 27Jill Furmanovsky, Lucia Graca, Neal Preston, Ken Regan, Ed Sirrs, Philip Townsend and Barrie Wentzell
Analogue Gallery, 673 Queen St W.
A stunning and sobering mix of portraits, candid shots and concert photos of musicians Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse—the “Forever 27 Club.”

44° N 79° W
Natasha Milijasevic, Mario Voltolina, and Patty Zuver
Communication Art Gallery, 209 Harbord Street
From landscapes to documentary photos to abstract images, the trio’s art reflects a profound attention to detail stemming more from loving curiosity than an impulse to record or document. Their work has been aptly characterized as “visual love poems to Toronto.”

Rivers ForgottenJeremy Kai
Tequila Bookworm, 512 Queen St W.
Kai’s eerily beautiful tour of the buried network of rivers, streams and creeks feels like a voyeuristic journey through local urban architectural lore.

Marriage BureauVictor Helfand
Aroma Espresso Bar, 500 Bloor St W
Helfand captures couples waiting for the justice of the peace at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau—until security escorted him out. People watching at its best.

Looking forward, looking backLynne Cohen
Olga Korper Gallery, 17 Morrow Ave.
Lynne Cohen’s work is creepy, creating the unmistakable feeling that something is watching you. The spooky, powerful images are nerve-rackingly thrilling.

Early Sunday MorningDavid Kaufman
Twist Gallery, 1100 Queen St W
A must for architecture buffs (and anyone nostalgic for a time when “brick-and-mortar” was more than just an expression), Kaufman’s exhibit displays the century-old masonry of the brick walk-ups along Queen Street in loving, large-scale detail. The aesthetic is inspired by the Edward Hopper painting of the same name.