The three exhibitions you must see at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

The three exhibitions you must see at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

With more than 1,500 Canadian and international artists and photographers on display at 175 venues across the Greater Toronto Area, the challenge of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival is finding the time to take it all in. Now in its 21st year, the festival is the largest of its kind in the world, stimulating excitement and discussion among an audience of over 1.2 million visitors. This time out, CONTACT’s curators have programmed an astonishing range of work from local, national and international image-makers who wield their lens to capture everything from wild landscapes to portraits of the famous, from quietly personal moments to spectacularly public ones. Whatever your tastes and interests, the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival has something for you.

Though attendees have a month, starting with the April 28 launch, to take in the festival, here are three must-see exhibitions taking place during the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.


Suzy Lake, Extended Breathing in the Rivera Frescos, 2013-14
Scotiabank Photography Award: Suzy Lake

One of the honours of winning the Scotiabank Photography Award is a primary exhibition at the following year’s CONTACT festival. Putting together a survey of her four-decade artistic career, 2016 Scotiabank Photography Award winner Suzy Lake, along with curator Gaëlle Morel, decided to foreground her creative process—how Lake’s unique techniques in photo manipulation and multimedia presentation, for example, reveal how she thinks. “Tweaked colour, scale or a peculiar camera angle can unconsciously encourage the viewer to approach the image with a particular attitude,” says Lake, who is based in Toronto. “Details are not just details; it is why I am so excited about this show.” Featuring more than 50 objects made between 1976 and 2014, the show explores the themes of self-representation, female identity and aging that have brought Lake international acclaim. Still, she admits that winning the Scotiabank Photography Award has taken her influence to another level. “Being the recipient of such a major national award has given me quite a bit of street cred,” says Lake. “I certainly feel the credibility of what I do when introduced to someone new in the art field without explanation…. I guess that’s the change: that I’m not just the maker of things, I am managing a career.”

Scotiabank Photography Award: Suzy Lake runs from April 29–August 13 at the Ryerson Image Centre. Opening reception: April 28, 7pm–11pm. Lake will give an artist’s talk at the Ryerson Image Centre on May 24 at 7pm.


Michelle Valberg, Aaju Peter and Mathew Nuqingaq, Devon Island Nunavut, 2013.
Nature Is Calling

Few people have ventured to as many wild corners of Canada and the globe as Ottawa-based photographer Michelle Valberg. Canadian Nikon Ambassador, Canadian Geographic photographer-in-residence, co-founder and president of the Project North charity, Valberg has spent more than 28 years shooting astonishing vistas, little-seen wildlife and the people who live in some of the most remote environments in the world. She’s been to the Canadian Arctic almost 50 times, braving frigid temperatures and blinding snowstorms in search of the perfect shot. Though Valberg has previously lectured at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, her first CONTACT exhibition, Nature Is Calling, is certain to win her many new devotees. “Being a solo artist in a show in Toronto is a dream come true for me,” says Valberg. Whatever the subject—iceberg, drum dancer, polar bears—the photos on display are beautifully composed; even the colour palettes seem chosen by a master painter. These are the most remarkable shots of what Valberg describes as “a million” possibilities. But it’s the compassion and thoughtfulness of the images that truly set Valberg’s work apart. “I hope I’m able to open people’s eyes and minds to the beauty of Canada and what we have here. If I can connect with people, to make them feel good about Canada, it’s a dream realized.

Michelle Valberg, A Walrus Herd on an Island Near Hall Beach, Nunavut, 2011.

Nature Is Calling by Michelle Valberg runs from May 1–31 at the Scotiabank Old Banking Hall (40 King Street West).


#ScotiaGallery Pop-Up

While most CONTACT exhibitions celebrate the best artists and photographers working today, this year’s new #ScotiaGallery goes further to present a vast array of images for those feeling inspired by their inner photographer, all in a pop-up exhibition space located in Toronto’s PATH. During the festival, anyone who tags their Instagram photos with #ScotiaGallery will have their image displayed in the concourse of Scotia Plaza. A rotating selection of images will appear on 10 digital screens, which are framed to replicate the feeling of a modern art gallery. “It was important to make sure the idea didn’t feel like just a wall with TVs, but an art gallery, in every sense of the word,” says Jacquie Ryan, VP of Sponsorships & Philanthropy at Scotiabank. She expects that more than 2,000 images will be displayed over the course of CONTACT, each one a new discovery for viewers. “Our hope is that people will get inspired to participate and walk away with the understanding that anyone has the power to make art and enrich a community. We all have creativity inside of us.” Though having the work displayed in a busy public space is a key aspect of the project, so is the power of being able to share and tag the work online. “We will be reposting the most popular #ScotiaGallery images on our other social channels to further engage with our customers and followers.”

The Scotia Gallery runs from May 8–19 at Scotia Plaza (40 King Street West, Concourse Level).



This is sponsored content. For more information on the Scotiabank Photography Awards, please visit