Patrick Cummins Talks to blogTO about Photographing the Toronto Streetscape

In an interview with blogTO, Patrick Cummins discusses his forthcoming photography exhibition and Coach House book, Full Frontal T.O., a compendium of Toronto street shots that document the city's changing urban landscape.

Cummins compares artistry to archival work, weighs in on the eternal debate about film vs. digital and comments on the intriguing ways in which the city has changed over the decades.

blogTO: You're an archivist by trade. Can you tell me how this has informed your photographic practice?

Patrick Cummins: Working in archives I find that overall, more often than not, researchers are more interested in the street-level aspects of the city ... their house, their street, their neighbourhood ... than they are in the grand and/or monumental. I guess working in an archival setting has impressed upon me the ephemeral nature of our built environment, how it is constantly changing, in ways both subtle and drastic at every level, not just on a grand scale.

bTO: Your photos have captured many areas of the city that have undergone profound change over the last 15-20 years. Can you highlight a particular neighbourhood in which this is apparent from your photographs?

PC: The obvious choice here is Queen Street West. It was the central focus of my photographic activities when I started in the late seventies and it continues to play an important role in what I do today. When I started, the street was just beginning to be gentrified in the stretch between University and Spadina. The other big change that's occurred has been the complete erasure and/or re-writing of the city's 19th century industrial landscape, with the shift from loft living as we knew it in the 1980s to the condominium explosion of today.

bTO: Film or digital? Or, if formerly film, when did you make the switch to digital and why?

PC: I'd say I'm a firm believer that interesting work can be produced using pretty much any combination of equipment and techniques, with the content of photographs and how they are contextualized also being of utmost importance.

Click here to read the full interview.

Also visit Cummins' photostream on flickr.

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