Over the next couple of weeks I will be featuring a series of pictures taken in the Soco area of Toronto. Toronto is a difficult city from many points of view. I lived there for a decade while I was developing my photographic skills and a great deal of my time was spent walking about the city day and night trying to understand what I was looking at, and seeing if I could capture it on film.
When I was young I eagerly waited to see the architectural rendering of a new project pasted above the hoardings. These bravely painted utopic scenes rendered with care and detail seemed to triumph over even the best works of socialist realism. They all promised tranquillity possibility and purpose. They were the giant calling cards of progress and provided compelling visual reinforcement that our proposed way of life would always be on the right side of history.
Once a project is complete and everyone moved in, the hoardings down and the surrounding traffic back to normal, no one sees that view again. Instead, it is added to this weird amalgamation of hyperbolic promotional material and media hype we carry around in our heads. Confronted with the real thing ‘in situ’ we only see the take away points. Connecting the dots is for dummies.
The area I walked through was once part of the Toronto harbour that was gradually filled in during the last half of the 1800’s and the first 20 years of the new century. The new land was necessary for railway lines that were rapidly replacing marine traffic. Industry and transport met at the foot of the city in a powerful testament to its importance and growth but when the economy faltered and then shifted mid-century, it was quickly and physically cut off by an ugly raised expressway so that it could languish and die out of sight.
Once dead, it has been the site of fevered reinvention as a cultural waterfront experience, an arts and entertainment district, a green transportation corridor, a transportation hub and a tourist destination. Once relieved of its ‘stigma’ of railway and industrial heritage it has become a crushing hotspot of speculation and hype and the the development of vast tracts of very private and very expensive condominiums.