My name is Aniqa Rahman and I am 23 year old student majoring in Psychology at University of Toronto Scarborough campus. I have resided in Scarborough, ON, a significant portion of my life; I have witnessed my community or neighbourhood face obstacles and at the very same time overcome its barriers. I remember as a child that my parents would utterly take embarrassing photos of my sister and I, and then I had to flip through those very same photos of us on the family album with discontent….However, somehow I have come to value those unflattering images because it not only captured the moments but it told a story. It was not until my early 20s that I began to explore my options and take photography seriously, and since I was also an avid fan of Fashion, Art, and Culture I started integrating those interests through photography. I realized pretty soon that photography became a means of expressing my passion or a way of communicating to my viewers, which is why I began volunteering as a photojournalist in blogs (e.g. thepromshow.ca) and also actively started taking part in photography workshops at Art organizations like UforChange. When I discovered the We Are Lawrence avenue program, I was truly ecstatic because Scarborough was lacking youth Arts program and this was an opportunity that I had to seize; I grew very fond and close to my WAL family and I was very determined to share beautiful yet positive stories of Lawrence so the world can look past the negativity and look deeper into the vibrant culture that Scarborough has to offer.
My objective was to share stories of people that either work, play, or live in Lawrence Avenue and I must say it was a challenging process because I had fulfill all the criteria take a portrait and then accomplish my own mission on finding a subject that was an activist. I was fortunate enough to meet the wonderful Ann Brokelmann, who was not only part of the WAL family but also happens to be a Cultural Outreach Officer and a wildlife activist. I learnt that Ann has been an active part of wildlife rescue mission for years including volunteering at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation as well as the Owl Foundation, and she is also an extraordinaire wildlife photographer. Once I discovered that she and I shared our love for Owls, I instantly wanted to capture the story of interaction between the wildlife animals and humans. My goal was to bring to attention the need for educational programs in Scarborough regarding endangered species, biodiversity, and sustainability. And it became essential for me to share this initiative through the art of photography, and I did this by taking a portrait of Ann and Alex (the Owl) to display the beautiful interaction that we have with nature? I must say that it was a different experience and a challenging shoot especially when the subject happened to be a beautiful yet stubborn Great Horned Owl.
Anthony Gebrehiwot is currently an emerging self-taught photographer born and raised in the city of Scarborough. With no formal training, Anthony first picked up a camera in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since. In his first two years of learning the craft he started a charitable organization titled “Shooting for change” where by 100% of the profits earned from taking pictures went straight to feeding the homeless. Although the idea of shooting for change has found a new home in the RISE community, Anthony still does photo shoots under the new business name “Xvxyphoto.” He’s managed to capture pictures of some very inspiring artists such as D’bi young, Maestro Fresh Wes and one of Toronto’s most celebrated photographers, Steve Carty.
As an artist and as a human being, Lawrence Avenue has played a pivotal role in shaping the person that I am today. Since the age of 7 I have not been more than 5 minutes away from Victoria Park and Lawrence. Naturally, I have set specific landmarks in my mind on this street that helps me navigate and appreciate my own surroundings. However, when I take a moment to observe the street from outside looking in, I realize that to the average person it could just be any other street. There’s nothing on Lawrence Avenue that celebrates the culture. There’s nothing on Lawrence Avenue that tells the stories of the people that fill the space. I myself know very little about all the people that make Lawrence Avenue what it is and I have been here most of my life. That’s why I support We Are Lawrence Avenue. In a world where stories are being told every day, I firmly believe that the stories of We are Lawrence Avenue need to be told. The people of this community must be celebrated and known!
Candace Nyaomi has experimented with various forms of visual art all her life. She fell in love with photography in her senior years of high school, pursuing all opportunities to shoot and exhibit. With the help of Nia Centre for the Arts, Spoke’N Heard, and other art programs she was able to exhibit in galleries such as Daniel’s Spectrum, Arta Gallery in the Distillery District, and more.
Although Candace started her photography career digitally, the process, technique, and overall look of film has made analog photography her preference. She would define her artistic practice as personal narratives that explore subjectivity, the body and challenging issues. Recently she exhibited work for the 2014 Scotiabank CONTACT Festival and has continued covering various concerts/shows, weddings, and celebrity meet-and-greets with UFC fighters. She is currently an OCADU student and a recent photography intern at Urbanology Magazine.
We Are Lawrence focuses on those who have lived, worked, or played on Lawrence Avenue symbolizing the idea of unity, oneness, and community through portraits. The pictures being displayed in bus shelters like advertisements are a way to bring attention to the local community. It’s always nice to see someone you know or recognize on a personal level being celebrated for what they do. The large-scale imagery puts those photographed in a place of superiority, visually expressing their importance with scale.
To me this project was more than taking portraits. I felt that getting to know people’s stories and have real conversations was the main goal. As a result those photographed felt more comfortable in front of the camera, something most are uneasy with. I aimed to photograph artists or those involved in the art scene. Cultural Hotspots is about highlighting artists that call Scarborough home. So as an artist and Scarborough native, I wanted to stick to art and artists as my subject matter because I can relate.
Chantal Rose is a Toronto based Artist, who was raised in the suburbs of Brampton. Upon dropping out of post-graduate education and moving to Toronto, Chantal found herself exploring avenues of art that she had abandoned. Her first influence in the world of art was music. It was where she first witnessed forms of true self-expression. From then on she sought to get involved in the creative world. Chantal began with her first aspiration to be a singer/songwriter, and through that journey she discovered photography. It all began with the urge to connect with other artists, whose messages and work she admired. What started off as a small portrait project exposed Chantal to fulfillment, helping other creatives express what they believe to be their “self” or story. With a strong appreciation for portraiture and romanticism art, Chantal collaborates with other artist to conceive creative “visions”. The pursuit of developing her craft as a creative artist led her to discovering the We are Lawrence Ave project, where she has had the opportunity to be mentored by acclaimed Photographers Che Kothari and Jalani Morgan. Being involved in We Are Lawrence Ave, has allowed Chantal to show her gratitude to community members who are actively involved and making a difference. It has also helped her explore other avenues of photography. As Chantal continues to do freelance photography, she is working towards improving her craft and solidifying her place as a Photographer in Toronto.
Photography is the ultimate manifestation of my visions. It is where my imagination, intimate thoughts and feelings are given life. Through photography, I have been given the opportunity to connect with the world around me. It is the physical translation of my love, respect, and/or gratitude to others “self”, beliefs, struggles etc.Where I lack the words to express my feeling in music, my visuals have filled that void. It is why I am drawn to other artists/musicians, and feel a deep need to tell their stories because I can relate. Crafting my art has also aided my self-discovery, and what I would like to representative of my “Self”. When it is a creative project of my own, I want you to feel me through my visuals. If it is collaborative visual, it is how the respective subject wishes the audiences to view them as well as I how I see them. Overall I love the process, it is the most thrilling part of my growth, more so than the final shot. I leave the final images to the audience to interpret them as they please.
As an artist my creative direction started in 1999 as co-owner of No Sweat Entertainment. The name and concept was developed in 1997 when I decided to try my hand as an R&B singing group at the early age of 12. I decided to use the name for the organization once I found a home base at John Innes community centre. No Sweat is a grassroots organization focused on developing the minds of inner city youth in the Greater Toronto area through the arts and culture. We have contributed to the success of artists such as (Rihanna, Drake, Sean Paul, 50 Cent, Little X, Hush, and some Roc-a-fella recording artists). No Sweat’s activity in the preforming arts, music industry, photography, and countless other art forms has helped the community gain a sense of self accomplishment and built a record of experience in the noted art forms. Over the course of the past decade No Sweat has facilitated a nurturing environment for artists such as; Ayanie Naseem, C-Flow, Deazel Da Boss, G Swagg, Kiel R, Eazyano, Safa Adad, Chanel Onemu, Kathleen Harker, and countless other talents who have dedicated their time to No Sweat Entertainment and the community. My accomplishments as creative director of No Sweat Entertainment has given me as in-depth understanding of the entertainment sector and how to better prepare young talent for a future in the arts.
I have recently taken up photography as a professional hobby and continue to operate No Sweat Entertainment. I’m currently working closely with an acting coach under United Talent Management to streamline talents interested in acting as a profession as I am also a part-time Actor. In 2013 I worked with Tide as marketing & advertising assistant on Tide Simply Clean & Fresh, successfully releasing a new line of detergents. Tide picked my ideas and slogan for the products (Daybreak fresh and Refreshing Breeze). My ideas have been used by all industries and artist in Fashion, Music, and the Arts. I’m a very humble and modest person and often take on new talent that don’t have a large budget to spend on their career aspirations. Currently I’m working on a photography program I hope to implement at For Youth Initiative, a community outreach centre for youth in the South York region.
My future goals are to maintain a professional career in the arts and continue to work for and inspire the youth to materialize their dreams in the arts.
These past few months have been great. All of you have been good to me and I appreciate you all for sharing a piece of yourselves. We’ve grown together…
You know, mom pushed me out not to far from here at Scarborough General hospital. My teacher at Winston Churchill and basketball coach who taught me a few good lessons often said, “Look at the big picture”. His support amongst many others have shaped my successes and kept me from my failures. I’m sure now they’re still inspiring youth in this very community as we speak.
I’ve developed a photograph for Michael Thompson, returning councillor of ward 37. He won’t remember how nervous I was, how inexperienced I was with that old fashioned camera. He will only remember the photo taken that day among countless other photos while celebrating Taste of Lawrence.
Our teachers here on Lawrence avenue deserve a lot of credit for there commitment to our children. Community staff give their time and encourage youth to explore their hobbies and talents. These two together give youth ample opportunity to learn and through programs funded by our very own tax dollars. It worked for me and has worked for us here with We Are Lawrence Avenue.
My interview and photo shoot encompasses the things that most Lawrence avenue natives have in common, a sense of community. I chose Chanel who grew up on Lawrence Avenue and attended West Hill Collegiate. I chose Winston Churchill Collegiate and McGregor Park Community Centre as a background because that has been for me and still plays a major role in growing a community.
The photographs I picked show Chanel of course and the school and community centre as one. In comparison I photographed two trees in front of Winston Churchill with Chanel closest to the tree closest to the camera. In the end Chanel catches our eye like the rich, vibrant community of Lawrence avenue. We Are Lawrence Avenue…
Nature. Identity. Spirituality. Raised in the historic Highland Creek village of Scarborough’s east end Eric Slyfield works as a portrait photographer and multidisciplinary artist who works to explore natural spaces, and build organic relationships between both subjects and mediums.
I believe art can be an effective vehicle for change. Inspired by the landscape of my community and the way individuals navigate the greater Toronto area I created an image that is attached to a story that moved me deeply.
Through exploring the diverse cultural landscape of south Scarborough I noticed a lack of effective ways for commuters to navigate the city by bike. As cyclists flew by on busy sidewalks they threatened the safety of the walking community but hugging tightly to the curb they were essentially leaning on against a false sense of security.
I have, for a long time been inspired by Scarborough’s natural green landscape and wanted a way to safely and efficiently explore these spaces. I sought locals with remarkable stories to share in hopes of spreading the passion of the cyclists who take their bikes to every corner of the city.
The stories I uncovered show a shaping of individual identity through cycling culture. I began to consider the benefits of treating cycling as as a healthy, cost effective pairing to motor vehicles and public transportation.
Spotlighting Lucy Perry, a community volunteer, who has been a bicycle health and safety advocate for many years, I aimed to capture images of an individual in the light we hope to all be seen: as somebody who makes a great effort to help both themselves and others.
My name is Jathusana Chandra and I am 17 years old. I am a senior at Saint John Paul II Catholic Secondary School and in my spare time I like to hang out and joke around with my friends. I am the youngest out of three children and we grew up near Lawrence Ave but later moved when I was in grade 3. I enjoy playing and listening to music and would like to learn as many instruments as I can and participate in my school’s jazz band after school while also taking part in our Environmental Council. I enjoy reading and am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books. I love photography because when someone looks at a picture they all of their own interpretation of it, and not only do they take the photographer’s story with them, but also their own version of the image. I had always asked for a camera because there have been many times in my life where I wished that I could’ve captured the moment and I had missed out on the opportunity. I got my camera last December and have been taking it with me on my different outings to see the different images that I can capture. I was introduced to the program We Are Lawrence Avenue East by my English teacher and this program has taught me the many things that I can display with one photograph. I hope to take everything that I learned in this program with me as I continue my interest in photography.
As someone who is 17 years old, I wanted to show the youth of Lawrence Avenue East. There are many people who come to Lawrence Ave for different reasons, such as work, or for their art, and also just to have fun. The coming generation has been labeled as “generation X” because of their constant need to be on cell phones or just to be connected on the web. This picture is inspired by the kids who find a life outside of social media and put effort into building relationships over similar interests and hobbies. When coming to this court after school, I have met and seen many kids around my age, kids younger, and also kids older, who take part in different activities to their own liking. I can even remember seeing a group of guys just hanging out on their bikes, trying out new tricks and just joking around. This court symbolizes the sense of community that comes with taking the time out of our busy days to enjoy the simplistic moments. Along with the graffitied wall labeled “Scarborough”, it brings a sense of pride and identity. The two boys that I decided to take a picture of are Christian Agbayani, and Richard Asuncion who come to Mcgregor Park Community centre to hang out and also play basketball. Gaining a love for the sport, they practice here when they get the chance and have even made their own team with a couple of friends, calling themselves “The Monarchs”. They are just two of many who come here in their free time. I hoped to capture the attitude of the sport while also capturing the excitement and fun. I hope when people look at this photograph they can understand the importance of spending time with friends and family, while also appreciating the artistic elements within it.
Nina Escalante born in the Philippines, then moved to Canada in 2008. All throughout high school, she thought that she would end up with a career within health sciences. After finishing high school however, she realized her passion for the arts. Nina likes to transform through different media. She started with painting with a bunch of friends at Malvern Family Resource Centre, as a hobby. She met so many cool people that led to different connections. Her first ever gig as an artist was a live painting session at St. George station. After that whole scenario, she got into photography. She didn’t realize that she has an eye for photography because she never really has the confidence in anything unless her friends or family push her to do it. After realizing the love for photography, she has applied for so many programs. We are Lawrence Avenue is the first one that came up. It is an amazing workshop that made her step into a whole other world to enhance her creativity as an artist, and to realize her worth as a human being.
It’s so hard when someone asks me what my style of photography is. I don’t think I can define it this early in my life cause I’m still a growing being. It’s very difficult for me to define my sense of style because art itself, for me, is undefined and always evolving. I think in turn this makes me think that my style of art is also always changing and evolving. For example, before We Are Lawrence, I did not have any experience regarding portrait photography but watching my mentors and workshop mates do it, I ended up loving that style the most and everyone else decided to do the same style for this project as a form of continuity and organization. Portrait photography ended up being added to the styles I like to do. But in terms of sticking to one thing, I can’t give you one.
In terms of the photo shoots itself, if you ask me what I was thinking about while doing them all I can say is LOVE. The models I chose are people that are very close to my heart. These lovely humans influenced me as an artist and a human being in so many ways. I guess to give you a clear way to identify me as an artist. I can just tell you that I am an artist that will always want to learn, evolve, and change into something better. I will continue to make myself relevant in this lifetime. I will continue to use love, passion and creativity to fuel my existence.
We Are Lawrence is more than just a city project to me. We Are Lawrence helped me realize my goals as an artist. We Are Lawrence is my family.
My name is Petrose Tesfai, I’m 19 years old, and I’m a photographer. As I write this, my career is not at a turning point, but a pivoting point. And every time I say the words “art” or “photography” or “philosophy” I suspect I mean the same thing each time.
Art rarely aligns with the personal priorities which inspire it, and often, life outside it gets in the way of one’s ambitions. But we all owe our best work to the opportunities which gave it the space and confidence it needs to mature. A history of my life includes privilege as well as poverty; privilege in the vantages I put myself through and the gifts I’m given while in them; poverty in lessons learned the hard way and a lack of pride about things other than what I want to do for a living.
The principles of photography are ripe for debate, but as long as I keep in mind its questions, the way I do now, more and more of my life will imitate my art. I could answer, like Henri Cartier-Bresson, that ultimately I prefer reportage to “photography”, that I would be a “Journalist” rather than a “Photojournalist”, a “Director” rather than a “Film Director”. But as I write this, my latest role models and some fellow beginners avoid the distinction.
Many acclaimed photographers get into this industry at a later age, forgoing an artistic puberty – missing out on the chance to mistakenly conflate their creativity with their identity. But as a young artist, I think I can’t help but feel entitled to everyone else’s heritage, to everyone else’s inspiration. And as a young man, I openly admit that I might die if I couldn’t share my life with others in the same way, materially and emotionally. This theme of sharing, of the existence of community, is clear in my interviews with each photo subject and hopefully just as clear in my portrayal of them.
Joining We Are Lawrence has been the most optimistic thing I’ve done for my career – mainly because it wasn’t all about serving my career. I prefer not to talk about my interest in photography the way I talk about things I’m less interested in, but ultimately, making pictures and especially portraits now, is to me a realization of how I’ve been taught to make and break my subjective experience of the world. When I do it well, it’s the best thing I do because it’s my favourite thing to do.
Before joining the We Are Lawrence Avenue program I thought I’d be a documentary filmmaker, even joining a workshop to direct a short film. Since then I’ve met a lot of artists whose priorities range from issues of accessibility to resources all the way to psychology. It seems from their careers and cultural movements that identity as subject matter is ubiquitous.
Often, I feel trapped between two cities: the Toronto of urban sprawl and underdevelopment, and the Toronto of vibrant culture and freeing space. So even before I’d heard of this opportunity I was considering the politics of representation in my own art.
As Photographers we are always forming, framing, and forgetting the image. We show the world as it has never been in order to portray people as they always are, but having artistic skill or developing style isn’t a matter of technical mastery as much as idealization of reality. My intention for each photo subject was to draw out a character from my first impressions of them: Mary Cook as the churchgoing pioneer she embodies with her story, and Rebecca Zala as her poet stage persona incarnate around the neighbourhood.
The mind of a photographer at work is empty. If not improvising, it might be that we feel unprepared to somehow epitomize the moment of inspiration in each photograph. One can capture fleeting moments or expressions but the sincerest are when the one who sees goes into solitude instead of the one who is seen. The purpose of this project was not to document an already existent community, it was to emphasize our subjective experience of the idea that there is one through personal themes that reflect who we are in relation to that idea. Everyone’s choice of photo subject presupposed subject matter, and if we ever felt unprepared, there was an ambition in that subject matter to inspire us again.
I live near Wexford Heights United Church but was unaware of them until I attended their Sunday services to approach their council for the project. I interviewed Mary after she sang in the choir, then photographed her outside after an hour of talking. Even more of a revelation than finding this one church was the information about the land surrounding it. Mary shared in her interview exactly what I wanted to learn about Scarborough.
Rebecca, my other photo subject, is different from Mary for many reasons, some of which I can relate to. She spoke less directly about the neighbourhood than Mary did, so her answers reveal the generational priorities in my approach. Though Rebecca modeled more actively, there is still a mysterious humility her character shows. Mary’s humility lies in her role as a representative elder daughter of her church. For her portrait I experimented with 35mm film, which I’ve been using avidly since then. My interest in this medium is like my interest in being a mature artist, and my interest in being a mature artist is even less specific. Every time I say the words “art” or “photography” or “philosophy”, I suspect I mean the same thing each time. Whether writing poetry, which Rebecca also does, or contemplating my self as part of a city, which Mary also does, everything about me is reflective. I photographed these women vicariously – in fact, my shadow even appears in one of them. Depending on their location, each portrait may speak more for the person appearing or more for the context of We Are Lawrence Avenue. But I believe that when original context falls away art truly becomes original in itself.
Rebecca is a 23 year old artist, proud Jamaican-Canadian, who grew up in the West end of Toronto. She has travelled through both ends of the city and internationally. She loves the 416 fiercely, Scarborough having a warm place in her heart. She became familiar with Scarbz through friendships built there and fell in love with the art community. Rebecca has been in love with the art form since her earliest memory. Constantly at a young age she could be found piling through photographs and asking for the stories behind them. Self-taught she acquired her first DSLR a year ago on a 2013 Summer trip to Italy and started shooting without technical knowledge but with an eye for beauty in everyday things and the compulsion to document her new experience. “Being part of the We Are Lawrence Ave. is an invaluable experience. It eliminates the feeling of being alone with your mistakes and short comings because I have mentors and peers able to pull me up, give feedback and help me rapidly improve, much faster than I might on my own” Rebecca says of the program. She is currently working on expanding her portfolio as a freelance photographer. Rebecca is also a writer exploring various genres: creative non-fiction, journalism, fiction and poetry. She has an affinity for monochrome portraits and colourful graffiti photography and urban inner city landscapes. She believes art is transformative for both creator, audience and sees creation as a necessary part of life.
My aim is to highlight the beauty in everyday faces. Highlight the poetry in everyday lived experience. This image, this collection of artwork is your story. Our story. Thank you for helping me tell it.
There is a distinct sense of pride and identity evident in anyone who hails from here, even those who don’t, once they have been touch by here– still have a story to tell. The area alone abides as a testament to Toronto’s diversity. Scarborough stands sequestered from the rest of city. The boroughs within it hold thousands of stories. Stories that bring life. Stories that make Scarborough what it is.
Renée Tellis is a Toronto based fledging artist pursuing her predisposition for creative expression through photography, writing and theatre. She has harbored years of creativity under a veiled guise of a career in Marketing. Currently working as a web content editor she crafts on her own writings in the hours of dusk to morning. A long time Scarborough resident, Renée moved to downtown Toronto for a closer reach to her work and artistic inclinations. She has become a voracious event attendee of all things music, culture and food related. Surrounded by constant inspiration and the consistent omens of evolution, Renée decided to delve into becoming a creator rather than just an observer. The We Are Lawrence Avenue mentorship program is her first immersion in photography and has quickly become a pursuit of hers to master. In the coming months, Renée will be seeking to facilitate her further growth at different art platforms to learn to transform will into a way, thought into action and inspiration into accomplishment.
I am inspired by food. I dream about it and I wake to partake in the many joys it brings me. It always has been an all out sensory exchange as I observe composition, colour, flavour and cohesion as one similarly does when setting up a shot in photography. In my photographs for the We Are Lawrence Avenue project, I was interested in capturing what foods fuelled this community and moreover focus my lens on who were the people creating them.
Meeting the owners of some of the iconic restaurants on Lawrence Avenue has taught me that there are people on this strip that are very passionate about providing their community with good food and a good place to eat it in. They have been exercising their passion for 20+ years and have flowed well with the inevitable changes that come with being long standing establishments. Through my lens I capture these restaurants that are really hubs fostering dialogue and interaction between people living and sharing a neighbourhood.
Samara Moore is a multidisciplinary artist who has a love for photography, writing, poetry, and the performing arts. She was born in Toronto and raised in Scarborough, by her mother Carlene. She is a daughter of the African diaspora. Both of her parents hail from the island of Jamaica. Samara discovered her love for storytelling at a very young age. Storytelling is an element that is integral to her artistic work across disciplines. Her love for storytelling and the performing arts led her to Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, where she studied Drama as a teenager. After high school she began her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. In 2011, she graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies. Samara’s work is deeply influenced by her genuine love for people and her Christian faith. She believes that all people are worthy of love and kindness. She seeks to create work that humanizes people and shares their stories. She also aims to disrupt dehumanizing and divisive narratives, discourses, and archetypes through her photographs. She hopes that her work will promote unity and love. “My hope is that when people engage with my portraiture, they will see the humanness and beauty of the people who take the time to sit with me and have their portrait taken. I hope to continue connecting with people from all walks of life. I would love to continue capturing images of the people that I meet and preserving moments through photographs. My dream is for the images and stories of my sitters to move, throughout my city and around the world.”
Whenever people ask me what I like to photograph the most, I always say the face. I am fascinated with faces. Our faces are ripe with beautiful textures, colours, and details. They are home to parts of our bodies that hold an incredible amount of emotional weight. Our eyes, our mouths, the way that all of the lines move on our faces when we are joyful, or sad, or frustrated. I believe that when we take the time to look into a person’s face, to look them in the eyes, it has the potential to ignite connections between people that are powerful. My aim with my work for this project is simple. I want us to see each other. I want people outside of Scarborough to see the faces of the people who occupy Lawrence Avenue East, one of our many vibrant and charming communities. I want people within the community to see each other. See the residence hidden behind walls, the strangers who we pass by but may be reluctant to share a smile with, the unsung heroes that walk among us everyday. See their smiles etched on buildings. Their eyes staring back at you through windows. See them in glass shelters at the bus stop on your way to work or school. Look beyond the narratives and discourses that work to divide our communities and separate us from each other. As I mentioned before, there is so much potential for connection when we gaze upon another and make space to see their humanity. Faces are an incredibly powerful starting point for this. That is why the face will always be my favourite canvas.
Samrawit (Samra) Zeweldi is a Toronto-based photographer, educator and passionate community leader. She has recently taken on the medium of photography to share her travels around the world and invite the audience to walk with her to feel, question and be challenged by what is seen through her lens.
Samra is also a University graduate with her Hons B.A in Human Geography and International Development and Bachelor of Education in the junior/intermediate cohort. She is currently residing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for one year to work with a team of local educators to develop a new alternative education curriculum. Her passion for education, the world and her spiritual beliefs are reflected in her work both in the arts and academics.
It’s simple – Lawrence is my home and the people in it are my family. I want to share it with the world. There’s nothing I feel more deeply about then the sense of family in a cultural, religious or community setting. Family is what inspires me everyday and gives me a sense of ownership of this area in Scarborough. We Are Lawrence Avenue provided me with a platform to share a common value that we all long for- love. Lawrence Avenue has been a street I lived on my entire life. It’s where I walked my first steps, celebrated the start of new families and said a prayer for the older ones who joined God in heaven. This is a safe space to express myself and share in the expressions of others.
As a new photographer, my goliath was finding a way to effectively reflect family without romanticizing it for audience. I want to show photos that are a peak into a raw level of intimacy that will disrupt any current paradigm of thinking. The model pictured is Mezan – a 10-month girl who is a mix of Eritrean and Jamaican descent. She represents the beautiful complexities of the upcoming generation that will continue to challenge us head-on of how we perceive one another with the lens of race, culture and social class. It is a painful process to confront our own biases in order to truly care for one another, but through the tears there is a rich amount of love that can empower and change our society for the better.
My name is Sarah Zeweldi. I’m 18 years old and I moved to Lawrence Avenue East when I was in the fifth grade. I’m currently studying Sociology at Ryerson University but I have always had the knack for film and photography. I also enjoy writing short stories and eating anything that includes chocolate. Growing up with 4 older siblings and one younger can be really chaotic. Unlike the others, being self-secluded and quiet was kind of my thing. I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. It was the solitude and independence factor that I loved. Capturing a moment and being able to bring it to life can be so exhilarating. I hope to capture those same moments seen on Lawrence Avenue East and give them everlasting life.
As time passed I started to love film. Whether it was the history of motion pictures or the actual filming portion, it was something that sparked a sudden excitement in me within every project. If I get the chance to film events such as, The Taste of Lawrence Avenue, it would be a great jump start for both the street and I to be even more recognized for its livelihood and diversity. I hope Lawrence Avenue receives the recognition it deserves.
I enjoy the simplicity and naturalness of the photos I take. “Crispy Clean” is the motto I go by most of the time when I shoot portraits. ‘Crisp’ photos are the photos that show every detail down to the hairs. Capturing a photo that looks so clear, it makes you feel as if you were there is my goal. Clean photos have minimal distractions. Your eyes are usually drawn to one thing. The ‘Crispy Clean’ process is what I used for this photo. Having layers incorporated in the photo gives it depth. When people see the photos I take, I want them to see the personality of my subject through their poses and facial expressions, much like the work of Richard Avedon who is an inspiration.
Photographer, community organizer & founder of the Hard Knock Leadership initiative, Siddhartha (Sid) Naidu is a Scarborough native & first generation Canadian of South Asian heritage, who immigrated to the boroughs in 1999 from the Arabian Gulf.
As first generation student who graduated from Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada) in 2010, Sid focused on youth development and civic leadership within higher education to advocate for the under served communities.
He’s been practicing as a self-taught photographer for the past eight years to master the art as a tool for story telling & community building. His work is heavily influenced by the untold stories of culture and community that exists both locally and globally.
Sid believes that we can no longer just be spectators in our own future; instead we must become participants who will create a better world for all generations.
I come from a part of Toronto that is often misunderstood by outsiders. It’s a place whose complex stories are ones that even the insiders are trying to understand. It is more than a place that just raised me. It’s more than a place I’m proud to call home. It’s a world of many beginnings with verses that are still unheard and pages that are still waiting to be written.
Through photography, I’ve become storyteller. My artistic process is to simply create as an instigator of change, inspired and motivated by those untold stories of struggle & triumph. My work aims to represents the identities of the cultures and communities that exist within our everyday journey.
The lens I look through is one that sees the beauty in all lived realities. It allows me to believe that art has the ability to change the world by empowering others to see the beauty in their own life. I create with the intentions of community building that can bridge our collective identity and purpose as citizens.
I create knowing that art is power, a power that is given to all of us. It’s the power of empowerment that makes us all responsible in making our world a better place for the future generations to come, from Scarborough to the world. We Are Lawrence Avenue.
Born in North York, raised in Scarborough, Tashawna Williams attended Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate high school class of 2012. She found an interest in the arts in grade 9, however leaned more towards performing arts. She always wanted to express herself through an artistic medium, so she spent the years going through many; whether it was singing, dancing, writing or painting. Her love for visual arts came into focus (get it? focus!) when she took Grade 11 photography as an elective. After being exposed to the works of Yousuf Karsh, Annie Leibovitz and Richard Avedon, this photographic hobby became a deep riveting passion. She then tried to expand into the world of video, joining yearbook, Mowat Tv and the newspaper. As a true 90s baby, her interests in old school hip-hop coincided with her visual artistic talents. One of her newfound inspirations is among the talents of Jamel Shabazz and Martin Parr, with dreams to one day showcase black culture and thrive within fashion photography. Photography was always a true love for Tashawna since the time of disposable cameras and is now studying photography at Sheridan College with hopes to receive her BAA in 2018.
Why? As an artist this is one of the most important questions to answer. Some rather not have a why and others feel like it’s self-explanatory in their art. Why do we do what we do? Why do we want what we want? Some also may not know why.
I remember being on the 511 streetcar along Spadina, when one person was telling their classmate how they are visiting their grandma in Scarborough. The classmate responded with “wow WHY Scarborough. I’d hate to be going there. So sketchy.”
So why do I feel passionately about showcasing the real Scarborough and all it’s diverse people? Why do I want to be apart of this art culture along Lawrence Ave? It’s because of people like this. Stereotypes about our community are building quickly. To most Scarborough is nothing but a ghetto, believing that there’s no culture, no art and no individuality thriving in our communities.
Lawrence Ave acts as a root to the tree of culture in Scarborough. It connects to other major streets as it runs it’s line from Starspray all the way to Leslie. I want to share this journey of empowerment and street smart art to the people of Lawrence Ave/Scarborough. By not letting these stereotypes affect the way they see and react to the events in our community, by showing them our passions and shining a light on the youth that are trying to change that definition of why.
Troy Frederick is a Toronto based photographer. Mostly self taught, he has crafted his skill mainly by being out in the field shooting and more recently with the help of two mentors, Che Kothari and Jalani Morgan. Troy enjoys shooting portraiture and landscapes, and hopes to continue building and growing as an artist.
If my art can produce any kind of feeling in someone then I feel like I’ve done my job. I want people to feel happiness, anger, hopefulness, inspiration, sadness, love, nostalgia, creativeness, shocked, energized, any or all of the above. To me, art is meant to speak to people on a higher level than just our basic senses. It should be felt deeper within.
Often times I keep my emotions and true feelings inside so I NEED to create and express myself through photography. I shoot different styles and subject matter depending on my mood. For that reason I can’t say, at this point in my journey, that I have a a set style or theme to my work. I’m just trying to explore my creativity and grow as an artist.