Skip to main content

Mahtab Hussain, Yavuz Topbas, from the series An Ocean in a Drop: Muslims in Toronto, 2021.COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND CHRIS BOOT @MAHTAB HUSSAIN

Photography festival returns to venues and outdoor spots across the GTA

Aïda Muluneh, Star Shine, Moon Glow, from the series Water Life, 2018.COURTESY OF THE ARTIST © AÏDA MULUNEH

Chun Hua Catherine Dong, Skin Deep, 2014–2020.COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

The month of May traditionally finds photographic art flowering in abundance across Toronto, thanks to the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Or at least it did – until 2020, when the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the massive festival online. Now, two years later, with case counts down and restrictions mostly lifted, CONTACT is poised to return to real life, with some 150 exhibitions and installations planned for galleries, museums and public spaces throughout the city.

Highlights of the 26th annual festival will include the Canadian debut of American rising star Tyler Mitchell, who rocketed to fame when he snapped Beyoncé for Vogue in 2018 – becoming the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of the magazine’s U.S. edition.

“We wanted to bring this young kid to Toronto to show his work to Canadians for the first time,” says festival executive director Darcy Killeen. The 26-year-old Mitchell’s self-described “Black utopic vision” will be represented by images exhibited at the CONTACT Gallery, Metro Hall and on billboards along Dupont Street. Mitchell has shot some new work specifically for the festival.

Ilene Sova, Great Great Grandpa and Sons in Heavy Clothes, study 3, 2021.COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

Rajni Perera, Aneela, 2017, from the series Embellished Photography (2014–18).COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

Tyler Mitchell, Untitled, 2019.COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

Another young Black artist, Toronto’s Jorian Charlton, is creating a new site-specific project for CONTACT that will be displayed outside the festival’s King Street office. She and Mitchell are just two of the many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) artists showcased in the festival. “We’re presenting a strong body of BIPOC work for our audiences,” Killeen says.

Veteran artists are also part of the mix, including Iroquoian photographer-curator Jeff Thomas and Montreal’s provocative Sanchez Brothers (Carlos and Jason), who will have shows at the Stephen Bulger and Christopher Cutts commercial galleries, respectively.

Public art projects range from Sandra Brewster’s riverside Walking the Don at the Evergreen Brick Works to a new installation by Inuk photographer Jimmy Manning, designed to grace the rocks on the pond outside the Ryerson Image Centre. Museum shows include a Toronto instalment of British photographer Mahtab Hussain’s ongoing series documenting young Muslims living in western countries. Portraits of his local subjects will be on exhibit in the grounds of the Aga Khan Museum.

Although most of the festival will run in May, a few shows have been deferred to later in 2022 to accommodate venues with backlogs due to the pandemic. They include Black Drones in the Hive by Montreal-based artist Deanna Bowen, winner of the 2021 Scotiabank Photography Award, which will premiere in September at the Ryerson Image Centre.


Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.