By: Marryiam Niazi
A picture is worth a thousand words. Some photos are so immensely meaningful, they span an entire city. This month of May, 2018 marks the 22nd annual Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.
Contact Photo Fest: A Historical Lens
Just like the photos it features, Contact has unique origins and history. The festival was founded in 1990. It had its first run in the same year. There were three main reasons behind this large venture:
1. Expanding The Arts Industry
The original aim of CONTACT was to explore the hidden potential of Toronto’s art community. The festival provided a way for photographers to work in sync, and even collaborate together. They could pitch their portfolios and installations to galleries and business points. If selected, these artists would receive awards and accolades. They could even sell their high-quality work. All in all, the city-wide recognition itself was a compelling value factor provided only by CONTACT.
The festival aimed to cater to two main types of curations: Primary Exhibitions and Public Installations. In both cases, the artists selected displayed INNOVATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY, which pricked the social conscious of citizens. The featured works each year continue to be depth focused, and stand apart from others, due to their distinctive take on the subject matter. Through its curatorial form and guidelines, CONTACT encourages healthy competition, development and innovation in Toronto’s creative industry.
2. Localizing the Global
The 1990's are widely regarded as the sitcom and dotcom bust years. Contrary to pop culture satire, the 90's marked a dramatic shift towards increased globalization and great economic interdependence between countries. This also meant that Canadians were exposed to the grim realities of life in other countries. Even more so, they were at the heart of the conflict. Being a neighbouring country to the world’s biggest economy was not exactly a smooth sail. Threats of war, terrorism and nuclear war were well underway by 1990. Contact Photo Fest was pinned as the backdrop to showcase the volatile global political climate of the 90's. This trend has continued well into the third decade of the festival. This year, the festival includes poetic video stills commenting on the ongoing conflict over the land of Palestine. Available until June 30th, this collaboration by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme are just as impressionable, on the mind, as the current death toll from the conflict itself.
3. Exposure for Fresh Talent
Lastly, Contact Photography Festival was a move towards equity and equality. It is no secret that Toronto’s art scene is as lucrative as it is competitive. Contact Photo Fest sought out to redress these challenges of represenration. They allowed entries by emerging and established photographers. In doing so, both types of artists got their work displayed alongside each other every year. This gives new comers a chance to seek out mentorship, training, representation and career development opportunities in the future.
CONTACT PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL is the largest photography festival in the world. TWIST GALLERY is proud to be in partnership with CONTACT to showcase the work of Ann Leese until May 26th.