A unique part of Twist Gallery’s current exhibit, “Streets of Toronto,” Ezio Molinari brings back historical style and flare to a mostly modern landscape.
After graduating from Ryerson University in 1991, Molinari got his first taste of the photographic industry as a supplier and naturally moved up to assistant, then studio manager/producer. His position at the studio allowed him to begin breaking into the advertising industry and build up a list of dedicated clientele who supported his work as a commercial photographer in advertising all the way up until 2015. It was then that Molinari’s work took a turn to more artistic endeavors.
“I remember going to the school library in grade school and looking at Road & Track,” an American automotive enthusiast magazine. “I was transfixed by the images and it would stick with me.” However, Molinari’s artistic inclinations were not the career path his parents saw for him.
“Having been raised by two immigrant Italian parents, their [career] ideas were of stable office work as an accountant or business administration. I raised the discussion that I wanted to live life as I go through it, not when I retire. Working towards an office job, I saw everything on a set path: graduate university, get a job, have a relationship, get married, buy a house, have kids, and by 40, I would be jumping out of a plane, driving a sports car and trying to relive the youth I didn’t experience. I wanted more, I wanted to go into the arts.” With Molinari’s commercial background, his photography became a natural artistic outlet. “I loved what photography offered, a different perspective I could play with and explore. So many variables and tools to work with. Having come through the industry when it was film and paper, I learned as much about the physics and chemistry as the artistic. This just gave me more tools to play with.
Molinari’s current collection, aptly named Present Past, visually documents architectural changes within Toronto. What makes this collection stand out from other architectural or historical photographs is the blending of old and new images that is done in a unique digital process. “It’s something that happens mostly in my mind’s eye. I try to perceive the different elements of the two separate images and see how I can have them interact. I look to have a multi-layered image which establishes the bygone era nestled within the blurred fast pace of modern times. It takes a lot of tweaking and finesse to blend the two in balance….It’s a process that can take weeks for each image. From sourcing the original image, rephotographing the location (matching time of day, lensing and angle) then retouching. I will work with an image over the course of 1-2 weeks. I take my time to make sure all the elements work.”
According to Molinari, this style and type of work produces many technical setbacks. “There have been quite a few images that I have shot and, realized when compositing, the results fall short of my expectations….There are many images I have found that I cannot create a piece with. In some cases a street has been widened which makes it precarious at best to capture a long exposure. Some larger structures sit too close to match the original angle or it’s obstructed….The Harbour Commission building is a perfect example. I have found many images I would love to recreate but the towers built around it defy an effective angle. I appreciate the old photograph and keep searching.”
It isn’t a stretch to view these works as a tiny portion of Toronto’s history, and Molinari - a crusader of its architectural past. “It’s a city that has grown too fast for people to realize how the developers and city officials have bulldozed a lot of the character and history out for the sake of profit. I want people to see what we have lost and the small part we have been able to retain. By creating this series I have brought about discussion and conversation. Hearing older generations share experiences and memories of a bygone era and the amazement of younger generations to know what has changed….Many older structures have disappeared and some have survived. I want people to know the beauty that has escaped and appreciate what we have.”
As for what we can expect in the future?
“I have a sketchbook I try to keep by my side, filled with notes and thumbnail sketches, etc. I constantly come up with ideas so it’s a question of what I can find time to execute….In the near future, a new series highlighting Queen Street. As the weather improves I already have a collection of images to continue this series with.”
View more of Ezio Molinari’s works from “Present Past” in person at Twist Gallery or online at https://www.eziophoto.com/ and read the exclusive corresponding post on Twist Gallery social media.