I was inspired to take photos of the posters in
the Toronto subway system after talking on the phone with a dear friend of
mine who lives in Kentucky. She was telling me how repressed life can be in
the Southern United States where the powers that be still see fit to pass
anti-gay legislation when no one is looking. I told her that I felt quite
blessed to be living in Toronto, a gay mecca by comparison.
Here, one million people gather every year at the end of June to celebrate
Pride. The city offers vibrant lesbian and gay culture in the form of a
thriving gaybourhood (Church and Wellesley), a lesbian and gay film festival
(InsideOUT), gay-friendly churches, gay soccer, gay hockey, gay parenting
groups... you name it, we gay gay gay got it. To illustrate my point
further, I told her that there were currently flaming 4 x 6 foot posters
promoting The L Word (Thursdays at 10PM on Showcase) in most of our subway
stations. Upon hearing this, my friend was quite inspired. So I told her
that I would send her a photo to prove to her that the times they are
When I hung up the phone, it hit me. This all-too-rare lesbian visibility in
a very public place needed to be documented. Since advertising is ephemeral
by nature, I knew that if I didn't pick up my camera and get to it
immediately, the posters would likely soon be gone and I'd be left thinking
"Did that really happen?" So I went for a long subway ride with my SLR and
took some old-school analogue snapshots. My mission was to try to
incorporate the subway signage with each poster.
To my delight, I found no defaced posters in my travels. Torontonians are a
tolerant, often open-minded bunch. Toronto is said to be the most
multi-cultural city in the world and different cultures co-exist peacefully,
here, side-by-side. But back to the posters...
Sometimes the juxtaposition of the L Word poster and subway name made me
laugh. Broadview was a personal favourite. I couldn't help but digitally
colour in the L's of some of the subway stations' names in pink. At Old Mill
station, I was surprised to find a collection of three (!) L Word posters on
the Eastbound platform. I couldn't help but think that the inside joke
just mine and that someone thought: "Three L's in the name? Three L Word
posters needed at OLD MILL." You will notice that there aren't many people
in the photos. That's because I didn't want to invade people's privacy. The
photos were taken once the platform had cleared.
While shooting, I experienced some technical difficulties with a lens and a
flash which caused me to have to go back into the subway system and re-shoot
certain stations twice. By the second time, most of the posters had already
disappeared. They are now all gone.
Ephemeral, indeed. It was mind-expanding while it lasted and I hope it will
be inspiring to others.
Email me with your comments.