Challenging Public Space Advertising with Inspiring Images

Starting from May 2 all the way to June 4, Photographers Without Borders will be partaking in the 2016 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. The Festival is a month-long program that exhibits photo-based works by Canadian and International artists at public installation sites across the Greater Toronto Area. Collaborating with major museums and galleries, CONTACT is the largest photography event in the world, featuring over 1,500 artists in 200 exhibitions. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the festival, chalking up an impressive list of photographs that connect the public to thought-provoking ideas, questions, and issues that challenge the status quo.

Caroline Leal for El Porvenir

Caroline Leal for El Porvenir

The concept that PWB has chosen for CONTACT this year is “See Through a New Lens.” PWB takes this opportunity to bring to public awareness the number of non-profit organizations and charities from around the world that may not be as well known. These public installations challenge the use of public space and invite the viewer to take a break from the insistence of advertising, thus breaking up routine patterns of attention.

Through a careful selection process, PWB has chosen the following Canadian artists and their partner charities to showcase photographs that not only drive civilization forward and empower humanity, but also moves away from the traditional image of “aid” opportunities.

·         Caroline Leal – El Porvenir

·         Margaux Yu - Maun Animal Welfare

·         Kristin Lau – Sunfarmer (Nepal)

·         Vervet Monkeys – Kevin and Sheryl Minnett

·         March Champagne – Water Charity

·         Caroline Petters - IndoRelief / L’auberge des migrants

As part of the exhibit, PWB will be using advertising space on the TTC subway Yonge-University line where millions of commuters will have access to these photographs and have the opportunity to engage in ‘contact’ with the communities and wildlife that PWB champions for on a daily basis. Photographs will be displayed in a panoramic plus three square image format. Artistic works from PWB’s photographers can also be seen on a storefront window along Queen Street East. By displaying a photo that promotes social topics at a public space, PWB is able to connect the people to the cause, enabling grassroots initiatives from different parts of the world to have on the ground impact rather than on social media or online.

Marc Champagne for Water Charity

Marc Champagne for Water Charity

Tallie Garey, Curator at PWB, shared that photographs were chosen on how well artists were able to capture the story of the organization and their narratives.

“Part of the selection process is keeping in mind a range of images that tell the story. The characters that are involved, the subject matter, what’s the heart of the project, and what are the results that come from what these organizations do,” Garey said. “It is making sure to capture all those things in the few images that you were able to choose. Sometimes you can only curate with one image, some you tell the story in a series of images. The series of images like this, on the subway, is something that Toronto is not used to, subway riders are not used to. It’s a unique opportunity to showcase both the amazing work and efforts of organizations through the creative art of photography, and showcase it in a spot where you’re normally used to seeing advertisements, but instead you’re seeing pieces of art that tell a very important story.”

Through the 2016 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival PWB is excited for the opportunity to use public space to showcase these stories. In previous years, PWB also participated in CONTACT. However, most of the exhibitions were hosted in galleries that were both private and public. There is a difference in terms of reach and demographics — who gets to see the art and learn about the non-profit organizations, versus a gallery setting. “Showcasing the photographs in a place like subway cars really democratizes the experience,” Garey adds.

This year, PWB will also be hosting a contest using the hashtag #PWBCONTACT to encourage community engagement with the works. Visitors are asked to snap a picture of the sighted PWB work and share it on Twitter or Instagram for an opportunity to win a prize!

Kristin Lau for Sunfarmer

Kristin Lau for Sunfarmer

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