June 28, 2010

June 18, 2010

Beyond Imaginings at Harbourfront Centre is an outdoor exhibition of the work of 8 photographers commissioned to photograph the Ontario Greenbelt.

Harbourfront Centre

The greenbelt is a swath of land in Southern Ontario with a moratorium on development. It runs along the escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory and in a belt from Niagara running clockwise around Lake Ontario to east of Toronto. This legislation was put into place to halt the municipalities from developing outside a regional plan.

This moratorium does not include Highways, Railways and Hydro (Electrical) corridors. It makes sense that the infrastructure must go in first before the development can continue. The one clear impression I get from all that I have heard is that there is a definite reason the green belt lies in an arch around the city of Toronto. Ultimately I think there will be a great bypass highway inside the greenbelt, created to relieve congestion on the highways running to or through Toronto. The expansion of the 407 through the greenbelt as part of a Hamilton bypass is foreshadowing this.

This has changed the character of the green space around the City of Toronto. Before, farmers within this area relied on the value of their land to pay for their retirement. Developers would buy the family farm, and after a lifetime of struggle the farmer could count on an easy retirement and a legacy to leave his children.

Now without the potential for major development the prices have dropped. People interested in buying in the greenbelt now are wealthy individuals who choose to build executive estates, the Gentleman farmer. It's a whole different class of people, the Equestrian Set. I should know, I grew up in King City.

Who knows, the greenbelt may become the Cotswolds of Southern Ontario?

If this happens, growth will increase surrounding the highways but just outside the greenbelt. The space inside will be reserved for the people who can afford to live there.

The Exhibit highlights what life in the greenbelt is like today.

The work is good. Some of it is great.

Each photographer has his or her own style. Some of the work is more editorial. You can easily imagine it appearing in a magazine article. There was work that was far more graphic. Some of the work was of a much more personal nature.

Of the eight photographers represented two attended the public opening. Luck was on my side. They were the two I most wanted to meet.

The first was Martie Giefert. I had seen his Youtube video associated with the exhibit. He is extremely personable and likable.

He chose to examine the culture of the greenbelt through its architecture.

Martie Giefert at Harbourfront Centre

He was there with his girlfriend, Isabel Martinez. It was a pleasure meeting the both of them.

Isabel Martinez and Martie Giefert

Meera Margaret Singh (below centre) was the other photographer that I had a chance to meet. The minute I saw her work I knew I wanted to talk with her. Her speciality is portraiture. She photographed the people of the greenbelt.

Kathleen Layne, Meera Margaret Singh and Edith Layne

She photographed the Working Man and Woman. She revealed a great sense of dignity in her subjects. There was a great beauty in the simplicity of her work.

Here I had the pleasure to photograph her with her cousin, Kathleen Layne (left) and her Aunt, Edith Layne (right).

Kathleen Layne, Meera Margaret Singh and Edith Layne

In an expanded form both of these photographers would merit exhibitions in their own right. It was an honour to have met them and their loved ones.

There is a huge irony that I drove through the greenbelt to get downtown to view scenes of the greenbelt.

There is a strange disconnect when looking at scenes of nature on industrial billboards.

It's sort of like going to a Natural History Museum when you have the opportunity to go on safari.

Harbourfront Centre

Above, you can see the billboards lined up like rows of tombstones. Are we to stand there mourning the loss of the greenbelt as if it were already dead, or is it just dead to the people who live downtown?

Instead, why not get together with a group of friends and drive up to Tobermory for some camping?

If that's not posh enough for you, why not jump on a GO-Train for Niagara On The Lake and go for a winery tour?

Bring your camera. Make your own experiences.

Why look when you can do? Remember, nothing ever stays the same forever. Take advantage of the greenbelt while it still exists. You can always look at pictures of it when it's gone.

As for 'Beyond Imaginings', I would suggest you wait for the book.

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If you are hosting a garden related event in the GTA and would like it covered in gardentoronto.ca or would like to place an e-poster about it on our Events Calendar, just contact me. I am always delighted to promote anything gardening in Toronto.

Mark Disero

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