Toronto Photographer Chris Shepherd

I started as a painter in university but then became more or less an art school dropout. In the 1990s I moved to Toronto and used my camera as a means to familiarize myself with this city. It was a place I initially felt very separate from. This exploration sparked an interest in urban landscapes and led to a long-running fascination with the often passed-over or under-appreciated tableaus of metropolitan life. It also solidified my love affair with Toronto itself.  Since then I’ve spent a lot of my free time in the last 25 years wandering around with my camera and hanging out in contemporary art galleries throughout this great city.

The serenity and reserved nature of my images are often in sharp juxtaposition with the locations they depict. I try to capture a fleeting moment in time, whether that’s a brief moment of tranquility in the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures in the subway, the fallow period between tenants in commercial buildings, or the last moments before something trivial and unnoticed is changed and disappears forever. My wife kindly thinks I always have a million ideas brewing and that I have the enviable gift that allows me to see the beauty and significance in the oft overlooked. I think that’s a pretty nice compliment.

Toronto photographer Chris Shepherd

1. We modestly collect art. My wife and I both love all the pieces in our house. Many are by friends or people we know. I’ve looked at some of these pieces almost every day now for over ten years. They still give me happiness. They are part of us. This photo is of a particularly sweet grouping of smallish work I really like. If you make art, you probably buy art. It’s that simple.

2. One of my favourite Toronto artists—and there are so many great artists in this city—is Jon Sasaki. We bought this piece at a C Magazine fundraiser a long time ago and this sucker makes me laugh all the time. Again, art is one of the most awesome things in life. I’d rather have good art than a flash car, big TV, or other stuff any day.

3. Although my reading habits have suffered lately books are something I like to be surrounded by. This is my bedside bookshelf. The majority of this I’ve read lately. I also love the light from this window which always gives us such great light in the daytime. Right now I’m reading David Balzer’s Curationism from Coach House. He’s a great Toronto writer, and just like amazing Toronto artists there are lots of amazing Toronto writers too.

4. I’m old enough to have deteriorating eyesight. This is the first pair of glasses I bought from Spectacle on Queen and I still like them. I had never worn glasses until about 5 years ago and the first pair I buy are these bifocals. I always joke that these are my grade nine shop teacher glasses.

5. Another thing that was gifted to me later in life was a passion for espresso. I didn’t start drinking it until about 10 years ago, and then I got all crazy about it. This is the equivalent of our high def flat screen TV. Every morning I start by letting this sucker warm up for 30 minutes and then making cortados for the both if us. We drink 1/2 decaf/1/2 regular. The beans we use are from Cherry Bomb on Roncesvalles. I know a lot of people who are passionate about coffee, and the person who roasts for and owns Cherry Bomb is one of them. I walk down there every week to buy fresh beans.

6. These are the steps I climb at least twice a day. They take me from our end of Wallace Avenue across the train tracks and over to Dundas West which is my subway stop. I’ve always been amazed at how cool they look with all the tons of salt they insist on pouring over top them in the winter.

7. This photo represents the sort of stuff that’s interesting me now and will most likely insidiously weasel its way into my brain until all I can do is take many more pictures like this. I love the boring, mundane, everyday things in life and construction sites fascinate me for the potential motherlode of ready-made sculpture I’ll find there.

8. I totally love my wife. The second love-of-my-life is our dog. Stella is 11 and she makes me smile every day several times a day and I can’t get mad at her ever. I love our cats too, but not as much as the dog. Every morning for 11 years she’s been a good friend and all she asks me to do is throw a ball. Life is good. Here she is on the sofa that she sleeps on for about 20 of the 24 hours in a day.


What neighbourhood do you live in?

My official neighbourhood is The Junction Triangle, located just east and south of the Junction proper. I’m surrounded on three sides by railway lines that run alongside Geary Ave to the north, Lansdowne on the eastern boundary and Dundas West on the west side.

What do you do and where?

For art I work predominantly on photography, some photo-based conceptual work, and I’ve dabbled a little bit with durational performance. Most of the time I do this in my neighbourhood or in the studio downstairs. I walk a lot. I love the city and I’ve explored a good deal of it in the last fifteen years on foot. For my day job I work at a major music label making and marketing stuff. That job is a 17 km bike ride away which translates to about 45 minutes on a good day. That same trip takes about 3.5 hours to walk. I plan to retire into full time art.

What are you working on?

I’m getting prepared for my Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Feature Exhibition in May of this year at Bau-Xi Photo. That show is called “Underground” and features work taken in the Toronto and Montreal Subways. I’m also planning a trip to shoot London and Paris streets and subways in the summer of 2015. There’s an ongoing project that I continue to plan that revolves around converting photographic works into Braille text for the visually impaired. Finally I’m getting a bit too psyched about the movie version of “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Four of my photographs are in the film—hanging in Christian Grey’s fictitious office–and although I try to control my ego, I’m very proud that someone else liked my work enough to use it in a film.

Where can we find your work?

Photographs are for sale at Bau-Xi Photo on Dundas Street West across form the AGO and I post my more wacky ideas and projects on my personal blog/website.

And of course you can find my work at this year’s SNAP! 2015 photograph auction in support of the AIDS Committee of Toronto.




About Joel Levy 2551 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography