June Clark Photographs

Apr 29–Jun 3
Daniel Faria Gallery ⁠ accessible_forward
    June Clark, Kids in alley off Spadina Avenue, c.1975. Courtesy of the artist and Daniel Faria Gallery

Born in Harlem in 1941, June Clark emigrated in 1968 to Toronto, where she still lives and works. There, she began making photographs of street scenes as a way to situate herself in a new and unknown environment, seeking a community similar to the Harlem she had abruptly left. This exhibition features photographs by Clark, spanning the 1970s through to the 1990s.

Clark recalls having forty-eight hours to pack up and leave Harlem with her then-husband, who was drafted to serve in the Vietnam war. Having left a close-knit community, the couple’s first months in Canada were trying, at times. However, shortly after the move, Clark’s husband gifted her with a camera, which she began using as she walked the streets. “I walked around looking for imagery that brought me home or had me feel as if I was home,” she remembers. “I didn’t know what I was looking for. I would just see people on Bathurst Street sitting on their stoops or their verandas and this, to me, is community, so I would photograph them and they seemed to love it, so I kept it up.”

Clark’s interest in photography brought her to the Baldwin Street Gallery, where she met artists Laura Jones, Lisa Steele, and Pamela Harris, among others. Together, they would go on to found the Women’s Photography Cooperative. In the early 1970s in Toronto, photography was a male-dominated sphere. For example, women were not permitted to use the dark-rooms at the University of Toronto. And so, using the two dark-rooms in the basement of the Gallery, the members of the co-op taught themselves all aspects of photography, from framing images in the camera to developing negatives. As Clark puts it, no man “was going to teach us anything about photography.”

The first photograph Clark remembers making is of a discarded television tube on Cherry Beach in Toronto. In the image, the surrounding trees are reflected in the tube’s hazy surface, as though a sliver of sky fell to the earth. Photographically transformed, the object is barely recognizable as someone’s trash. Clark continued to pay attention to the overlooked and seemingly ordinary woven throughout the fabric of the city. Her images remained intimate even in the depiction of strangers and storefronts. In 1981, she was hired by Toronto Life to document North Toronto’s Jewish neighbourhoods. The resulting images are indicative of her ability to portray the hum of life that energizes a place through the connections between its inhabitants. Whether focused on teenagers sitting on a curb, a friend’s clasped hands, a woman carrying groceries home on the streetcar, or men washing a car, Clark’s photographs are testament to the variety of personalities, businesses, and environments that give a community its shape.

Presented by Daniel Faria Gallery

June Clark has earned international recognition for her photo-based image works, installations, and interventions. She has had solo exhibitions at the Ringling Museum of Art (Sarasota, 2022), Daniel Faria Gallery (Toronto, 2020), the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, 2018), the Studio Museum in Harlem (New York, 1997), The Power Plant (Toronto, 1992), and Mercer Union (Toronto, 1990). Her work has been included in exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, 2021, 2016), the Textile Museum (Toronto, 2006), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, 2004), and Galerie du Jour Agnès b. (Paris, 1994).