2018 Artistic Overview

This year CONTACT expands its scope across Toronto and presents a broad spectrum of physically and conceptually engaging forms of photography. In keeping with this commitment to multiplicity, the 2018 Festival catalogue cover has been produced as a series of four, with each one featuring a single work. The images by Richard Mosse, Felicity Hammond, Charlie Engman, and Shelley Niro represent highly distinctive approaches to the photographic medium, yet they can each be considered touchstones for areas of common ground that have come together through the process of developing the curated program.

Focusing on collaborations, new discoveries, commissions, and premiere presentations, CONTACT’s 2018 Primary Exhibitions and Public Installations present outstanding, timely works by artists from Canada and abroad. Many of today’s critical global issues are the consequence of war, and the societal complexities that arise from it are examined by numerous artists throughout the Festival. Richard Mosse uses a military-grade thermal video camera that registers bodily presence from great distances to create highly complex works based on documentation of refugee camps. Along a similar vein, Trevor Paglen uncovers the physical markers of covert military and intelligence surveillance activities. Looking at the contested lands of Palestine, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme construct poetic narratives that speak to the ongoing conflict permeating the area. The monuments of war are investigated by Daniel Alexander, whose images of cemeteries and epitaphs consider the impulse to commemorate; and the AGO’s photographic archives reveal personal accounts of the First World War and images capturing the technologies of mass destruction.

The built environment is also a prevalent theme this year, and a number of artists were commissioned to produce new site-specific work at prominent locations around the city. Felicity Hammond’s project examines how depictions of past and future urban developments dramatically shift and complicate the way that architecture is experienced, and Marleen Sleeuwits’ photographs are based on her elaborate transformations of nondescript architectural spaces. As a platform for artistic experimentation, our Public Installations activate a visual dialogue within their urban surroundings, as seen in the fleeting moments captured in Wang Yishu’s images positioned in a bustling subway station, the digital landscapes Scott Benesiinaabandan derives from monument sites to acknowledge Indigenous histories, and the expansive view of the cosmos by Elizabeth Zvonar that illuminates the grey concrete cityscape. Several venues, some of which are new to the Festival this year,provide challenging contexts for artistic interventions. While Dana Claxton’s hyper-saturated images of canoes transform a new gathering place beneath the Gardiner Expressway, Max Dean’s multimedia installation occupies a former soap factory slated for demolition. Replacing the traditional display of pictures, Piero Martinello’s portraits of radical individuals infiltrate the former home of a magistrate.

Numerous projects this year aim to challenge cultural stereotypes. Charlie Engman’s expansive body of work, which is being exhibited for the first time, features boundary-pushing photographs of his mother; John Edmonds’ public installation confronts presumptions about race, class, and gender based on clothing choices; and Sofia Mesa’s collaborative project commemorates individuals often deemed invisible by society. Through active dialogue with diverse communities, Esther Shalev-Gerz considers the politics of representation by examining the origins of museum objects. The culture and collecting practice of the museum is also scrutinized by Nadia Myre, who reclaims Indigenous skills and crafts devalued by colonization; and by Awol Erizku, whose still life compositions address the practice of whitewashing in art historical representation.

The pervasive theme of reclamation and empowerment resonates in Shelley Niro’s work, which redefines contemporary Indigenous experience and identity, particularly for women. Gestures of cultural understanding are performed by a number of artists whose images reveal complex narratives: Kent Monkman’s alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle reclaims a controversial headdress; Aida Muluneh speaks to the struggles and achievements of the African diaspora across history; and Caroline Monnet’s scene of women in the film industry highlights an emerging sense of power and self-determination. Reframing social and cultural traditions, Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca’s work dynamically captures contemporary dance and music derived from various forms of colonial resistance in Brazil, and a vibrant group exhibition drawing from an archive of Canadian hip hop culture disrupts the status quo to provide high visibility for under-recognized photographers.

All of the exceptional projects in CONTACT 2018’s curated program—too many to name here—are described in depth on the following pages, and we invite you to experience them throughout the city. Revealing multilayered perspectives on the world, the works ultimately come together through interaction, dialogue, and celebration.

Bonnie Rubenstein
Artistic Director


The Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival is the largest photography event in the world, and a premiere cultural experience in Canada, with over 200 exhibitions and happenings throughout the month of May in the Greater Toronto Area. Founded in 1997, CONTACT is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and fostering the art and profession of photography.

CONTACT reflects the all-encompassing influence of images in society and the extraordinary breadth and scope of photography today, presenting a broad spectrum of lens-based work by artists, documentary photographers and photojournalists. The Festival increases exposure for all participants, commissions new work, supports professional development and occasions to learn. CONTACT embraces an inclusive and accessible approach to the medium, and cultivates collaborations with and among artists, curators, institutions and diverse community groups and organizations. CONTACT is an advocate for the creative potential of partnerships to expand the practices of all involved, broaden our audience reach and build engagement with the visual arts locally and globally.

The Festival’s curated programming—Primary Exhibitions and Public Installations—explores diverse subjects, motivated by artistic innovation and critical discourse locally, nationally and internationally. Collaborating with major museums and galleries, CONTACT presents outstanding photographic imagery that reflects issues relevant to our times and the history of the medium. In high profile locations, site-specific installations of images transform everyday activity in public space into unique encounters with works of art that resonate with their environment.

CONTACT’s community initiatives foster a wide range of interest in photography and enable meaningful exchanges between the people who make and present art, and those that view it. Selected through a call for submissions, Featured Exhibitions of lens-based works by artists from Canada and around the world are presented at established galleries across the city.

The foundation of CONTACT was based on an open call to participate, enabling emerging artists and photographers to show their work concurrent with exhibitions of works by leading professionals. Today the Open Exhibitions continue to encourage neighbourhood involvement at local galleries, community centres, educational and international institutions, cafes, retail stores, and many alternative locations.

CONTACT organizes and co-presents numerous Events and Workshops, including portfolio reviews, lectures, panel discussions, film screenings, and tours. Catering to all levels of interest in photography, these initiatives stimulate dialogue and encourage participation.

All exhibitions and events are free to attend unless otherwise noted.


CONTACT Office and Gallery
80 Spadina Ave, Suite 205
Toronto, ON  M5V2J4
Open by appointment only during the summer months
416 539 9595

The CONTACT Gallery is free and open to the public. The gallery is wheelchair accessible at street level via the Spadina Ave entrance and by taking the elevator to the 2nd floor.

CONTACT acknowledges that it is situated on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe, and the Huron-Wendat. This land is home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and create here.

Dislaimer: CONTACT is an open forum for the promotion and discussion of photography. CONTACT is not responsible for the specific content or subject matter of any work displayed or advertised. Some exhibitions or materials may be offensive, upsetting, or disturbing to some members of the public.


Participate in CONTACT

CONTACT will begin accepting proposals and registration for the 2019 Festival on October 3, 2018.

The Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival invites participation from photographic artists for the month of May, either as a Featured Exhibition or an Open Exhibition.

The Featured Exhibitions program showcases high-calibre exhibitions and recognizes exceptional photo-based projects. Featured Exhibitions are subject to a juried submission process, and are eligible for The Gattuso Prize, a $5,000 award that acknowledges an outstanding exhibition in this program.

The Open Exhibitions program provides a valuable opportunity to have photographic work exhibited in conjunction with other emerging and established artists, and to inspire and engage with the city through photography. Open Exhibitions are non-juried and are therefore accessible to all interested participants and exhibition spaces.

All artists/organizers must have a confirmed exhibition space in order to participate in CONTACT.

Submissions are not sought for CONTACT's curated programming, including the CONTACT Gallery, Primary Exhibitions, Public Installations, and Special Events.


Darcy Killeen

Bonnie Rubenstein

Tara Smith

Benjamin Freedman

Brian St. Denis


Bartosz Gawdzik & Andrew Di Rosa

Shannon Anderson

Jen Cutts

Yarek Waszul



Edward Burtynsky
Sarah Dinnick, Chair
Erin Iles
Olga Korper
Paul Lalonde
Elizabeth Levitt
Andric Ljubodrag
Maia-Mari Sutnik

Stephen Bulger
William Ewing
Sarah Milroy
Kenneth Montague
Penny Rubinoff
Lisa Steele

Darren Alexander
Linda Book
Stephen Bulger
Judith Tatar