Monday, September 4, 2017


Hamilton, ON, August 2017

ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE LIARS. We don't mean to be. It's just the nature of what we do, selecting and cropping, manipulating and editing and - if we're halfway good at what we do - forcing the world to conform to our vision of what it looks like in our heads. Perhaps "liars" is too strong, but we are definitely unreliable narrators.

First of all, Hamilton doesn't really look like this - not much, anymore. After a period of rather severe decline, it's been rebounding for at least a decade and will probably start matching Toronto's ridiculous home prices in about five years. But my eyes were naturally drawn to the low water marks left behind from that decline during three days I recently spent there because they made for better pictures than a neatly renovated Victorian with a landscaped flowerbed out front.

Hamilton, ON, August 2017

The fact is that decay and dereliction are more appealing, for reasons that are hard to explain. Perhaps its our inherent morbidity, or the way a ruin seems to tell a whole story, right down to the final tragedy. For photographers, it's even simpler - old brickwork and crazed paint have pleasing textures an colours.

A photo is a document of a single moment - context is inferred, but you never know the whole story. These shots will probably look very different if I return in a few years; there might be new paint, and the boards will probably be down from in front of those windows. Or the change might be more abrupt, and the building will have been demolished altogether, and any trace of the view I caught last month gone forever.

Whitehern historic house, Hamilton, ON, Aug. 2017

Cities always change, but a historical house like Whitehern exists to resist change. The rooms have been carefully dressed to preserve them as they might have looked when the last residents lived there, though I somehow doubt that they were quite as pristine when Thomas McQuesten and his siblings were still alive. When you see a neatly made bed that nobody will probably ever sleep in again, it's hard not to see why people believe in ghosts.

I can't help but have a lot of affection for Hamilton. It was a city that I very nearly grew up in, and one that I often visited as a child - the furthest extent of my travels for many, many years. It's older than Toronto and, in its current state, hovering between stagnation and prosperity, it has a charm that Toronto doesn't have - probably never had.

Hamilton Cemetery, Aug. 2017

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