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(July 2008) posted on Fri Jul 25, 2008

In Toronto, concrete pillars become trees in a topsy-turvy photo-install job.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Angela Prues

To Toronto commuters approaching the city’s contentious Gardiner Expressway this spring, it must have seemed as if the world had first taken a bizarre twist-and then notched it up one more bizarro step and literally turned itself upside down.

The concrete columns holding up the expressway at Spadina and Lakeshore Blvd. had seemingly been turned into trees. But that wasn’t all. Those trees were defying gravity and growing in reverse, their trunks reaching toward the sky. In all likelihood, it was enough to make many drivers turn around and call in sick for the day.

Had they bothered to look more closely, however, the commuters would have found that the inverted trees were actually "pillar-wrapped" photographic images courtesy of photographer Rodney Graham, with more than a little help from print provider Beyond Digital Imaging, installer Genstar Signs & Installation, a new media, and others-all in support of the Contact Toronto Photography Festival.

‘Outside of the traditional museum context’
For 12 years, the Contact Toronto Photography Festival ( has earned accolades by attracting the best and the brightest. The breadth of exhibitors, exhibitions, and audience has grown the month-long extravaganza into the largest photography event worldwide.

This year, the festival comprised the work of nearly 700 artists and spanned 220 installation venues across Toronto. In addition to traditional spaces at museums, coffee shops, and galleries, the festival’s photography appeared at unique venues such as a community center for the intellectually disabled, a center for African children with HIV/AIDS, the Archives of Ontario office, a French-language school, a LensCrafters, and even an adult-only retail store.

"The locations for the public installations are thought out throughout the year," says Emily McInnes, director of creative development for Contact, "usually by happenstance, or when I find myself in a space that I think would be a good way to look at artwork outside of the traditional museum context."