Together we reflect on the last 20 years of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and the innumerable encounters with images it has activated throughout the city, suspending movement and provoking imagination. Exploring paths that connect people and photographs, we have led the approach to intersections where meaningful experiences take place. The extraordinary scope of photography and its all-encompassing influence is illuminated by CONTACT, as we present a broad spectrum of work by acclaimed and emerging lens-based artists, documentary photographers, and photojournalists from Canada and around the world. Pursuing innovation and site-specific projects, we also look back at the foundations of the medium.
Over the years, we have questioned the veracity of images and studied their constructed nature, heralded their pervasive influence, and acknowledged their dramatic social and political impact. Our perception of reality has been challenged by photographs that frame shifting landscapes or serve as markers of history and surrogates for memory. We have examined photography’s evolution, and how past manifestations continuously inform current practices. After confronting proclamations of photography’s impending death, we ushered in the resurgence of analogue processes. And while amassing vast quantities of images derived from everyday image-making, we prudently distinguished exceptional photographs and their widespread implications. Idiosyncratic representations of identity have engendered our reverence, empathy, and enlightened sense of self, both individually and collectively.
Collaborating with our partners at major museums, galleries, organizations, and urban spaces throughout the Greater Toronto Area, CONTACT 2016 marks the Festival’s 20th anniversary with an expanded program focused on 20 Primary Exhibitions and 20 Public Installations. Inspired by many creative practitioners and the visual acuity of their work, these shows comprise more than 170 years of photographic image-making. Drawn from distinctly varied sources across the city and around the world, these outstanding works offer powerful insights and compelling views of social landscape, political turmoil, and cultural change. Underscoring the shadowy territory between fact and fiction, they depict dreamers and rebels, and explore conceptions of beauty and pride.
Positioned on streets, billboards, and subway platforms, or suspended from the façades and interiors of buildings, our public installations transform the experience of the city. Conveying narratives specific to the environment, its usage, and inhabitants, the interplay between the photographic subject and its surrounding context destabilizes the conventions of advertising and alters the patterns of everyday activity in public spaces.
The sweeping presence of CONTACT in May stimulates a multitude of programs and expressive endeavours throughout Toronto, interconnecting people by encouraging dialogue and opportunities to learn while fostering cultural commonalities. Shown in diverse neighbourhood locations—including galleries, community centres and schools, cafés, stores, and many unexpected alternative venues—Open Exhibitions are the democratic foundation of the Festival. Our annual open call for participation also cultivates submissions, and the selected Featured Exhibitions highlight powerful lens-based works by accomplished artists at prominent galleries. Journeys to these venues throughout the city, whether planned or discovered, uncover inventive presentations by burgeoning artists and leading professionals.
We are very grateful to our title sponsor Scotiabank, who continues to support the Festival’s programming and growth. Sincere thanks go to our major sponsors Nikon and PATTISON for their active engagement over the last seven years. Provincial funding from Celebrate Ontario, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Tourism Event Marketing Program, along with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, is gratefully acknowledged for providing tremendous reinforcement. Our appreciation goes out to everyone involved in CONTACT 2016, including programming partners, funders, sponsors, donors, and volunteers. We have endeavoured to expand the artistic practices of all involved while broadening our audience and engagement with visual arts locally and globally. We are proud to have played a key role in making Toronto an international centre of photography.
Bringing together over 1,500 artists and photographers at more than 200 exhibitions and happenings, we commemorate our 20th anniversary and celebrate the accomplishments of countless people who contribute to the Festival—most notably those exhibiting their work. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of images have mapped millions of experiences across our urban communities, guiding us to see and better understand the multifaceted nature of our place within constantly changing scenes.
—CONTACT staff and board of directors