Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary edition of Toronto’s annual event launching in May and rolling out during the rest of 2021. Artists from Canada and around the world are presenting lens-based artworks in exhibitions, site-specific installations, and commissioned projects at public spaces across Toronto. 

The 2021 Festival delves into environmental issues, offers perspectives on culture, sovereignty and colonialism, and presents images of bodies that reveal vulnerability and assert positions of power. Amplifying BIPOC voices, projects confront local and global realities to deepen knowledge and promote mutual understanding. By fostering these creative engagements, CONTACT provides opportunities for dialogue and exchange.

Esmaa Mohamoud, The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us, By Us), (detail, mural), 2020–21. Courtesy of the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects

CONTACT is marking its institutional milestone with a special focus on the Festival’s public installations program inaugurated in 2003. These projects cohesively integrate images and expand the Festival’s activation of spaces throughout greater Toronto, to provide accessible platforms for artists to meaningfully engage with audiences while examining critical issues.

Public installations — which have included billboards, transit platforms, storefronts, parking kiosks, shipping containers, airport passageways, skyscrapers, markets, and shopping centers, as well as public ponds, parks, and gardens — are a vital and extremely visible aspect of CONTACT’s core program. They are now highly anticipated by the international photography community, Toronto residents, and visitors. Many participating artists are showing in Canada for the first time and a number have been commissioned to create site-responsive works. 

Thirza Schaap, shattered, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Bildhalle Zürich + Amsterdam

International artists participating in the 2021 public installation program include Gohar Dashti (Iran/USA); Kim Hoeckele (USA); Sasha Huber (Finland); Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender (Netherlands & France); Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs (Switzerland & Slovakia); Frida Orupabo (Norway); Thirza Schaap (Netherlands); and Malgorzata Stankiewicz (Poland/Switzerland). Canadian and Indigenous artists include Sara Angelucci; Jeff Bierk; Dayna Danger; Max Dean; Kelly Fyffe-Marshall; Lili Huston-Herterich; Vid Ingelevics & Ryan Walker; Aaron Jones; Luther Konadu; Esmond Lee; Ange Loft; Peter Morin; Esmaa Mohamoud; Ebti Nabag; Skawennati; Fallon Simard; and Greg Staats. 

Skawennati, xox Takes a Break, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and ELLEPHANT
Sebastein Miller, The Path, 2020. Courtesy of the artist

CONTACT Executive Director Darcy Killeen said, “Like arts and culture events around the globe, we have had to shift our plans and develop new virtual offerings with respect to public safety guidelines. We are so grateful to the artists and our partners who stood with us as we reimagined our programming throughout the past year. For our silver anniversary, we are delighted to present work by this exceptional roster of lens-based artists responding to our time and this place — one of the most diverse cities in North America.”