Full of funky neighborhoods, beloved public spaces, architectural oddities and more, Toronto is a visual playground whose scenes would make great additions to anyone’s feed. The city’s unique layout will help you frame its famous landmarks in creative ways, so whether you’re an avid urban photographer or just looking to diversify your feed a bit, the capital of Ontario is a great place to start.
To bring you the best guide possible, we reached out to Edward Row, a Toronto-based photographer whose images are cinematic, intimate, and driven by the story of the moments they capture. If there is a way to evoke a feeling of warmth in photos of a bustling metropolis, Edward has found it, and he’s here to share it with you.
Without further ado, let’s get familiar with some of the sights you might be snapping in the Six, and the techniques you should use to do so.
While it’s no longer the tallest of the tall, the CN Tower still stands head and shoulders above the rest of Toronto’s considerable skyline. Like any great observation tower , it has viewing decks that provide sweeping vistas of the city, but capturing the building itself is more of a challenge. Luckily for you, this Wonder of the Modern World easy to see from pretty much any neighborhood. That makes it the perfect reference point to add visual depth to your photo, or as an element to frame an interesting shot you have in the foreground.
One such opportunity presents itself at the Gooderham Building, a triangular red-brick structure known locally as the Flatiron building. If you’re standing on the corner of Church St. and Front St., you might just be able to squeeze both landmarks into the frame. While you’re there, be sure to check out the mural on the flat rear wall of the building. Imagined by Canadian artist Derek Michael Besant, it depicts the illusion of an office building facade that has started to peel off the wall. There’s also a park here with red and white art deco-style pavement and a fountain that features 27 cast-iron dogs. If you want somewhere to experiment with unconventional visuals, look no further.
ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO
The AGO is an inspiring space for anyone with an interest in the visual arts. Besides its amazing collection of artworks(95,000 pieces are housed in the 480,000 square-foot facility), the structure itself is an impressive marriage of engineering and aesthetics that makes it one of the most visually arresting buildings in all of Canada, both paradise and playground for Instagrammers.
A massive renovation in the mid-2000s saw the museum transformed inside and out by Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry, perhaps most famous for his work on the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The expanded elements include the 600-foot glass facade on Dundas Street, which contains the sleek wooden Galleria Italia, and spiral staircases that are renowned for their use of pre-existing space within the gallery. The curves of these new designs create very playful light, especially in the long, straight space of the wooden corridor; there is probably an infinite number of visual perspectives to be discovered.
Of course, we can’t forget the art itself. The AGO is home to what must be some of the most Instagrammable artwork in the world at the moment. On May 25th, legendary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors — which made waves in the U.S. with a highly successful 2019 run at Atlanta’s Museum of High Art — will open as a permanent exhibition in Toronto, making it the only other such installation of these mirror rooms in North America outside of Los Angeles.
ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM
The most-visited museum in Canada will immediately draw comparisons to the AGO from the outside, as the result of some similarly bold, yet more controversial renovations that were made around the same time. The “crystal,” as the major addition is known, is actually composed of the same aluminum cladding used on Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim, an anodized version of the metal only produced on this scale by one company in the world. The facade seems to jut out from the museum’s original, understated Romanesque structure, reaching into the air above the street as if to challenge the public below. Perhaps the challenge is to take a fitting photo? The best angle to capture the museum’s old and new elements is from the corner of Bloor St. and Avenue Road, by the Park Hyatt. Do so in the earlier hours of the day, or else you’ll be shooting right into the sun!
Toronto’s Bentway is a public park that has repurposed the unused space below the city’s main highway. There probably aren’t many places in the world you could see yourself hanging out under an overpass, let alone taking photos there. But the Bentway isn’t just a photogenic space in its own right, with well-maintained greeneries, artworks, and unique views of downtown. It’s also constantly changing according to the season and the events that take place there.
During the winter, some of the walking and roller-blading spaces are turned into ice-skating trails, and right now, there are some very Insta-popular private dining igloos, similar to those at the Coppa Club in London (but probably without the three-month waiting lists). In the warmer months, you’ll see live performance art, dance groups, yoga classes, and who knows, maybe even a giant inflatable giraffe. Whether you align your shoot with some of these gatherings or just want to point and click while you ramble on the paths, make sure to use the symmetry of the five-story pillars (actually called bents) to your advantage, and be mindful of both advantageous lighting and awkward shadows. Most of all, let the natural light do the work and show you what to capture.
If you’ve checked out our “Unusual Things To Do In Toronto” guide, you’ll be well aware that the city is home to some weird and wonderful examples of domestic architecture. The royalty among these is Casa Loma, a bonafide castle that sits on an overlook above the neighborhood known as the Annex. Instagram opportunities abound within and without, as the residence-turned-museum boasts 343,000 total square footage of grounds, including verdant gardens and seven floors of decadent interior design. The Oak Room and conservatory are particularly picturesque: the former’s intricate wooden panels took artisans three years to carve, and the latter is home to an indoor garden complete with a fountain and art deco parquet flooring.
The city is also famous for some unconventional houses of a smaller scale — in the case of the Little House, a much smaller scale. True to its name, it is the smallest free-standing house in Toronto. There’s also the Half House, the bizarre result of a zoning dispute, and manifold other examples of the bay-and-gable house, which is an architectural style that is ubiquitous in and unique to cities in Ontario. Because building lots in Old Toronto were remarkably narrow, homemakers had to create space vertically, resulting in huge bay windows and very pointy gable roofs. The aesthetic differences required to make a row of otherwise identical houses stand out from one another also makes for a great picture: symmetry and variations on form are always photo-friendly.
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