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Photo by MarkyBon.
The CONTACT Photography Festival: it’s back, and it’s everywhere. Now in its twelfth year, CONTACT 2008 has over 675 artists at 220 venues from May 1–31, making it the largest photography festival in the world—an entirely believable statistic if the amount of CONTACT shows being touted on Facebook Events is any indicator.
This year’s theme is Between Memory and History, which explores the complex relationships between photography and the human experience, between public and social histories. CONTACT aims to celebrate the art of photography and bring it to a wider audience: the festival is expected to draw over one million visitors this month.
Understandably, CONTACT’s epic calendar of events is rather daunting for your average photonoob, but fear not! Torontoist has your guide to the festival, from parties to gallery shows to public installations, behind the cut.

Photo by Trevor Haldenby from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
No arts festival is officially underway until there is an official public launch party. CONTACT 2008 kicks off at Brassaii (461 King Street West) on Friday, May 2 from 7 p.m.–12 a.m., with photoduo Alex vs. Alex playing paparazzi. The evening sounds suspiciously identical to the 2007 CONTACT launch (also held at Brassaii and photographed by Alex vs. Alex), but why change a good thing, right?
And since we’re on the subject, the opening at Brassaii is also the launch of Here. Now. You., a temporary and interactive installation by Torontoist staffer John Beebe. Beebe is setting up shop at five different locations around the city in his mobile portrait studio/gallery to photograph the faces of Toronto. After Brassaii, Beebe can be found at the Junction Opening Night Party (May 3, 4–9 p.m.), Dufferin Mall (May 9, 12–7 p.m.), Bay and Front Streets (May 15, 7 a.m.–2 p.m.), and finally, Strachan Avenue and Queen Street West (May 24, 1–8 p.m.).
CONTACT ground zero is the MOCCA, where the festival’s feature show is housed, with works by Raymonde April, Luc Delahaye, Nan Goldin, Adi Nes, Martin Parr, Chi Peng, Thomas Ruff, Alessandra Sanguinetti, and Bert Teunissen. Visitors will be greeted by a Robert Burley installation in the MOCCA courtyard, and can attend a free artist talk by Burley on Sunday, May 25 at 2 p.m.
Photo by Miles Storey.
Already the most talked about installation of the fest, Rodney Graham‘s Tree Portraits wrap around the pillars beneath the Gardiner Expressway, creating an inverted forest within a concrete jungle.
Also geared toward commuters is Contacting Toronto, exhibited on over 200 Onestop screens throughout the TTC. Contacting Toronto features works by 62 photographers: two per day for the month of May.
In 2007, Cheryl Sourkes had shows at the National Gallery in Ottawa and the Oakville Gallieries. At CONTACT, Peak Gallery (23 Morrow Avenue) is hosting Parking on Personal Webcams, a show that examines “how once private behaviour is repositioned through the internet.” The result is often rather risqué, as you would imagine.
Check out Peter Kingstone‘s 100 Stories About My Grandmother, at Gallery TPW (56 Ossington Avenue). In this four-channel video installation, presented in partnership with the Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival, male sex trade workers tell stories about their grandmothers.
Gun control is a hot issue in Hogtown nowadays. Gun Control at Brayham Contemporary Art (1270 Queen St East) may prove to be just as hot, with Toronto photographer Steven James Brown capturing the quiet beauty of disabled handguns.
Toni Hafkenscheid, Family on Beach, Kelowna, 2006. Image courtesy of Birch Libralato.
“If photography is a surrogate for memory, can you falsify memory by creating fake family snapshots?” In Confabulation at Birch Libralato (129 Tecumseth Street), Toni Hafkenscheid constructs fabricated childhood memories in idyllic landscapes.
There’s too much action to mention at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West), but we’ll try. In the first floor Art Bar, check out Henrieta Haniskova‘s I Am Elvis, a collection of portraits of impersonators at the 2007 Collingwood Elvis Festival. The second floor features Exposed, a smorgasbord of works by 38 photographers, and an exhibition by OCAD photography majors. On the third floor and fourth floors, the Gladstone features Angela Del Buono and Derek Shapton.
Down the street, the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West) serves as another hub of the festival, hosting exhibitions, installations, portfolio reviews, screenings, and lectures. It’s also the location of the CONTACT Wrap Party on Thursday, May 29, when the HP Viewer’s Choice Award will be announced. By then, nobody in Toronto will ever want to look at photography—at least, not so prolifically—for another year. Phew.
Special thanks to Gabrielle Moser for her wisdom and guidance.