Photos of a Modern Monolith
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Photos of a Modern Monolith

Swamp – Dundas, Ontario

Among the standard pieces of advice given to novice photographers is to avoid including power lines in the frame of their images. They are thought to be a thematic or aesthetic interruption from the intent of the photograph. During the past year, Toronto-based photographer Mark Kasumovic has done quite the opposite, following a course across southern Ontario that traces the path of the power lines.
With his large-format film camera, he looked down the vast hydro corridors, cutting through the landscape. He looked at the lumbering metal towers as they lurk in our spaces, cast shadows on our structures, and supply our endless need for power. Most intently, he looked at the relationship that we have developed with these bizarre constructions and the way that we interact with their presence. The result of his explorations is an exhibition titled “I Can Hear You Humming,” currently on display at the Toronto Image Works Gallery. The works put power lines centre stage, with our lives and activities in an interwoven supporting role.

Beach – Hamilton, Ontario

Kasumovic was drawn to the towers while working on another project in the Claireville Conservation Area in Brampton. It was in this quiet, natural setting that he was first struck by the contradiction of the landscape and the towering grid that ran through it—its hum speaking of the immense power being carried by the wires. This moment sparked his expedition down the hydro corridors.
We spoke with Kasumovic about his experience creating the project.
Torontoist: Does it surprise you that most people barely notice [the towers], despite their rather incredible appearance and weighty task?
Mark Kasumovic: I’m not necessarily surprised that people barely notice them; they are fairly repetitive and not much to look at most of the time. I’ve spoken to a lot of people that find them a nuisance and “ugly,” which is why people try to forget about them or generally ignore them, and for the most part I agree. For me, though, I find when they are arranged in a very particular way and at the right time of day, they can really look quite stunning. This is what inspired the more conceptual thinking about the hydro towers; this interaction between their symbolic arrangement and how meaningful they really are.

Suburbs – Toronto, Ontario

Have you encountered any surprises along the way as you studied the ways that we interact with these structures?
Absolutely! I think every one of the images that I’ve chosen for the exhibition was a surprise for me. I spent a lot of time tracing the power grid, and every once in a while I would stumble across a certain place where the power lines seemed to dominate the landscape and become so obvious and intrusive that they really symbolized the power that they represent. In that respect, I think this show is really about the surprises I found along the way.
For example, in Suburbs – Toronto, Ontario I really couldn’t believe just how close a giant power station was to the neighbourhood surrounding it. Of course, the hydro corridors were built some time before the suburbs, but it shocked me that they would build houses so close. It was funny exploring this neighbourhood. I really stuck out with a four-by-five camera, so many of the people living there would come out and tell me how unconcerned they were about it without even being asked. The owner of the house in the photograph, however, told me that he had tried to sell his home several times with no luck. I guess times have changed in that regard as a lot of people, myself included, would rather not live quite that close to them.

Silhouette – Etobicoke, Ontario

No matter what your personal perspective on these structures—whether you’ve never really thought about them, or have lived next door—they are a great unifier across our landscape. They go everywhere we do, because we like what they provide. Their corridors chart great green highways that blaze through cities and the spaces between, creating a continuous natural clearing. Our relationship with them is unsettled and evolving. For some neighbourhoods, it’s the only green space they may have. Some people heed the possible threats from the invisible magnetic fields. Kasumovic’s impressive series is in some ways a depiction of a perpetual negotiation, as we determine our shifting acceptance of this dramatic infrastructure and the space it creates.
“I Can Hear You Humming” runs until January 30.
All images courtesy of the artist.