Morning Drop - Issue #21
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In honour of the 3rd International Conference on Photography and Education taking place in Paris this week, Morning Drop interviewed Fabio Pais, a Toronto-based landscape photographer, on his collection, On the Line.
On the Line commemorates 100 years of TTC by bringing 75 of Toronto’s best photographers together in an effort to create a digital art piece to pay tribute to the century.
Fabio, we’re really eager to learn more about On the Line: A Toronto NFT Project. But first off, can you talk a little about your background and how you came into the NFT space?
I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and after spending 9 years working in sports marketing, I felt the need to challenge myself creatively so I decided to step out of my comfort zone. My partner and I both resigned from our jobs and moved across the world to Toronto and started new careers that we were passionate about, for me that was photography. As I began to navigate my way through this new world I had found myself in, I quickly realized that nearly every photographer had a very similar business model, ie selling prints, taking bookings etc. and I was focussed on being different and standing out.
By this stage I had long been involved in the crypto market and quickly saw the opportunity that NFTs could bring for a creator in this developing space. For once, photographers were able to showcase their work to collectors across the world and sell them! They were able to see how their artworks travelled the globe from collector to collector and received fair compensation for this work. The whole ecosystem made sense to me and I decided to focus my time on learning about NFTs and trying my best to educate and inform those around me.
On your website you describe On The Line as a collaborative photography project, and to me, it’s quite breathtaking to see the number of photographers that you’ve brought in to be a part of this collection.
How did On The Line get started, and what’s the impulse behind your wanting to showcase photographers in Toronto?
You are quite right, sometimes it takes my breath away when I realize what a crazy idea this was!
When it comes to creating an artwork or a collection, I feel there needs to be more purpose than just to make a sale or get recognition. I want my artworks or my collections to make an impact and ultimately leave a lasting impression. So when I started thinking about how to create a unique NFT collection, in Toronto, that would leave an impact on the city and on the community, I knew I couldn’t do it alone.
My goal with the collection is to tell one cohesive story even though there are 75 different story tellers. Very few people connect with the city in the same way a photographer does, from the alley ways to the rooftops, each has their own unique connection to the city. Additionally, every photographer has their own way of conveying moods and messages through their images, using various techniques or mediums. I wanted this collection to illustrate these 75 unique perspectives, all while telling the story of how we, as photographers, connect with our city.
This project was always focussed on giving back to the community and helping to educate and inform young creators that are looking to get involved in the NFT art space. Showcasing photographers that so many young creators aspire to, has given us the opportunity to start engaging with them in conversation about blockchain technology as well as teach them about the opportunities NFTs may bring.
Using this collective voice, spanning the entire city, I hope this project is able to leave a lasting impact on the NFT Community and the art space in Toronto all while inspiring young artists to follow their creative passion.
How did you set out to organize such a huge undertaking, and how did you decide what photographers you wanted to include in this collection?
To kick things off I reached out to a large group of photographers that I had been inspired by since I had moved to Toronto. A few of them got back to me and I was able to start the discussion with them about collaborating alongside these other artists.
I wanted to make sure the collection achieved two main goals when it came to deciding which photographers to include, the first was that everybody and anybody was able to be involved. In the traditional art space there are several barriers to entry for amateur/inexperienced photographers. I feel that with NFTs we are able to alleviate several of those obstacles and therefore wanted to make sure the collection was open to anybody that wanted to take part, regardless of their skill level.
The second was to ensure that they contributed to the creative community in the city. As this is a community project, it was important to me that everyone was on the same page and we all had the same mind set. I didn’t want photographers that were focussed on making sales or getting recognition, I wanted photographers that were driven to make an impact on the community by using their work as a platform to inspire others to do the same.
As a showcase of Toronto photographers this project seems to create a really interesting and beautiful portrait of the city. Can you talk about how you settled on the theme for this project and what you hope audiences from outside the city take away from these images?
When I was trying to decide what theme I could use to tell one cohesive story, I kept coming back to the idea of connection. I wanted to illustrate the connection between a photographer and their city. All 75 artists on the project are all driven by the same passion, which is photography and all of them are connected by the city that they live in. I wanted to bring those two stories of connection together and create a powerful narrative which others can relate to, especially those living here.
Using the subway line, which represents for many a root or a pulse running throughout the city, helped connect all these different stories together and ultimately let each artist find their own place On The Line.
Having all these talented artists, capturing their own distinctive perspectives, meant that we could illustrate to audiences across the world how each photographer’s point of view is so special and unique. Even though everyone was given the same brief and faced with a similar subject matter, you still see this incredibly diverse collection of images, all telling their own story of connection.
Now that On The Line is up and running, what’s coming up next for you?
That’s a great question! 😁 My focus will definitely shift to my own work for the near future. I have absolutely loved collaborating and learning from so many artists during the curation process of ‘On The Line’, but I felt that it was time for me to push my own creative limits and focus on developing my skills as a photographer. I am currently planning a month long road trip in which myself and a friend will travel across the whole of Canada with the goal of sharing some incredible stories from people all over the country. My friend, who has a Masters in journalism, will be documenting the entire journey and together we will capture and share these stories, including our own story. The images from the trip will be put on sale as part of an NFT collection and any collector who purchases one of the artworks will receive a photo book with all the images and stories from the trip.
I’m very excited to step out of my traditional photography assignments to go on an adventure such as this. I have been planning this for several years now and felt that it’s something I NEED to experience while on this photography journey.
Even though my focus will be on my own work, ‘On The Line’ and its community will still be a very important part to the growth of the NFT space in Toronto. I will still be putting together collections, such as this one, in which artists collaborate together to produce a body of work that speaks to the community. These collaborations will be smaller and more in depth going forward, giving us the opportunity to really dive deeper into each artist’s work and ultimately grow our digital footprint within the city.
This is a photograph shot from the front entrance of Union Station. One of the few remaining pieces of Beaux-Art architecture in the city. Over the last century, Union Station has welcomed waves of immigrants to Toronto, survived major fires, and has endured many years of wear and tear. It’s this connection to the past which inspired me to create an image that feels timeless.
Sign missing from the main entrance, litter blowing in the wind, with a City of Toronto pylon propping the door open—at first glance, Sherbourne station is a downtrodden landmark. An artifact of Toronto’s income disparity, the station carries deep and contested histories of immigration, urban renewal, under-resourcing, and displacement. And yet the area is also one of the most colourful, vibrant instances of diasporic culture and family life. Within the adjacent St. James Town neighbourhood, kids can be heard laughing; countless languages are exchanged between friends, and community members of all ages gather outside by the fruit market in the summertime.
Looking beyond its dusty facade and unsavoury associations, this photo asks the viewer to reconsider Sherbourne station and its hidden virtues. The city’s overlooked constituents are always more than they seem, if you take the time to look a little closer and give underestimated futures a bit of faith.
This collaboration was quite an interesting personal challenge. Having to photograph something that many typically experience daily really made me look closer at the human element.
Visualize the veins of a transit system. Running through the body that is Toronto. The heartbeat of the city. Each place and person all oddly connected in one way or another.
We are poetry in motion.
Each with our own story to tell.
Jane Station is the station I frequent twice daily on my way to and from work. During those times I rarely lift my head to look at anyone else in the station. With that in mind, I realized that most others are doing the same on their daily commute. Most people, myself included, are simply going about their business in an anonymous fashion – the only commonality between us is this shared use of the transit service.
Whilst a few of these faces in the crowd may become familiar over time, and we may see the same people often enough to acknowledge them in some way - these people will remain Jane (or John) Does to us. When I captured this image, these exact thoughts were at the forefront of my mind. I found myself wondering as to the identity of this particular Jane Doe and what her story is.
I’ve commuted through Islington station for years. I thought about all that time and energy that was extended each day to wait, get the train, go to work and wanted to represent the latent energy that I left at that station and will continue to leave there for years to come.
The world is our playground. Even places that seem off limits should be explored with curiosity and playfulness. I wanted to try something different, something a little daring but with a sense of beauty and elegance. That’s what I try to depict when photographing Toronto. By pushing myself and with the help of some amazingly creative people I was able to create a shot that wasn’t planned, choreographed or even thought through. It came from the soul, the pit of my creativity.
That said, this shot would be nothing without my partner. She is the driving force behind so many of my pieces. I found new inspiration the day I met her and it has carried through all these years getting stronger.
Downsview Park station is one of Toronto’s newest subway stations. It’s a modern building surrounded by an abundance of nature - something that this city is known for. We need nature in our communities to thrive and this station exemplifies that.
This image highlights the unique architecture while capturing the beautiful natural light that flows into its open space and taken over by the resident pigeons - all of the which makes Toronto so beautiful.
This photograph is a diary entry. When I think of commuting in the city, I think about the transformative process we enter. As soon as we enter the doors of that subway station, that streetcar, that train, we participate in a collective space of waiting. Trusting that we will eventually reach our intended destination.
I think of the Polaroid as a similar process. A tool with an automated function that we trust will deliver an expected result. From shooting the image to developing it, we place our trust in the transformative process of these cameras, similarly to how we place our trust in transit.
On the Line was released on OpenSea on November 1st, as a set of 75 1/1 NFTs priced at 0.25ETH. As a project focused on social good, 20% of the proceeds from the collection are to be donated to a local charity supporting arts and creative programs for youth.
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