Toronto. Far from the east side, miles from the west side, nowhere near the south side. We are the north side, a territory all our own. When you think of Toronto, what comes to mind? If you immediately thought of the city’s iconic skyline, you’re not alone.
But beyond the jagged skyline we know and love, is home. Home to 6 million people, and 6 million different perspectives. We caught up with Toronto street photographer, Taha, to take us behind the lens and into the soul of the city, from his perspective. Below he shares his thoughts on some of our favourite photos of his and gives insight into his process.
This is Toronto beyond the skyline. This is home.
I loved how stylish her outfit was. So classy. It made me think, ‘always put your best foot forward, Taha‘. Her facial expression may come across as serious to some but a few seconds after this her ride came up and she was all smiles.
Back to school vibes! I could hear him coming down the street on his skateboard so I quickly looked for open space. I didn’t want him to be cluttered in the composition. He was big and small at the same time. It felt like a coming-of-age moment.
Taha started shooting five years ago, before Instagram hit the masses. Having spent his whole life in Toronto, Taha made the move to several other big cities before realizing that Toronto was home. The move back sparked his love for street photography: “I developed this newfound appreciation and love for the city. It took a simple subway ride or a walk down the street to see how we were special and different from other cities. That’s when I picked up my phone to start officially documenting it – places, people, everything.”
This moment brought me back to my childhood. Classic. I love the little detail of the man’s hat. This is his profession.
Sunrise on King St. is always special. I saw the streetcar approaching a red light which gave me time to walk in front of it and capture the moment.
With a city so diverse, the perspectives are endless. In talking about subject matter, Taha says, “I try and find at least one defining characteristic in a subject that makes it soulful and unique.”
It was a windy day so anything that was flowing, I was documenting. Hard to believe but for about 30 seconds Nathan Philip Square felt empty. Harsh midday light inspired the black and white edit.
I just loved the sneaker’s silhouette against the backdrop of architecture and cloudy skies. Old shoes hanging on a wire has many meanings. When I was growing up hanging shoes meant that someone in your neighbourhood had passed away. To some, it meant there were drug houses nearby or particular gang affiliations.
Taha finds beauty in the endless ways of documenting the city, but it’s all about feeling the moment. “Ultimately if I feel connected to the moment, I shoot it. Feeling ‘connected’ to a moment is hard to describe and teach someone. It’s really an internal thing and driven by one’s own experience and emotions.”
While passing in a cab on Queen St. I found it interesting that three people all looking in the same direction, curious about the same had no interaction with each other.
Lake Ontario on a windy, summer day. The seagulls were hovering around the shore looking for small fish so I just kept snapping away.
Taha’s lens is constantly seeking out that one defining characteristic that makes a subject unique: “it could be someone’s funky red reading glasses, or finding a colourful umbrella among a sea of dark ones,” he tells us.
Capturing life in real time– this is what I love about the streets. This man may look stressed but it was really, really hot that day. I believe he was just wiping sweat from his brow and trying to keep cool. The lines of his face tell many stories.
A moment of anticipation. I waited about 10 extra minutes for the all the trains going in the opposite direction to clear. The greenery surrounding the tracks was a subtle reminder of Mother Nature’s presence and power.
While Taha’s got a keen eye for soulful street photography, not all talent comes from within. Learning from and being inspired by others is key. In talking about Toronto talent, Taha says he’s “inspired by the new generation of Torontonian artists. They are expressive and confident in their ideas. They want to showcase Toronto to the rest of the world through design or music.”
Colour pop. It felt like a drop of old Europe in the distance. This alley has told countless stories in my feed over the years, I love revisiting it and seeing how it has changed and can change with different subjects.
It’s rare to see mounted police these days. I got down low to capture the building in the background. It really felt like I was visiting another era like when they started the horse unit in Toronto in the late 1800s.
Taha views the thriving photography scene in Toronto as a sort of renaissance that he is proud to be a part of. “It took leaving to realize how important Toronto is to me… Being a part of this emergence is really inspiring.”
Looking back at this image now instantly takes me back to winter ’16. It was bitterly cold that day but it rained the night before so I was looking for puddles with stories. Sometimes it’s so cold in the city that I don’t want to get down low to get “the shot”, so my compromise that day was to stay for only 30 seconds, snap and go. I’m thankful for the way it turned out.
A piece of old “Canadiana” aka Hudson’s Bay colour-way that usually makes an appearance on rainy days in Toronto. I saw the boots from afar and was hoping she would walk close to the glass windows. I was lucky.
A lot of photographers strive for perfection. When we asked Taha what he considers the perfect photo, he said, “the perfect photo doesn’t really exist to me.” It’s all about grasping a specific moment. “The photos that mean the most to me are those that capture the everyday. It’s candid, raw, has no special effects and requires great timing.”
It was so slushy out and very cold but I was drawn to that corner because I loved the symmetry and low angle. I guess I was hoping for a pop of colour to make the corner come alive. Cue the cabbie that was about to run a red light which in turn left him in the middle of the intersection.
I just missed two different people walking up the steps which looked pretty cool. I walked back down those steps to shoot from the bottom step again when I briefly turned around and saw someone walking through the frame, so I snapped it. Her not being perfectly centred in frame made for a nice moment.
I loved how the trees were hovering over the street. The warm, orange line and cross-walk sign perfectly captured the feeling– a cozy fall morning, fresh autumn smell, spirit of change in the air.
A real moment of reflection. I find a lot of thinking happens when you sit on a stoop!
Want to see more? Follow Taha on Instagram for your daily dose of Toronto soul.