When I first moved to Toronto and began studying the city as my subject I was focused on geometry. But I was disappointed with the results. I struggled to find a way in – a way to decipher what I was feeling about living here. The geometry was cool but it wasn’t getting to the root of my emotion.
While working at CityTV and attending school in 1998, my perspective of the city changed from geometry to motion. It had something to do with my exploration of video combined with a fuller understanding of Photoshop and colour control. These influences infiltrated my study of the city and quietly shifted my focus from geometry to motion.
When photographing, I seek order from chaos. I view the movements of all things as patterned and am drawn to the larger patterns that appear when the movement of many things intersect. I consider these intersections a form of order and when I say chaos I’m actually speaking about the scale and frequency of the movement – like the fluctuating number of vehicles at a traffic light. The movement of larger things in a city seem chaotic on a smaller scale – like in the camera frame.
I seek the order that arises spontaneously and instantaneously from this apparently chaotic dance – like a choreographed Fosse move that will momentarily appear and then evaporate back into noise.
These images ponder the shape of the city and how best to portray it, not just the static Euclidean geometry of the space but the passage through it – some combination of the shape and the experience of it. If I could I would include the tactile and aural elements too, but for now just the visual.
I’ve been asked if I’m making images at random. While there is an element of randomness, shooting randomly wouldn’t be as satisfying as what I actually do. There is definite purpose behind each image, but because of the method, there’s only a small number of successful source images and an even smaller number completed into a final image.
The city is a complicated place – at any time there is much activity and movement. There is a different harmony occurring in the city – an interaction between natural elements and human elements. Contrast this with a forest or lake. The interaction there is between natural elements and the earth. The human elements are not self-sustaining in the city – it’s a human construct reliant on continuous intervention. From a long perspective the city is a form of dance.
I first began a project about the city while driving at dusk. I found the best images came right at the end of rainstorms when everything is glassy smooth and reflective with water. Because it was dusk I was shooting with long exposure times – sometimes several seconds and because I was driving and hand holding my camera every light in the image made squiggly lines. This project became Metro Motion.
Later I began thinking how to simplify the visual environment of the city into it’s component shapes and colour. It occurred to me to shoot out of focus – which became Coloured City. I specifically chose to photograph in daylight as an antithesis to the night work I had done with Metro Motion. Again, driving but this time no visible motion in the images – but driving did increase the frequency of subject matter.
For Light Signatures, I had a vision of lateral coloured streaks running diagonally across the frame, capturing the induced motion of my passage through the city. I used a fusion of methods from Metro Motion and Coloured City – this time I rode my bicycle which slowed the pace of change, giving more opportunity to capture the material. I know this driving and biking while shooting makes me sound like a madman, but I’m not – well maybe – the process is more controlled than it seems.
All Photographs Are © William Oldacre
William Oldacre Photographer Bio
William Oldacre is a Canadian photographer living in Toronto. He has exhibited several bodies of photographs themed around the emotion and dynamic of urban living and recently presented a three channel video installation called Airfish as part of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche all night contemporary art event. His photographs have been published internationally and can be found in private collections in North America and Europe.
Blog / Website: William Oldacre Photography