Between the late 1940s to the 1980s, Toronto, Canada, experienced a high rate of growth and development, resulting in a wealth of modernist-style buildings. Due to an increasing population, parishes were also outgrowing their spaces and found themselves in need of new facilities. Consequently, many well-designed modernist churches began to pop up throughout Toronto. This black and white photography series, titled Fifty/50 by Amanda Large, is an ode to these churches, and a celebration of their enduring importance to the city more than fifty years after their construction.
Modernist architecture is known for its pared-down material palette, clean lines, and elegant details. The manner in which these churches are photographed, displayed in the vignette format, and processed in black and white is a direct nod to the fine art and commercial photography of the mid-century.
The series also challenges some tropes that are prevalent in architectural photography. The photographs are purposefully taken almost exclusively in winter and often in inclement weather, to leave blemishes and damage to the buildings without retouching, and to include wires, signs, and other trappings of urban sites in the frame, rather than digitally removing them in post-production- revealing how they frequently look and relate to their surroundings. Large states:
My creative practice is centred around making evocative images that go beyond a straight documentation of buildings. How can a photograph - or a series of vignettes - tell the story of spaces and structures?
Fifty/50 also provides commentary into the rising costs of maintaining parish buildings as church attendance and donations are dwindling. Toronto is in a housing crisis, and low-rise modernist buildings are frequently demolished to make way for new development. While it is somewhat rigorous to convert older, more stately churches into lofts, the same cannot be said of their modernist counterparts. Beyond documenting a largely ignored subset of modernist architecture, and creating compelling imagery in its own right, Fifty/50 also raises questions about preservation and architectural legacy in Toronto.
For more information about Fifty/50 and to view the modernist church photographs in this collection, visit Doublespace Photography.