Living in Canada’s largest city has its perks; you never run out of things to do. But in addition to the tourist zones which can feel generic, are Toronto’s neighbourhoods. These areas have so much more to offer than plain houses and corner stores. What I love about this city is its ability to transform itself in the space of a few blocks. One minute you’re walking across the grandiose space of the University of Toronto with its tall, historic academic buildings, and next you’re in the high-end area of Yorkville where a Ferrari is as innocuous as a mailbox.
I resolved to explore each neighbourhood when I moved here in 2019. At first, it was to figure out where I wanted to get an apartment. We have the right to be emotional about where we want to live because our homes and their surroundings are our places of sanctuary, where we come to rest, recharge and spend time with loved ones.
Soon though, I realized that rental prices and my income determined where I lived. For those of you who don’t know, Toronto not only has one of the most expensive housing markets in the world, but also one of the fastest rising when it comes to price, and low supply and high demand for any type of dwelling: semi-attached homes, detached homes, condos, apartments, and everything in between. It can be so cost-prohibitive that it’s not uncommon for people to rent dens.
I settled slightly east of downtown–Old Town Toronto, which I’ll probably do another photo walk for– which meant I was able to access a lot of neighbourhoods by public transit. And this is when the magic began because I was close to lots of places I wanted to explore.
Trekking on a Beautiful Day
I decided to visit Kensington Market for one of my weekly artist dates. Kensington Market is a hub of eclectic energy. It’s smack in the middle of the city, mostly untouched by growing corporate interests due to its strong grass-roots community that wants to preserve its authenticity and affordability. Aside from a Krispy Kreme on one of its border streets, small businesses are the majority. It’s got a bohemian feel, restaurants that serve food from many corners of the globe, and fusion cuisines. There is a place called Rasta-Pasta, which serves Jamaican-Italian food. And let me tell you, it’s done right.
My intent to visit Kensington Market was to take photos. I am an insecure photographer; not in a wanna-be Patrick Demachelier sense; I really do suck as a photog, even for an amateur snapper. My images have poor composition (something is always cut off!), lighting is awkward, and I can never get angles right. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog, so when I can’t find an image on the stock-free sites, I could take my own. And practice makes progress right?
I ventured on a beautiful fall Wednesday afternoon right after work. We had a lot of sunshine that day, it wasn’t cold or windy, and everyone was happy the weather was still warm, considering how far we were into the autumn season already.
I wasn’t sure what kind of photos I wanted to take; I love observing people, and I managed to find a few noticeable characters who made me look twice because of how they dressed, and particularly the company they kept. There was a man in his late thirties with a long ponytail and short shorts hanging out with an older gentleman in his seventies. I saw a Jamaican woman with a Chinese student who was probably ten years her junior (not romantic per se, they were just chatting, exchanging casual information), and a girl in her twenties wearing a pearl necklace in kitten heels with a skater boy. These were likes that definitely did not attract like.
My Photo Walk: Kensington Market
I started taking photos of people because that seemed to make the most sense–we humans are fluid and constantly do unusual things that make a flaneur like myself very curious.
But as the sunny evening wore on, I noticed people no longer interested me, which I found surprising. With my artist dates, I noticed that my intentions can and usually always change, because I’m following a curated whim, which isn’t necessarily in line with a goal.
I took photos of buildings, which were a hodgepodge of shapes, colours, and sizes, and then of the afternoon sun as it shined against trees, streets, and cars.
I ventured on the side streets, and snapped appealing objects in my way. And pretty soon, after about twenty to twenty-five minutes, I noticed I was taking photos of…chairs.
The chairs, which came in all shapes and sizes. The chairs– particularly the outdoor chairs– which were crucial to keeping eating establishments in business. Outdoor dining was the only way to serve customers due to the pandemic. The chairs, specifically the Ikea patio chairs, which were repurposed in colours and styles to suit a restaurant’s motif.
I took photos of the street art, which had no overlying theme, like many street art hubs around the world. There was an image of an egg cartoon and only a few blocks away, I photographed a mural representing Italian landmarks: the Colosseo, leaning tower of Pisa, and a vespa as seen below. It was next to a gelato place. Makes sense.
Soon, I got peckish. The sun was setting fast and I didn’t want to lose the sunset light, which is my favourite kind. So I didn’t commit to a meal. Instead, I bought a lavish snack; fresh hot churros from Pancho’s Bakery, which is at the core of Kensington. With its’ dulce de leche filling and soft-on-the-inside-slightly-crunchy–on-the-outside fried dough I devoured it. Seriously, go there.
Considering Doing a Photo Walk?
Kensington Market is shabby chic. It’s rough around the edges but maintains its’ own identity, or to be precise, its’ identity of diversity. With this photo walk, I’m pretty sure I only managed to capture very little compared to what it had to offer. Maybe I’ll venture again soon. The insides of shops seem appealing.
Are you thinking of doing a photo walk? Some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you like to walk randomly in a (new) neighbourhood and get lost?
- Are you short on cash and want to do something new for free?
- Are you unsure of what you’re looking for and willing to just take snaps of random things that appeal to you?
- Do you have a fairly decent camera phone? I’m intimidated by those fancy DSLRs and just used my built-in camera phone. It was more than enough since I’m an amateur, and when my photos sucked: FILTERS! Technology is forgiving.