Last summer, David Topping did something most people wouldn’t do willingly.The U of T student and Toronto native spent more than 300 hours – and his entire vacation – fulfilling a self-made mission to photograph all 69 of Toronto’s subway and rapid transit stations.He shot almost 10,000 images (digital, of course), got spit on (just once), got locked out (during a TTC strike) and was threatened with confiscation of his camera pending approval of a permit.
Topping, a second-year English student, has created a set of images that cast the overfamiliar stations in a new light.When you look at the photos, you don’t find yourself thinking of stale air, aggravating delays, zombie riders or mint green tiles. He manages to make even the ultra-drab hallway between the east-west and north-south portions of Spadina Station worth looking at.Topping’s lens seems to locate the beauty in the ordinary, homing in on overlooked design features, hidden bits of personality, colour and contrast in each station. His eye for formal composition projects a sense of a system – and a city – well-built and well-functioning.
During his travels,Topping discovered a cross-section of the city he’s lived in his whole life but knew little about – except for a well-worn path between Dundas West (where he grew up) and Bay (near his Victoria College residence).As part of his project, Topping left the subway stations and explored the adjacent neighbourhoods.“The areas you expect to be bad aren’t bad at all and the areas you expect to be good aren’t that good,” he says.
And while he swears the TTC isn’t paying him for the promo,he did have a tête-à-tête with TTC top boss Howard Moscoe who admitted that even he had not been to all 69 stations.
So which Toronto subway station, after so much dedicated study, is Topping’s favourite? Dundas West. It may not feature art or lots of natural light, but it’s home, he says. View Topping’s photos at his Flickr page.