After Vera Belazelkoska (MA 2013) fled civil unrest in her birth country, Macedonia, in 2001, she moved several times before she found a place where she felt welcome and comfortable.
“Having lived in a number of cities, I was surprised by how welcomed I felt as a newcomer in Toronto,” says the 27-year-old, who arrived in 2012. “Over half of my class at U of T were from other countries, so I didn’t have the sense that my immigrant status overshadowed my experiences and skills.” When she heard about Cosmopolis Toronto, a one-year project launched last summer that aimed to photograph one immigrant from every country of the world living in Toronto, she wanted to be part of it.
Today Belazelkoska is one of more than 185 people – including about a dozen U of T alumni, students and staff – whose portraits and stories make up the project’s website (cosmopolistoronto.com), travelling exhibitions and an upcoming photo book. Photographer Colin Boyd Shafer used social media and crowdfunding – along with a team of dedicated volunteers – to create his unique vision of Toronto’s diversity, one face at a time.
Each participant appears in two photos: one in a Greater Toronto Area location where they feel at home, and one where they hold an object from their homeland. Many of the U of T participants chose to have their portraits taken on the St. George campus.
“Cosmopolis reflects my positive experience living in Toronto and attending U of T,” says Belazelkoska. “Nobody really stands out here, because everybody stands out at the same time.”
Slideshow: view some of the U of T community members who participated in Cosmopolis:
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