‘As it really is’: Representation, obscurity and visual cultures of creative space in Toronto

Authors: Loren March*, University of Toronto
Topics: Cultural Geography, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: vernacular photography; visual culture; Creative City; spatial production; placemaking
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the visual culture surrounding the Creative City, creative entrepreneurship, and art in Toronto. If the image is a central site of communication and meaning-making (Rose, 2014), how does its deployment influence what we think of as creative space, and who we think of as creative? Can the image itself be used to complicate our understandings of creative place? This paper draws upon ethnographic research conducted within Toronto’s largely invisible geography of DIY creative workspaces – studios which are self-made for purposes of creative work. This study of urban placemaking and the production of creative space explores the role of the DIY workspace as a crucial form of creative space in the city that offers creative practitioners a level of spatial stability in the face of gentrification, development and upscaling across the downtown. While they have become essential elements of the Creative City, these spaces essentially constitute ‘non-places’ (Lehrer, 2006; Zukin, 1991) within its more spectacular landscape of formalized, purposive creative space. An exploration of the visual culture surrounding creative workspace, and the role of its image in professional identity and creative practice, reveals how these important spaces exist in a gray area between visible and invisible, private and public, and real and imagined. The paper discusses vernacular photography as a methodological tool in this work, useful in complicating narratives about and understandings of creative space, revealing visual culture as a central aspect of cultural production and placemaking, and uncovering otherwise unapparent contradictions and tensions in everyday life.

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