Friday, November 28, 2014

Who are they?

THIS MAN IS STANDING IN FRONT OF A PIECE OF HISTORY. Thanks to my increasingly minimal negative filing in the second decade of my photography career, that's about all I can tell you about this photo, apart from it being shot some time in the 1990s for NOW magazine.

The Funland pinball and video arcade is gone now, closed in the summer of 2008, its iconic sign removed from the dubious stretch of Yonge Street where it had stood for as long as I could remember. The man in question - a developer? an activist? head of the BIA? - posed for me up and down Yonge within a half block of the sign, and while I tried out a few locations over the course of the roll, this shot, which only catches a fraction of the sign, would have been enough to signify the place for anyone who grew up here.

Funland, like a lot of Yonge Street between Dundas and Bloor streets, was a tacky, low-rent place, only slightly more palatable than the peep shows and porn shops and a lot less beloved than Sam's, the venerable record store across the street from the arcade, which closed down one year before Funland. It had survived disapproving laws and the general distaste for Yonge Street's abiding appeal from the forces of public rectitude, but it wouldn't survive the hunger for redevelopment that long ago replaced Protestant moral righteousness as my hometown's spiritual fuel.

It's a serviceable bit of editorial work, as much a piece of illustration as portraiture, but I'll bet you that if you put five photographers on this stretch of Yonge with the same subject at the same time, four of them would have produced a shot like this.


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