Toronto Irish Famine Memorial

Toronto Irish Famine Memorial

It’s only taken two weeks, but I’ve finally uploaded enough of the photos from the chilly — nay, ARCTIC — shoot at the Toronto Irish Famine Memorial to write a post about it.

Toronto Irish Famine Memorial:

It was actually Neesa’s idea, but I was all for it. The site opened in June 2007, a few weeks after I moved out of the neighbourhood, and I had been meaning to pay a visit with my camera. There were three of us brave souls by the lake that Sunday, wrapped in several layers and bracing ourselves against the elements in the name of photography. I picked up the others at a designated spot east along the Quay and parked as close as we could get to the memorial. I’d read on various sites that the location is awkward, and it certainly is — squeezed in the green space between the malting silos (which have plenty of signage reminding you not to trespass) and the narrow channel separating the island airport from the lakefront.

The weather was too unfriendly for most people, but the saving grace was that we had the place to ourselves. The lack of people made the area all the more desolate in the cold winter landscape, which in my opinion made for better photos. I remember reading someone’s comment of the site being depressing, but I didn’t find it depressing, more sombre. It’s a reminder of a time when people died of hunger, after all. Ireland lost at least 20% of its population, and masses of people immigrated to other countries to survive.

Last week tens of thousands of Torontonians had a power outage that lasted for about 24 hours, but I’d venture to say most people didn’t expect to die from it, even though we rely heavily on electricity to get us through the winter. The Great Famine (1845-48? 52?) was well before central heating, microwaves, fleece and Gore-tex. We could barely last half an hour of shooting, I cannot imagine people trying to survive through a winter in 19th century Toronto (or York, as it was called then) with very little.


Toronto Irish Famine Memorial

View the whole set as [thumbnails] or a [full-screen slideshow] or view the smaller slideshow below: