Documentary photographer Colin Boyd Shafer’s book Cosmopolis Toronto: The World in One City is a collection of photo stories about 195 people who have immigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto. Their portraits are accompanied by brief commentaries. But most poignant are the smaller photos which display each subject’s most treasured object, a memento which still ties them to their past and their origins.
Boyd Shafer’s portraits are candid but accessible and certainly illustrate the diversity of our city’s people and locales. With so many people represented, the photographer chose well to keep the texts brief: while lengthy bios would likely have been fascinating, he keeps the pace of the book clicking, so that it’s an excellent coffee table book and it echoes the mood of our ever-changing city.
And I do use the term ‘coffee table book’ as a compliment. In our harried urban lifestyle, it can be rare to have a moment to even sit down on a couch in front of a coffee table with free time. When we do, isn’t it a luxurious feeling to flip languorously through a beautiful book that is enlightening but not demanding? Larger-format picture books force us to turn the pages more slowly and thus to take in the contents with more attention and time. Everything in this book, down to the type and map outlines, makes our encounter streamlined and focussed.
I’d recommend Cosmopolis Toronto as a great gift: for yourself as a Toronto resident; for the bibliophile who seems to have every book you can think of; or perhaps most thoughtfully for a newcomer to Toronto, whether they’ve moved here from Fort MacMurray or France. You can learn more about the project of “Photographing the world, one Torontonian at a time” at http://cosmopolistoronto.com/