Finding the mystery in the mundane through “Life & Shadow”

Walking through Toronto’s financial district, you might see boring buildings and angry businessmen in suits and ties. To most, this might seem uninteresting and mundane. For Ryerson photography student, Dylan McArthur, this was a three-year fascination that culminated into his very first solo exhibit, Life & Shadow.

The opening night of the exhibit was held at Ryerson Artspace last Thursday.  It featured just 15 of the approximated thousands of photos McArthur had taken throughout the three years.

According to the fourth-year student, when taking the photos of the financial district he “found the mundane quite mysterious, the shadows profound, and light revelatory.”

The small viewing room was filled with McArthur’s friends, family and strangers, all greeting and speaking to the artist as he made his way around the room. “I can see it as a demonstration to how he’s progressed as a photographer,” said Simeon Merrson, a friend of the photographer.

McArthur wanted to show how buildings change with the shadows over the day. To illustrate  this he’d only take photos when it was sunny out and he stumbled upon his style by having an incorrect setting on his camera. The results are stark images consisting primarily of shadows casting upon the Toronto landscape.  

McArthur was infatuated with the light and buildings in the financial district . “In the suburbs, for example, you don’t have these buildings that drastically change the landscape as much as the financial district,” said McArthur. The district, McArthur cited, is also a hub for the entire city of Toronto. McArthur said that during rush hours you’ll see different people from different walks of life.

The goal McArthur had for the exhibit was to convey a message to his audience. “Art is about looking at the world from my perspective and hopefully someone can take something away from it,” said McArthur.

McArthur found his passion for photography while studying abroad in Italy during his senior year of high school. He brought a camera as a tourist and started shooting photos. He always dabbled in different art forms such as music, but always noticed a stopping point where he felt he wasn’t progressing. Photography was different. During the time in Italy, McArthur noticed a progression and decided to continue photography during his year off. He then applied and got into Ryerson.

After the exhibit, which runs until April 3, McArthur would like to do more, but also doesn’t care for the fame or glory that might come with it. To him it isn’t about making money. The simple act of spending three hours on the street and shooting with his camera is most important. Everything else that comes after is secondary.  

Images courtesy of Dylan McArthur