Bart, Underpass Park, Toronto                 

City of Toronto

The World Upside Down

Words & Photography by Daniel Skwarna

One evening late in February, as coronavirus began to flood our news cycle, I sat browsing Japanese Ebay ads. I was looking for a used large format film camera (ideally a mid-century field model I could carry around). I hoped its weight and technique might help to slow myphotographic practice, making it a more immersive, meditative experience. I also hoped to challenge and confront my traditional digital approach and foster a new mode of seeing, working in, and engaging the world during an unprecedented health crisis.

A late model Toyo 45A field camera shipped from Japan in early March, right before Toronto shut down. It proved a prescient choice and fitting partner to wander our increasingly deserted streets with. It also turned my world upside down.

The large format camera lacks a conventional SLR camera mirror. I see people and places upside down and backward, a deeply unsettling experience if you prefer life ordered and predictable. Without a Toronto-based lab to develop the film it had to be shipped to Vancouver. Much of my CERB support went to pay for this.

I was shooting blindly (but still upside down and backward), with no idea if the camera was capturing faithfully, or at all. Most often I was not able to see my negatives for weeks as our overwhelmed postal service stopped tracking packages, leaving my film floating somewhere over western Canada.

Ana-Laura & Peter, Etobicoke