Larry Towell: Union Station

Toronto’s building boom exceeds that of any city in North America. Union Station, the city’s vintage transportation hub originally built in 1927, continues to be used uninterruptedly by more than a quarter million commuters daily, despite its one-billion-dollar renovation to accommodate a burgeoning urban growth. Revitalization includes a glass atrium above the train shed, a dig down four metres below current level, retail expansion, and extended train concourses. Begun in 2009, completion of the project is now scheduled for 2018.

In 2013 Towell started documenting the transformation of this major heritage site as well as its commuters in the shifting public space. Having received permission to go behind the scenes, Towell captured the historic infrastructural changes over the course of two years. Up to 900 tonnes of earth were being removed by nearly 450 trucks nightly, and over 440 structural columns were being extended to expand the station’s depth. During the same time, the daily procession of trains persisted and pedestrians passed safely overhead, largely unaware of the complex feat of engineering that was taking place beneath them.

Photographing in both black-and-white and colour, and using 35mm and panoramic formats, Towell’s photographs reveal what hoardings typically conceal. From the depths of the dig far below the building, to the historic heights of the Great Hall, Towell documents a fleeting yet significant moment of transition in Toronto’s history.

Larry Towell is the first Canadian born member of the prestigious Magnum Photos Agency, whose photographers bridge the divide between journalism and art, and between the objective statement and the personal point of view. Towell’s work is exhibited and collected around the world. He is the author of 12 books, most recently including the critically acclaimed Afghanistan (Aperture, 2014); and The World from My Front Porch (Archive of Modern Conflict / Bulger Gallery Press, 2008). Towell is also the author of four original music albums and two films, including Indecisive Moments which won a 2008 Achievement in Filmmaking Award at the New York Independent Film and Video Festival. He is the recipient of numerous awards including World Press Photo of the Year, Pictures of the Year International, Henri Cartier-Bresson Award, W. Eugene Smith Foundation Award, Oskar Barnak Award, Ernst Haas Award, Roloff Beny Award, Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, and a Hasselblad Award.