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The photographs in this book are the result of a project I undertook almost two years ago to photograph the Portlands area of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This small area lies along the eastern end of Toronto’s central waterfront. It is both close to the city, and the vibrant neighbourhoods to the immediate north of it, and remarkably cut off from them.

The resulting images include both studies of individual places and items within the Portlands as well as topologies – studies of the space itself. Much of the work was carried out at night when the industrial landscapes are illuminated by their own artificial light.

The entire set of images from the project can be viewed online at select "Galleries" and then "Studies – Portlands".


The following passage is excerpted from the introductory essay by Fred Goldsmith.

“The images Ian Cox-Leigh presents are compelling and beautiful yet they allow the viewer significant latitude in forming a point of view and perspective. There is a technical mastery to this series of urban landscapes and architectural studies, one that so vividly displays the interaction between subject and environment. Angles are formed by wood and steel, road and street, roof and wall, coloured by surrounding light and reflection. An otherwise foreboding industrial neighbourhood with smokestacks towering above and fences preventing trespassers below is transformed into an invitation to explore, to accept, and to see anew. The viewer stands at a crossroads and becomes a guest of the Portlands. Ian is aware of the political and cultural quagmires surrounding the lands and structures seen here. Despite strong feelings and controversies over usage and purpose, this pictorial essay seems to allow the viewer not only to look but to gaze . . . to stand in the photographer’s shoes with both a sense of reality and of wonder.

These photographs spark our imaginations because they are suggestive not only in their uncompromising aesthetic but in their purposely incomplete narrative. Even with very grounded compositions, we are transported into the potent energy of such a quiet and isolated region. The smallest touches – the colourful buzz of a nighttime street lamp and a starburst flare – suggest the dynamics of life that passes through these streets and structures each day. We are encouraged to embrace this place of industry, where a colourful glow of light guards stalwart buildings through the loneliness of a quiet night, where long and complex shadows protect and mystify, and leaves hanging from backlit trees dazzle the eye. . . .”


About the Author

Ian Cox-Leigh
iancl Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ian Cox-Leigh is a Toronto based photographer whose work focuses on our emotional responses to the environments around us. Ian’s photography often deals with the landscape and various natural
elements within it. He is interested in revealing a quiet beauty or harmony in his work. Ian has successfully adapted this focus to the industrial and urban environment as well as the natural. Ian’s unique vision reveals a pleasing aesthetic in forgotten subjects – be they empty industrial parks, barren lands, or dead and gnarled trees. Whether exploring the grandeur of some great mountain landscape or working in the realm of more intimate subject matter, Ian employs strongly structured compositions that provide a natural gracefulness in his images.

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