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Flick! Schick! Click!
Chad Kalaska (alias: chadkalaska) sits in the Starbucks at Yonge and King, in Toronto, sipping from his favourite drink, a Caramel Macchiato. He fashioned a bobby pin on his denim jean jacket, wears a vibrant orange hoodie, black cropped pants, and hiked up I LOVE UGLY socks to avoid concealment by his velcro Vans shoes. His grey eyes analyze his Sony 50mm lens as they snap onto his camera and flings his tribal patterned camera strap over his buzzed head. “My dad gave me this strap,” he explains, “and it’s one of the main things other photographers recognize me by.” He walks out of Starbucks to be greeted by afternoon sunshine, taking a quick snapshot of a fire truck on duty. This is a good day for photography.
Kalaska currently attends George Brown College, studying his second year of graphic design. He began posting his street photography to Instagram during the final half of 2014 and has since amassed a following of 1,129 followers and 719 posts as of April 20, 2018. Although nothing compared to Kalaska’s idol and photography friend, Toronto photographer Jamal Burger (alias: jayscale)—who has over 192, 000 followers and 1,181 posts as of April 20, 2018—his popularity is fine for the 19 year old. “When I post a photo, I’m pretty much aiming for anybody to see it,” we discussed. Kalaska takes a modest approach to getting followers by hoping for the best or using hashtags like #streetsoftoronto or #agameoftones and #thecreatorclass. Many Toronto photographers use these hashtags to garner a distinctive niche of followers. “If you like it, if you understand it, then it’s for you.”
Dt-dtt! Rrrr! Flash!
Kalaska snags a quick shot of the CN Tower from the outside recreational area of the Toronto Dominion Centre, reminiscing about how the representation of Toronto-based photography “used to be better.” During his early years of street photography, a tighter community walked the city streets and communication between talents remained consistent, but as years passed many individuals chose to pursue their personal aspirations. Kalaska has no clear answer for this slowly dissolving community. “Before there used to be a lot more photography meets where everybody would go meet up and walk around the city together and do photography,” he explains. “People stopped enjoying those because everybody would just take photos of the exact same things. So those sort of died out slowly.” Photography meets are not exclusive to Toronto, as examples include digital photography meet-ups of over 9,600 people practiced in New York City and a Hong Kong Photography Club (HKPC) that has organized meets since 2006. Kalaska argues this increasing independent work may be a defense mechanism to prevent stale and stagnant photos.
However, Kalaska believes that Toronto’s photography community remains prevalent and alive despite his enduring doubts. “Even though everyone’s pretty much doing their own thing,” he explained, “everybody still takes inspiration from each other and still encourages each other to do better photography and keep pushing to break the creative boundaries.” These creative boundaries, Kalaska explains, are overcome when the community of photographers urge one another to take more creative photos rather than cliché images.
Chk-chk! Vrrt! De-bloop!
Kalaska sits at his office desk in his apartment, St. Lawrence on the Park, sifting through photos he had just taken of pigeons at Berczy Park. He considers the “spirit of Toronto” as the city’s main draw to solo photographers. “There’s some pretty weird people that you see on the streets when you go out shooting, so when you come across these people, it makes for some pretty wicked portraits,” he chuckles. He considers Toronto as architecturally unique and constant streams of people buzzing around allow for unique, personalized shots. Kalaska’s favourite Toronto photo spot is the Financial District for portraits and the Harbourfront for clean, pleasant portrait shots of boats peacefully sailing by.
Kalaska’s photography skills have also scored him the ability to work alongside photographers outside of Toronto, such as James Traf (alias: traf) with 8,716 followers and 148 posts as of April 20, 2018, who originated in San Francisco, but has since traveled to many cities, one of which being Toronto. “I am always hoping and looking for more popular photographers in this city and other cities,” Kalaska says.
His business inquiries lead him to a 6 month long partnership with Peace Collective, a Toronto-based clothing company that initiated The Peace Foundation. The goal of The Peace Foundation is to empower Canadians in chasing their passion by providing the resources and support necessary to do so. Resources include sponsorships of young artistic talents, generating publicity for their sponsored talents, and sending products to their partners to wear and advertise. This support from a localized clothing brand assists the growth of young talents, especially those within the community of Toronto photographers. “It was cool! It was great!” Kalaska says. His sponsorship entailed him advertising their products over his Instagram, explaining in his posts’ captions how the product’s language related to Toronto life. Peace Collective supplied him t-shirts, crewnecks, and a hoodie all printed with positive Canadian and Torontonian phrases written on them, including CANADIAN BUILT and TORONTO VS EVERYBODY. He was also allowed to provide his followers the promo code “chadkalaska” for a 15% discount off their purchases. Kalaska is currently working towards a partnership with Atomik Studios, a Winnipeg-based clothing brand.
Kalaska turns off his camera, picturing a future for his photography revealing, “Honestly, I’m just trying to take photos, just do it because I love it. Hopefully I can start working with more brands, but for the most part I’m looking to do it as a hobby because it’s my passion and I really enjoy it.” Kalaska does dream of one day moving to New York or Chicago and explore Street Photography in those cities. The architecture of those cities peak Kalaska’s interest, such as Millennium Park and Willis Tower in Chicago or Central Park and the Empire State Building in New York, which can provide for various portrait and landscape shots. Regardless of where his future may lead him, Chad Kalaska truly believes that Toronto and the photography community entrenched throughout the city will always be his home.