Toronto’s sewers are dark infrastructure: documented only in proprietary mapping, associated with grime and hazard, and physically devoid of light. It is too easy to imagine sewers as an entirely abstract network, as a magical black box that transmits sewage from one’s home to the treatment plant. Cook’s work has been an effort to physically shine a light on this unseen layer of the city, and to reveal the size of these spaces and their complexity.
Below the streets of our neighbourhoods, there are surprisingly large and legible tunnels that carry our stormwater and wastewater; these are spaces that residents and city officials alike need to be able to imagine in order to do a better job of managing pollution and living with this water. Toronto’s sewers enclose old waterways and follow their courses, they shape the built form and the possibilities of the city above, and they often mix rainwater and household sewage so that all of it must be intercepted and treated, denying water to the landscapes we value. Cook’s photographs are an effort to reclaim our sewers from obscurity, to allow us all to view, imagine and talk about them, and to gain a new measure for our relationship with the water that we have sent underground.
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Under This Ground, Official public installation of Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, “Contacting Toronto”, 2013
Artists reveal glimpse of seldom seen underground Toronto, National Post, May 3, 2013
The Man Who Turns Toronto’s Sewers Into Art, The Atlantic – CityLab, April 29, 2013
10 Photographers You Need to Know About, AZURE Magazine, April 29, 2013
Contact Photo Fest turns lens on the world, little-seen places, CBC News: Arts & Entertainment, May 1, 2013
Sewer Art: Michael Cook photographs the beauty found in long-closed tunnels deep below the ground, Macleans Magazine, October 25, 2013
Toronto’s sewer system on photo display at St. Patrick subway station, Toronto Star, May 1, 2013