Toronto specializing in contemporary photography

Alejandro Cartagena to give public talk

Alejandro Cartagena
Alejandro Cartagena, Escobedo, from the series Suburbia Mexicana, 2008

Learning from Latin American (Sub)Urbanism

Alejandro Cartagena lecture & conversation with Shawn Micallef

Friday, May 8, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
OCAD University
100 McCaul St., Room 230
[ Google Map ]

Free and open to the public.

Join us for a lecture by noted Mexican artist Alejandro Cartagena, to be followed by a conversation with author and urban columnist Shawn Micallef.

For the past decade Alejandro Cartagena has been investigating the relationship between Mexico’s urban centres and the suburbs built around them, examining the ways in which explosive growth has altered the landscape and affected the lives of residents.

In this talk, Cartagena will discuss the development of his photographic projects including Suburbia Mexicana, Landscape as Bureaucracy, Carpoolers, Roma-Roma and his latest work, Outgrowing.

Through these projects, Cartagena creatively sheds light on the complex issues surrounding the ‘ideal’ of homeownership and its recent boom in Mexico. He intimately observes many of the spaces and people involved, including buyers, public bureaucrats, and labourers. He illustrates how Mexico’s social and political context has proved to be both a benefit and a threat to many new buyers, opening up both new opportunities and challenges.

Cartagena’s work looks at the larger implications of the region’s rapid suburban expansion, from urban gentrification and inner-city ‘ghettoization,’ to the seemingly unplanned and unhampered suburban sprawl emanating from many of Mexico’s fast growing cities, and its environmental consequences.

His approach to photography is not overtly polemical; rather, he seeks to tell, from multiple points of view, the complex story of growth and development in Latin America in the context of an increasing globalization and the ongoing influence of its northern neighbour(s) and ‘North American dreams’.


Alejandro Cartagena lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. Cartagena’s work has been exhibited internationally and is in public and private collections in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and the United States, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Harry Ransom Center, Austin, the Portland Museum of Art and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He has received the Photolucida Critical Mass Book Award, the Lente Latino award in Chile, and the Premio IILA-Fotografia 2012 award in Rome. He has been named a FOAM Magazine Talent and one of PDN’s 30 International Emerging Photographers to watch. Cartagena’s work has been published internationally in magazines such as Newsweek, The New York Times Lens blog, Nowness, Domus, The Financial Times, View, The Guardian, le Monde, PDN, The New Yorker, The Independent, Monocle and Wallpaper. His monograph Suburbia Mexicana was published in 2011 (Daylight/Photolucida) and his latest book Carpoolers was released in 2014 (Fonca – Conaculta). He is represented by Circuit Gallery (Toronto).

Shawn Micallef is a Toronto Star columnist, co-owner and an editor of Spacing magazine, co-founder of the mobile phone public space documentary project [murmur], and instructor at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, The Trouble with Brunch: Work, Class, and the Pursuit of Leisure, and was the Toronto Public Library’s non-fiction writer in residence in 2013.


Alejandro Cartagena
Alejandro Cartagena, Carpooler #15 (detail) and Carpooler #17 (detail), from his Carpoolers series, 2011


Contacting Toronto: Expanding Cities
May 1 – 31, 2015
Warden subway station
Warden St and St. Clair Ave W
Toronto M1L 4R7

A CONTACT Public Installation curated by Sharon Switzer. Co-produced by PATTISON Onestop and Art for Commuters.

Through the photographs of Mexican artist Alejandro Cartagena and videos by Kingston, Ontario art duo Julia Krolik & Owen Fernley, Toronto’s subway corridors are transformed with images addressing suburban transportation, development, and sustainability.

Cartagena’s images are shown on 55 posters throughout Warden station, the penultimate stop on the eastern edge of the system. This station serves as a primary destination for many suburban commuters. The artist’s series Carpoolers (2011–2012) portrays a different kind of commute, adopting a bird’s eye view of construction workers and landscapers in the beds of pickup trucks traveling to build and maintain the wealthy suburban communities outside of Monterrey, México.


Alejandro Cartagena will be offering a workshop as part of the Contact Photography Festival on ‘The Photobook’

Alejandro Cartagena: The Photobook – workshop
May 6, 12:00 pm
Gallery 44 Centre For Contemporary Photography
401 Richmond St W 120
Toronto M5V 3A8

Alejandro will teach a two-day workshop focused on photobook history, and edit and sequencing methods. It is geared towards artists with work in progress who are looking for direction and guidance to create a book. His projects are primarily documentary-based and employ landscape and portraiture as a means to examine social, urban, and environmental issues in Latin America. Cartagena’s recent self-published book Carpoolers was listed as one of the best photo-books in 2014 by Time magazine. Students are asked to bring up to three projects to work on with 20 to 30 image printed at approximately 4×6. $160/$140 for Gallery 44 members and CONTACT Portfolio Reviews participants.

Co-presented with Circuit Gallery, CONTACT, Gallery 44 and LACAP.

Visit to register.
Contact soJin Chun at sojin @ for more information.

This event is in conjunction with Contacting Toronto: Expanding Cities, a CONTACT Public Installation at Warden subway station. Curated by Sharon Switzer. Co-produced by PATTISON Onestop and Art for Commuters.

The Learning from Latin American (Sub)Urbanism lecture is co-presented by CONTACT, LACAP, the Faculty of Art at OCAD University (Through the Photography Department), and Circuit Gallery. Special thanks to Tamara Toldeo, Tara Smith, April Hickox and Sharon Switzer.

This event is in conjunction with Contacting Toronto: Expanding Cities, a CONTACT Public Installation. Curated by Sharon Switzer. Co-produced by PATTISON Onestop and Art for Commuters.


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