Avard Woolaver • Toronto (1980 – 1986)
Please introduce yourself: what’s your name, where are you from, what do you do?
My name is Avard Woolaver. I live in Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast. I spent many years in Toronto in the photo business and also several years in Nagoya, Japan. These days I don’t make a living from photography, but it remains a big part of my life.
What is your relationship with photography? How did you get into it & and what keeps you interested/ motivated?
My interest in the visual world began at a young age. I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time in solitude studying the landscape and the sky, watching the cows and birds. An airplane flight path was above the farm, and I used to marvel at the silver jets flying high overhead. Even though I wasn’t taking photos yet, I was developing some of the skills I would start to use much later for taking pictures.
My father was a pretty good amateur photographer and I was certainly influenced by his vision. He gave me a camera when I was 18, and I realised right away that it was a powerful tool for self expression. I went on to study photography at Ryerson, in Toronto, where I was surrounded by like-minded people in a highly creative environment. My photographic vision really started to blossom.
I have always been motivated by studying the work of master photographers such as Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander, and more recently Vivian Maier. Also, just trying to develop a sense of mindfulness, of being patient and observing the world—this helps keep me motivated.
Tell me about your books “Toronto Flashback“ and “No Money Down.” What was the driving force behind creating them? What was your intention, and how did you come up with the idea?
The photos in these books were taken during my time studying at Ryerson (1980-1984) and a few years beyond graduation. I was doing street photography, looking for interesting people and scenes. My contact sheets formed a sort of visual diary. I carried my camera everywhere and shot about 800 rolls of film.
These images lay dormant for over thirty years. In 2016, with the encouragement of a friend and former classmate, Michael Amo, I began scanning the negatives and posting the images on social media. Seeing images that I hadn’t looked at for thirty-plus years was certainly a voyage of rediscovery! It seems there is a sense of nostalgia in the work. People love to remember their younger days and see a city that in some ways no longer exists. I thought that producing books would be a good way to edit the work and give it some structure. I put a lot of effort into the selection and sequencing of the images.
My intention is to connect with people in a meaningful way. Photography is one way of doing this.
What are you currently working on, and – if there is – what is your next project/ journey?
I’m currently working on a third book, called “Toronto Days.” It’s mostly unseen work (that has not been posted on social media) covering the years 1980-1995; I’m having an exhibition of the Toronto Flashback series at Gallery 310, Ryerson University from March 5 – 17; an on-going project is titled “Wish You Were Here” – quirky photos that show a sense of surrealism in everyday life.
Thank you very much, Avard!
Purchase your copies of the photo books “Toronto Flashback” and “No Money Down” via Blurb here and here. You should also check out Avard Woolaver on Instagram, Flickr, and Facebook.