Exhibitionists·Behind the Photo

The upside of winter snow? This iconic photo worthy of Massey Hall

Toronto photographer Adeyemi Adegbesan — a.k.a. Soteeoh — shares the story behind the striking shot.

Toronto photographer Adeyemi Adegbesan — a.k.a. Soteeoh — shares the story behind the striking shot

Crop of Soteeoh's photo of Massey Hall. (Courtesy of Soteeoh)

It's already been a cold and dark winter in Canada and somehow we're barely even a month into it. While the lack of sunlight personally makes me want to just lock myself into an even darker room, this unholy combination of snow, eternal cloud cover and nesting seems to be the perfect conditions for Toronto-based photographer Adeyemi Adegbesan — a.k.a. Soteeoh.

"Everything just looks so cinematic at night with the snow," he says. Every winter, he goes out at least a few times at night to shoot during a heavy snowfall. On one of these trips, he was wandering around downtown keeping an eye out and his camera ready for a unique shot. This creative spontaneity, dedication to his craft and lack of dedication to his sleep has led to some of his favourite photographs — including this shot of Massey Hall.

Watch the video:

Toronto photographer Adeyemi Adegbesan, a.k.a. Soteeoh, takes us through his striking shot of the local landmark in winter. 1:34

"I just saw the sign and the snow and was like, 'Oh I can make something happen here.' It's not the first or the last time I've shot that sign, but this is my favourite picture of it. With landmarks like this I'll shoot it whenever I pass it and try to get it in a variety of different situations, but this night was cool because it was snowing really hard and it was late. I assume there was a show there that night but everyone else had long gone and it was just this late night crew handling all the unseen grunt work."

Massey Hall is iconic for Torontonians. Originally opened in 1894, it became a beacon for many of the greatest performers to visit the city over the years including Bob Marley, Neil Young, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Soteeoh has seen some great shows there, including his favourite — The Weeknd in 2013 — but his rationale for photographing the venue is more dutiful than nostalgic.

"The significance and why I shoot the venue is really less personal and more about its significance as a landmark in this city. These places are things I never take for granted because Toronto as a city has shown repeatedly that no landmark is untouchable when the developers roll in, so you really never know when a spot like this will disappear. "

Toronto photographer Soteeoh. (Courtesy of Soteeoh)

Designated a National Historic site of Canada in 1981, Massey Hall closed last summer for a two-year renovation. So while this specific building is not in danger of "disappearing," it will never look like this photo again — which is part of the magic of a photographer so deeply enmeshed to the urban landscape in a rapidly changing city.

"A lot of eyes are on Toronto now. That wasn't always the case, and with social media and hashtags those people have an instant look at a live view of what it looks like here. I think that's more of a global phenomena, but I'm happy to contribute my piece for Toronto."

See the full photo and more of Soteeoh's work below!

(Courtesy of Soteeoh)
Honest Ed's. (Courtesy of Soteeoh)
The Eaton Centre. (Courtesy of Soteeoh)
The Spadina streetcar. (Courtesy of Soteeoh)

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT). Watch more videos here.

About the Author

Lucius Dechausay is a video producer at CBC Arts, as well as a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. His short films and animations have been screened at a number of festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs. Most recently he directed KETTLE, which is currently streaming at CBC Short Docs.