Arts·Exhibitionists

SoTeeOh's latest project is oh so trippy

He's best known for slick photos of Toronto. But on this week's episode of Exhibitionists, Instagram star SoTeeOh is trying something new.

The popular Toronto Instagrammer is trying something new on this week's episode of Exhibitionists

Still from a video by SoTeeOh. The photographer's best known for his dramatic photos of Toronto, but you'll see a different side of him on this week's episode of Exhibitionists. (Instagram/@soteeoh)

It's right there in his name. SoTeeOh is so Toronto, and he's become one of the city's top Instagram photographers by posting slick imagery of urban life and landmarks, with 61.3 thousand followers and growing. Even his current solo exhibition, "Icons" — on at Project Gallery + Studios to May 14 as part of Contact Festival — is all about the "visual identity of the city." It includes photos celebrating the CN Tower, Honest Ed's, sports stars and the stadium formerly known as SkyDome — postcard subjects, but presented with the artist's signature high-contrast glam.
 


 

But what you'll see on Exhibitionists Sunday is so not that.

SoTeeOh, a.k.a. Adeyemi Adegbesan, is this week's Exhibitionist in Residence, but the work we're airing is completely unlike what you'll typically find on his Instagram — even though that's technically where they first appeared. They're looped, kaleidoscopic portraits — an Adobe After Effects ayahuasca trip. And according to SoTeeOh, they're part of an as-yet-unnamed series that he began in January this year. You won't find moody scenes of Chinatown at night, or streetcars or fog-wrapped Financial District skyscrapers. (There's a glimpse of the CN Tower in one of the videos, we'll admit, but it's definitely not the focus.)

"As a photographer you're constantly looking to freeze motion, and with something like this I'm taking that frozen moment and injecting motion back into it," SoTeeOh tells CBC Arts, saying that his followers should expect more where these came from. "It's kind of merging what I learned as a photographer with some of the stuff I was into before photography." The artist, 34, directed music videos before his Instagram exploded. He also used to have his own clothing line, and once worked as as a tattoo artist. "I was into pretty much every other conceivable medium other than photography," he says. Photography, he explains, is a relatively recent passion — but it's a skill that's landed him high-profile commercial clients, from beer brands to car companies. Instagram, he says, made it happen. His Toronto photos "just connected on a level that nothing else I had done really had."

This is an opportunity to step outside of what I've been doing as a photographer in the city.- SoTeeOh, photographer

"Toronto has pretty much been a theme throughout a lot of things that I do, or that I have done in life. It's kind of like an identity thing. I've always felt a little like an outsider," he says. Born in the city, he grew up in Cambridge, Ont. before moving back after high school. "I come from a mixed-race background, so racially I never felt like I fit in 100 per cent. And leaving the city at a fairly young age, I was the new kid at school and I never felt like I fit in 100 per cent in my social groups over there. And I just felt like when I would say I was from Toronto, that was the only time people would just place me quickly and accept me for one thing. So I think it's just — it's been a big part of my identity and just helping me to define who I am to other people."

"Although the work I've done as a photographer has been heavily centred around the city and themes within the city, I feel like it's also — you can also restrict yourself creatively if you force yourself to look at one perspective all the time, so for me I guess this is an opportunity to step outside of what I've been doing as a photographer in the city."

Take a look.

Want more from SoTeeOh? Follow him on Instagram. Watch Exhibitionists online or catch it on CBC Television. Episodes air Friday nights at 12:30 a.m. (1 NT) and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. (4 NT).

Soteeoh. Icon. To May 14. Project Gallery + Studios, Toronto. www.projectgallerytoronto.com

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