Toronto

Does this photo pop up when you think of Scarborough? New contest aims to change 'negative images'

Until recently, if you typed "Scarborough'' into Google's search engine, the top image result was a collapsed home in the neighbourhood of Birch Cliff. Now a new photo contest aims to counter that negative image.

Stereotypical images do a disservice to a diverse area of Toronto, local councillor says

An image of a collapsed home used to to be the first result of a Google search for Scarborough. (Michael Cole/CBC)

Organizers of a new photography contest hope to change the negative imagery and stereotypes some associate with Scarborough, which they say have resurfaced because of a single picture. 

Until recently, if you typed "Scarborough'' into Google's search engine, the top image result was of a collapsed home in the neighbourhood of Birch Cliff near Birchmount and Kingston roads.

"Why is it that we can only associate Scarborough with negative images?" said Angela Nardozi, who lives a block away from the now demolished house.

"This community is vibrant and has so many strengths and people who live here recognize that, but what comes up online and in the media does a disservice when it doesn't recognize that."

Coun. Michael Thompson, who represents Ward 21, Scarborough Centre, and Mayor John Tory both appealed to Google Canada to remove the image as the top search result, which it did, but Thompson also set the idea for a photo contest in motion.

Angela Nardozi, Danny Cidade and 15-month-old Arturo relax in Avalon Parkette, Scarborough, one street over from collapsed home. (Philip Lee-shanok/CBC)

Photographer Anthony Gebrehiwot is the creative lead for Scarborough's New View photography contest, sponsored by the City of Toronto and Scarborough Arts, a non-profit charitable organization that develops, delivers and promotes "innovative arts and culture programs for citizens of all ages," according to its Facebook page.

"I want to push the narrative in a different direction and repaint what Scarborough means; it's equated with being dangerous or unsafe and it's anything but," Gebrehiwot said.

The contest kicked off Wednesday and will run until Sept. 30.

Sade Petlele of Scarborough Arts said the contest is open to anyone in the Greater Toronto Area of all ages and skill levels. Photos must be taken in Scarborough and entries are divided into three categories: people, places and things.

Photographer Anthony Gebrehiwot is the creative lead for Scarborough's New View photography contest, sponsored by the City of Toronto and Scarborough Arts. (Eric Isadas)

"We hope to create a public space to negate that stereotype that's been imposed on Scarborough," said Petlele.

To enter, she said, contestants must follow Scarborough Arts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and post entries with the hashtag #scarboroughphoto.

Petlele said there will be three grand prizes for each category: photographic equipment with an approximate retail value of $500 each. Details about awards for third and second place winners will be announced.

Sade Petlele of Scarborough Arts says the contest is open to people in the GTA of all ages and skill levels. (submitted)

Entries will go on display at the Scarborough Civic Centre and contest officials will announce the winners in the fall.

'Create alternative images'

Michèle Pearson Clarke, a Ryerson professor who was chosen as the City of Toronto's photo laureate, will serve as one of the judges. 

"Ultimately, photographs tell a story about a person and a place. Images can reinforce negative stereotypes," Clarke told CBC Toronto.

"How do you combat negative representation? Create alternative images. We can tell stories that we know are true about a place."

Michèle Pearson Clarke is a Trinidad-born artist who works in photography, film, video and installation. She is Toronto's photo laureate and will be one of the judges of Scarborough's New View photography contest. (supplied)

Clarke said the contest is an opportunity to visit a part of the city they may not have had a chance to in some time.

"It's an invitation to slow down, look around, see what Scarborough has to offer, snap a picture and enter the contest," she said. 

Clarke hopes the idea can be expanded to other parts of the city that have experienced negative stereotyping.

Contest details are available at https://www.toronto.ca/photo-laureate/ and http://www.scarborougharts.com/anewview.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Lee-Shanok

Senior Reporter, CBC Toronto

From small town Ontario to Washington D.C., Philip has covered stories big and small. An award-winning reporter with more than two decades of experience in Ontario and Alberta, he's now a Senior Reporter for CBC Toronto on television, radio and online. He is also a National Reporter for The World This Weekend on Radio One. Follow him on Twitter @CBCPLS.

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