50x50 Exhibition Mission Statement

50 photographers
50 portraits
50 immigrant graduates
50 years of George Brown College

From the works of Dorothea Lange to Edward Steichen to Yousuf Karsh, portraits are among the most evocative images in the history of photography. They reflect a unique collaboration between photographer and subject and render a visual narrative about a subject with immediacy and intimacy. George Brown College is proud to present 50x50, a photography exhibition drawing on the strength of this collaborative tradition to tell a powerful story about immigration in Canada.

Celebrating the diversity of George Brown’s student population over the past 50 years and the vital contribution immigrants have made to our society, 50x50 features portraits of 50 George Brown alumni who were newcomers to Canada when they attended the college. Bringing diversity into sharp relief, the portraits portray alumni from more than 35 countries of origin, representing myriad ethnicities, ages, and occupations.

Fifty years ago, Ontario’s college system was introduced to democratize post-secondary education. Since then, thousands of immigrants have walked through George Brown’s doors, looking for the tools to build a new life. In the process of transforming themselves, they have transformed not only Ontario’s colleges, but the image and fabric of our society.

With similar democratic intent, we sought a group of 50 photographers as diverse in experience and vision as the individuals they were shooting. The 50x50 photographers accepted through our juried selection process have different influences, backgrounds, and styles. We granted them complete artistic licence to encourage wide-ranging creative expression and interpretations of the vision of this project.

To contextualize the portraits, a short written narrative accompanies each photograph. In interviews with writers who asked questions about individual journeys and the impact of attending college, portrait subjects offered varied reflections on immigration, education and new beginnings in Canada.

A portrait captures a single moment in time but the frame contains multiple histories: the embodied history of the subject, the background of the photographer and all that has informed their vision and craft, and then, the viewer’s perspective as it is changed and challenged through the experience of art. The histories that these photographs evoke intersect in this exhibition to tell a story about this city and this country that is both expansive and deeply personal.

With 50x50, we seek to multiply the intersections – by matching 50 photographers to 50 college graduates – to celebrate inclusion and diversity – values that informed the creation of the college system itself. This exhibition, which will show as part of the May 2018 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and continue through to September 30, 2018, uses portraiture to tell a uniquely Torontonian story that will reveal our city in new light.