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Hot list: Natalie Castellino's Citizens photo show in Toronto

Elle Canada
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Hot list: Natalie Castellino's Citizens photo show in Toronto

 Luis Pacheco, hair colourist, photographed by Natalie Castellino for Citizens, her photo show, opening in Toronto tonight.

Edward Burtynsky, photographer. Philip Sparks, fashion designer. Roberta Bondar, first female Canadian astronaut in space. The list of people Natalie Castellino photographed for Citizens—20 portraits of Torontonians on view at Red Bull 381 Projects—reads like a dream dinner guest list. "It all stemmed from wanting to capture Toronto," Castellino explains. "It started as a loose thing, and then grew into something I hadn't anticipated and took on a life of its own." Who was the first person that you photographed, and when was that? Susur Lee. That was how the whole thing started—at the Red Light on a Friday night. My friend that I was with recognized him first, and we introduced ourselves. We talked into the morning, I asked him if I could take his portrait sometime, he called me the next day. That was a little over a year ago now. I knew walking into to Susur’s restaurant that his portrait would be the first of many. The kind of gut feeling I get when I get a good shot. You just know. How did you choose who to feature? I wanted a wide range of personalities and fields. I started by compiling lists. Lists of people, disciplines, fields that I wanted to include. Others came serendipitously. With Ahdri Zhina Mandiela, I met her by chance. A friend invited me to a theatre discussion at B Current, a theatre company that focuses on cultural, social, and political experiences of the Canadian and international Black Diaspora. I became inspired by Ahdri and all that she had and will create. Captivated. After attending other events and getting to know B Current, I knew I wanted her to be involved. What was the most challenging portrait to take, and why? It wasn’t so much the most challenging, but the most inspiring. Taking Roberta Bondar’s portrait resonated with me. Her accomplishments and her wide range of knowledge is so admirable. She really makes me want to push myself. Can you share any behind the scenes anecdotes or favourite memories from any of  the shoots? I shared some really amazing moments with the people I photographed. But lunch with Gail McInnes at the Caledonian definitley stands out. Gail insisted I try haggis. I’m always up to try new food at least once. It’s a kind of savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck—the heart, liver and lungs with spices, and, in this case, it was fried. So I tried it… along with a couple of pints. I don’t think I’ll have haggis again, but it was a fun shoot. I love that you have a mix of prominent and behind-the-scenes Torontonians. Why  was this important to you? It isn’t only the prominent individuals who carry influence. All the subjects are part of a story of Toronto in some way. We all are. Ivan Tchohlev runs Mr. Tasty Fries, the blue truck out front of Nathan Philips Square. He's been there for 30 years. He is a part of Toronto, you can see it in his eyes—and in the steady line that grows in front of his truck daily. Of the people you shot, who was the trickiest to land? A lawyer. I knew I wanted an array of fields, and law was one of them. I had been in contact with various people, but something wasn’t clicking. It wasn’t until I got in contact with Laurie H. Pawlitza that I knew I had found the right fit. Laurie, Treasurer of the Law Society, specializes in family law. Specifically, she was on the first Canadian case that allowed same sex couples to adopt. I knew she was right for Citizens because of her care of family and community. What are you hoping people will take away from the show? Citizens, in a way, is my view of Toronto. A mix of the behind-the-scenes, the unseen, and the highly visible. I want to bring awareness to the talent and achievements of the people who live here—to bring a sense of community to the place that so many of us call home. This series is to remind us that Toronto is a place where we hold each other together. There is something that keeps us here, keeps us calling Toronto home. It’s also important for me to mention that Citizens is contributing to Sketch, an organization working arts for street involved and homeless youth. It is important for me to give back to the community and help in any way, making an impact the way the people in Citizens have, like Phyllis Novak, the director and founder of Sketch. Proceeds will be donated to them and the amazing things they do for the youth of Toronto, and for the arts. Citizens runs until May 3, 2012 at Red Bull 381 Projects (381 Queen St., near Peter St.).   
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Hot list: Natalie Castellino's Citizens photo show in Toronto