Studio 9: The Touch and Feel of 9 Photographers in Toronto

Where would you find a desert, a basketball court and what looks like your grandmother's living room all in the same place? You might think of an Instagram feed, but I'm talking about Studio 9, the collective of interactive installations that took over Canon's Creator Lab @ Free Space, mid-November. But an Instagram feed is a close guess. These installations took inspiration from the photographs of some pretty notable female photographers in our city and brought them to life for you to release your inhibition and take photos to your heart's desire. 

Thank You Kindly is a production and design company in Toronto producing conceptual events, working with community members providing space to create new experience, share ideas and to have a good time. Allegra Christie and Ariella Starkman are the power duo behind it all and created what came together at Free Space. With this event and many others on the way they are making waves in our Toronto community inspiring young creatives.

Allegra Christie of Thank You Kindly
Installation inspired by Maya Fuhr

We got to sit down with the two of them and talk to them about their journey building their company as well as how the amazing exhibit that we were standing was brough to life. The two had been working on projects individually, so all their passion and previous experience was already Thank You Kindly before it came to be. About a year and a half ago the two conglomerated and have only progressed from there. They describe themselves as, “one super brain, that’s what we are, we can’t send an email without each other. I'm the right hand, she's the left hand". The two have brought some pretty wicked talent and cultural influences to share their words with Toronto including Princess Nokia and Juliana Huxtable as well as supporting our own talents and companies right here, producing events like no other.  

Installation inspired by Gemma Warren
Installation inspired by Rosanna Peng

Left: Installation inspired by Gemma Warren @gemmadwarren
Right: Installation inspired by Rosanna Peng

Canon's Creator Class put forward their initiative to inspire female photographers and get women to pick up a camera. When the direction was handed to Thank You Kindly, they came up with the idea to manifest the styles and visions of influential photographers into tangible form. One of the features of this event allowed visitors to borrow and carry a camera around with them throughout the space, making it possible to let loose on a creative adventure throughout all the spaces. 

Installations inspired by Sylvia Jade @hellosylvia
Billie Chiasson
Chantelle Silva

What originally started with 3 photographers expanded to 9.  Ariella and Alegra expressed that all of the photographers' work are very immersive. They said when Looking at their photos you feel like you want to be in that environment. How do you bring out the life and how do you get people to inhabit, experience, touch and feel? They said it was creatively challenging for them, but really rewarding.

Piecing the event together involved working 12-hour days, occupied by sourcing material like vinyl or denim that would cover an entire room. Not to mention calling all the landscape stores in the city asking for photos of any mounds of sand they had. Planning began at the end of summer, it took a month to source materials, finalizing, and getting everything approved by Canon. After 5 days of frantic construction the entire exhibit was completed, fortunately with the help of an amazing team. With $800 of hair extensions, a tonne of sand and an extensive list of off the wall materials, each space came together seamlessly in time for the two-day exhibit. 

Installation inspired by Dani Reynolds

Allegra and Ariella are interested in tangible experiences. Community based organizing and interaction is what all of their events are all about. An installation and Instagram museum is so amazing because "it's free and open to the public so its accessible and allows people to come and flex their creative muscles in a way that isn’t necessarily so prevalent."

Ultimately, the duo wanted people to find their place in this space, interact with it as much as they can, and photograph what they can. They hoped that this event would break down the "weirdly embedded shame" felt whenever you want to take a photo in public spaces. 

Installation inspired by Neva Wireko

it’s free and open to the public so its accessible and allows people to come and flex their creative muscles in a way that isn’t necessarily so prevalent.

Installation inspired by Zhamak Fullad

"It's super non-intimidating. When you go to an art show or museum you’re like do I even know how to interact with this? So this is literally to do whatever you want."

Another aspect that was important for them was for people to feel in control of how they're spending their weekends and do something that stimulates them. They explained that people are so stimulated by their phones, forgetting that tangible things are important to connect with. This space let you take a step back and look at what’s in front of you as well as giving you something to pose and be creative with.

As for the future of Thank-you Kindly? They are looking to expand their community, mentioning that they've been sustained by the people for the people within a small community. They feel that they need to expand their reach and delve into communities that they haven’t before. "It's on us to get our feet on the ground and do that research more in 2018".

Written by: Iain Ailles
Photos by: Haley Wilsdon & Melissa Boodoo