Resettlement: Portraits From Lawrence Heights

Debra Friedman

Toronto is a city largely defined by new immigrant communities that have increased in population over the past ten years. Lawrence Heights, located in North York, is one of these communities, a high-density affordable housing neighbourhood slated to undergo revitalization. This public housing complex is an impenetrable maze of cul-de-sacs and apartment courts, with few access routes to the surrounding main streets.

Debra Friedman’s portraits depict the next generation, young people photographed within their neighbourhood. In her series, this urban environment–where the community lives, works, and plays–shifts from vast and neglected expanses to well-cultivated areas full of life. Like the landscape they inhabit, these youths are complex: rugged and fragile, vulnerable and robust, frail and tenacious. Alongside posture, costume, and expression, the surrounding area becomes a device for contextualizing each subject. Placing equal relationship on the figure and the ground invites the viewer into the physical, psychological and human experience of living in a community on the brink of change.

For this generation, the Yorkdale mall serves as a primary gathering place. Displayed as a public exhibition in the ticketing area of Yorkdale subway station, Friedman’s project is positioned as a literal “crossing over” between a distinct neighbourhood and the city.