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The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is a beautiful museum with a stunning collection of art ranging from Old Master European to contemporary Canadian. It’s worth a visit anytime.

But now through January 3, 2016, there’s an exhibit you shouldn’t miss — if you want art to make you feel connected to the human race, that is.

Every year, the Art Gallery of Ontario is home to the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize Exhibition,  where the public (not critics) vote for their favorite photographer from four finalists (chosen by an international nomination process).

This year, the winner was Dave Jordano and seeing his work in this exhibition is well worth a special trip to Toronto.

His photographs (from his series Detroit – Unbroken Down) depict people rebuilding their lives in “post-industrial” Detroit — where unemployment, “white flight,” the Great Recession, and the troubled automotive industry have crippled this once-great American city.

But this isn’t a series of depressing photographs about a decaying city or a ruined people. “My work is really not about what has been destroyed,” says Jordano, “but more importantly about those who have been left behind and how they’re coping.”

The pictures in this exhibit are some of the most inspiring I have ever seen. They show people of determination, faith and generosity. These people have not been destroyed by their troubles; they are persevering in spite of them.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I like my art to make me feel something. Dave Jordan made me feel connected to these people who are sticking it out to rebuild Detroit.

His photos made me feel the possibilities of human greatness by showing me just how strong, determined and optimistic people can be. Through those faces, I learned that I — as a fellow human — have the potential to be more compassionate, resilient, powerful, and generous than I ever thought possible.

Jordano’s work made me feel his subjects’ fear, sadness and hope — the same feelings I have whenever I’ve had to rebuild my own life. Yet, there they are, rebuilding… Those photos inspired me to believe in redemption — no matter how hard the road back seems.

You can always rebuild,
no matter how destroyed you are.

That’s what Jordano’s work did to me.

Don’t you think that’s worth a visit?


I didn’t post the individual photographs here. You owe it to the people in the pictures to visit AGO and look at them face to face. You owe it to yourself to stand with Cynthia’s family on their dilapidated porch, to quietly watch Semira sleeping, and to look Tammy directly in the eyes (if you cannot get to Toronto, then you should at least go here to see the pictures as they were intended to be seen or buy the book).