Scarborough Arts! and the City of Toronto have unveiled the winners of a photo contest aimed at promoting the best of Scarborough a year after the feature Google image for the community was reportedly set by an algorithm as a blown-out wall of a home.
“It is important we address the inaccurate stereotypes and media portrayals that have lingered about the region. Today we are here to celebrate the winners who are changing the narrative,” Derek Spooner, executive director of Scarborough Arts, said during an awards ceremony Tuesday evening.
“These talented photographers have showcased the very best of our community and our people.”
Over the course of six week, officials said more than 3,700 images were submitted by residents who sought to portray the best places, people and things in the community. Winners were selected for each of those three categories and 30 people in total were recognized.
“I’ve heard just about everything about what Scarborough is and what Scarborough isn’t, so this definitely acts as a legacy piece for myself and for Scarborough to kind of give it the perspective it deserves and the narrative it deserves,” said Tony Gebrehiwot, a Scarborough resident and coordinator of the New View Photo Contest.
A jury led by Michèle Pearson Clarke, Toronto’s photo laureate, reviewed all of the submissions.
Under the people category, Devante Goulbourne submitted a photo entitled Continuously Under Construction of his friend jJ at the CP Rail yard near Malvern.
“Despite not being able to see his face, this portrait stands out for the quiet strength, resilience and popping style that can be seen everywhere on the streets of Scarborough,” the jury said in response to the submission.
When it comes to the best places, Winter in the ends by Edmond Veliz Morales captured a bakery during New Year’s Eve in 2019.
“The plaza is such a ubiquitous place for suburbs like Scarborough. They’re home to many small businesses that serve and are run by the migrant communities who live here. Over time, these shops become community cornerstones and form part of our collective memory,” the jury noted.
Under the category of things, Alicia Reid paid tribute to the patties sold at Warden subway station.
“This image encapsulates a long-standing debate amongst east enders: which subway station vendor sells the best patty? It is iconically Scarborough, with its reference to food culture, transit and black girlhood,” the jury said in response to the submission.
It was on Nov. 20, 2019, when criticism was raised when it was discovered a photo from a February Global News story about a partial wall collapse was curated to the Google search page for Scarborough.
A Google spokesperson told Global News the image wasn’t curated by a person, but rather by a computer algorithm. The company moved to remove the image soon after the issue was raised, instead just showing a Google map of the area.
Toronto city council passed a motion by Coun. Michael Thompson calling on Google to set right a “misleading portrayal of Scarborough.” It also called for the City of Toronto’s photo laureate to commission a photographic project or contest to highlight the best of Scarborough.
When announcing the awards Tuesday evening, Thompson said the photos will be shared over the course of the next year. He said he wants an authentic image of Scarborough shared.
“The difficulty for me is watching how people portray us and we need to portray ourselves in a very positive way,” Thompson said.
“The photos provide ample evidence Scarborough is far better than the perceived stereotype that people have for our community.”
Click here to view the winning submissions.