Let's Go to the EX!

Toronto's Beloved Exhibition in 35mm Panoramas

3 min read by Shamraiz Gul. Published in Essays, Stories.

The Canadian National Exhibition, locally known as the CNE or The Ex, is a three-week-long festival, the end of which unofficially marks the beginning of autumn in Toronto. During this last stretch of summer, just before the leaves turn yellow, throngs flock onto the grounds of Exhibition Place to mark the occasion.

“Eye of the Tiger,” CNE Toronto. Shot on Horizon Perfekt with Fuji X-TRA 400.

Many bid their farewell to the vacation season by indulging in edible vices. CNE boasts to deep-fry everything, with the crown jewel pick being announced on the local news throughout all August. The talks of the year’s new, ridiculous eats spread across the city, mutating the casual weather-centric small talk into conversations about over-the-top snack ideas.

The year 2010 has seen the debut of deep-fried butter, following up with deep-fried Red Velvet Oreo in 2015. Sushi Burrito (sushi, the size of a burrito) along with deep-fried cheese curds rose to the pedestal in 2017.

“Slush,” CNE Toronto. Shot on Horizon Perfekt with Fuji X-TRA 400.

The games, as we all know, are just an excuse to lose money and impress your better half. Though as a returning addict you never stop unless you’ve won something.

“Gun Fun,” CNE Toronto. Shot on Horizon Perfekt with Fuji X-TRA 400.
“Bear Hut,” CNE Toronto. Shot on Horizon Perfekt with Fuji X-TRA 400.
“Win Big Money,” CNE Toronto. Shot on Horizon Perfekt with Fuji X-TRA 400.

Every year at the CNE is a different experience, depending on whom you’re going with and what you are looking to do. The festival manages to evolve with its attendants who grow and mature, seeing it with new eyes every August.

My wife and I find ourselves there almost every season, walking through the crowds, absorbing the cheers and the good vibes. For us, it’s an excuse to enjoy the last few days of summer before BBQs end and the winter begins its advance.

To capture the essence.

These images are my attempt to capture the ambience, the mood, and the festive nature of Toronto’s beloved last summer fair. Armed with my Horizon Perfekt and the intent to photograph the event as “archival record” of sorts I venture into the night.

My inspiration to produce the series of three-by-eight panoramas on 35mm film comes from Jeff Bridge’s photographic work. He used WideLux, a milestone in consumer technology, to document the creative aura behind Hollywood’s cult classics. The resulting visual records are an immersive experience which opens a wider window into the precious moments, beyond singular subjects.

Getting hold of WideLux was and still is beyond my needs but I did come across the Horizon Perfekt.