Back in Time is a Street Photography Project by Tolu Akanni.
It was showcased at The Theatre Centre Toronto from July 10–August 5, 2018 with an artist reception and talkback event hosted on Friday, July 20, 2018

Artist Statement

Back in Time
Montreal takes me back to 2012. I was 23, curious, and hungry, and I had gotten a rare opportunity to spend three months in Paris. It was the first time I ever set foot outside my beloved home country; Nigeria.
It was a trip of many “firsts,” but more significantly, it was a catalyst for the growth I’ve undergone over the last few years, as it birthed my insatiable quest to explore cultures and different cities in the world.
Montreal reminds me of Paris in many ways, yet it has its unique characters – the subway without the pungent smell of urine, the streets built with paving stones without the litter, the romantic appeal without the crowd or Eiffel Tower night lights to look forward to, the streets that speak history but without the music.
At the beginning of this year, through a playful experiment with color composition, I was able to manipulate images to produce a kind of saturation that doesn’t scream saturation. A delicate blend of blue/teal with an appealing pop of orange and this has helped my work gain some consistency and uniqueness. This color blend is a base flavor for the images in this collection.
Why did I invite you here?
Think about how digital platforms flood you with so many images that giving you only a few seconds to view the image, establish your impression of the image and observe the emotions that the images provoke. It happens too quickly to be substantial, and this is why I am happy to bring you into a physical space today to see how you see, feel, and to answer questions you might hesitate to ask online.
Take some time to read the captions as I share details about the thoughts on my mind before the shutter was clicked, pay attention to the colors, and do share your overall thoughts before you leave.
Welcome to my showcase of “Back in Time”
I hope this showcase inspires you to plan a trip to Montreal to immerse yourself in what Montreal has to offer. And if you’ve been to Montreal before, I hope this showcase reveals you a different perspective of places you’re familiar with and that inspires you to revisit Montreal soon.
Tolu Akanni

I was ordering Shawarma when I spotted him and I had to run out of the restaurant to catch it.

Sometimes the good half of the story is all we need.
The good half that speaks luxury, class, stylish, fun.
But what if below the belt he limps..
What if the inner man is not so luxurious and is a man in pain…
What if…

I was on the 5th floor of the opposite building talking on the phone I and didn’t even have my camera handy. 10 mins after my first sight of him he was still there and the composition looked perfect.

Something appealing watching individuals buried in the work.

That dignity of labour.

I hope he’s doing it for something he truly loves.

My friend had just picked me from the train station and despite the hunger I couldn’t miss a sunset pic on my first night in the city.

Quite fascinating how people casually move around life daily creating art for others in ways they are not conscious of.

I was in the middle of a portrait shoot, I liked what mother nature was telling me and I went for it.

Multitudes tell multitudes of stories. This stretch reminds me of a neighbourhood around République Metro station in Paris. It reminds me of my first night out in Paris.

I had conceived the idea of this photograph 2 days earlier but I had not planned for a sunset pic. Model showed up late and it ended up being a good kind of late

Envisioned the shot in less than a minute.

But guess how many tries it took?

The money shot has a way of testing your patience and resilience.

My legs were aching badly from 4 hours of wandering on foot and I only noticed them because she spoke Spanish

Try going out on a date with a French girl and see how far Google Translate can take you.

It was a composition that was tough to walk away from

A few good things happen at night

Thoughts tend to be clearer and the colours are definitely better.

I had returned home after what I had considered to be a disappointing photo day and I thought to take one last shot

You often reach out seeking the unknown in distant places

Only for you to come home to see it already lined up.

I was having drinks with 2 other friends and my intuition kept telling me to keep an eye on him and my camera ready.


It reminded me of a love I once dreamt of

A friendship. A trust. A bond.

True, tried and tested over the years

A love I often question its existence

One I only hope still exists

30 years of me choosing you everyday


It took this shot with that guy in mind but my interpretation later evolved

Do you see me?

I was 23 the first time I ever got on a train.

A reality that many may not comprehend

I spotted this smallish classic car and I had to tell a story around it. Thankfully the cyclist came at the perfect time.

History on these streets

I had imagined and wished I was in front of the Seine river in Paris and I was getting frustrated from trying to take long exposure shot without having a tripod on me.

Who swiped first?

I had considered chatting them up but I remembered the couple I had talked to a few days earlier who were on their first Bumble date.


Moments from the Artist Talk-Back Reception event
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