In wrapping up Volume 143, it brings me great pleasure to present The Varsity’s “Top Photos of the Year” — a patiently curated selection of the beautiful work submitted by student photographers across all three campuses. In true U of T fashion, the images below, ranked in no particular order, represent the diversity of our student body, with images taken in Bolivia, Indonesia and even the corners of Iceland. Yet, we see just as many moments captured right within hidden pockets of Toronto itself — Nathan Phillips Square, Varsity Blues Stadium, and Kensington Market to name a few.
These photos evoke many things. At times, a stranger’s quiet, solitary moment. At others, the loud vastness of a landscape. These photographers not only demonstrate immense technical talent, but also something arguably far more overlooked: an eye for capturing a fleeting moment.
I photographed “Focus on the Blues” at the championship finals for the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team. Though the Blues were at their very best, they were 0–1 by the second period. Despite this, the team remained spirited, choosing to focus on each other’s company above all else. I like to think that even at our darkest hour, moments like these shine through — the players represent a united front within U of T that helps us break through challenging times.
— Tung Kwan Nathan Ching, fourth year, public policy and criminology
This photo of the two strangers was taken on my walk across Nathan Phillips Square nearing midnight during the cold winters. I [initially] set out with my camera to capture the glittering nightlife of Toronto, but seeing these two strangers sit across made me want to capture the brittling reality instead, seeing how this captures the idea of companionship immaculately.
— Devarya Singhania, first year, humanities
With just a simple change of perspective, we turn ordinary sights into works of art. I try to apply this idea in my photography, paying closer attention to places I usually gloss over.
— Judy Naamani, fourth year, computer science
The atmosphere was charged, with enough demonstrators to comfortably fill up the square. While big political figures attended the rally, this photo I took of several women was the most meaningful to me. They were holding candles, so I asked to take a photo of them. One of them was not prepared for the flash, and closed her eyes. With her companions gathering around her, she appeared to be in melancholic contemplation, almost in prayer. To me, this photo represents the anguishing personal connection [that] each of us holds to the thing we fear losing the most. For her, it could have been her entire world.
— Augustine Wong, second year, architecture
After visiting a handful of packed tourist destinations on our trip to Iceland, it was really cool seeing a beach with no one on it. Of course it is also just an amazing view, and something that I don’t get to see a lot coming from the city. Those [factors] prompted me to take this photo and many others on my trip to Iceland.
— Aidan Brogan, fourth year, political science and urban studies
I absolutely adore fireworks. Some of my happiest memories are attached to them and to Niagara Falls, as growing up, my entire extended family used to make an annual pilgrimage. Now that everyone is in different phases, [it] doesn’t happen the same way. I took these photographs on one such trip with just my immediate family; it was a bit of a gamble because it was so dark and misty. I couldn’t really see my camera screen, but later on I was pleasantly surprised by the pictures, even more so after editing them.
— Fatima Mahmood, third year, population health and mental health studies
I was visiting a small village, [with a name] that [translates] to “Batik village,” in Semarang. While my family and I were scouring the Batik stores, I came across this man who I soon found out was the leading tour guide in the area who educated tourists [on] the history of the place. We talked for an hour until the sun set as he explained the history of the city through the murals he spent months painting.
— Arthur Hamdani, third year, journalism, English literature, and migration studies
At the height of the Bolivian Andes, many would think that no animal would be able to survive at such an altitude. However, special to the Bolivian Andes, the immense lakes harbor some of the most beautiful flocks of flamingos in the world. In this image, a pair of flamingos are taking flight off a lake. The beauty of the flamingos undeniably inspired me to take this picture.
— Lucas Garcia Vidal, first year, math and physical sciences
Lake Simcoe, located in southern Ontario, Canada, is known for its frigid winters and frozen surface. During the winter months, the lake’s surface freezes over, creating a stunning icy landscape. However, the frozen surface also leads to a natural phenomenon known as “ice quakes” which is shown in the image of the pieces of ice that are pushed up from surface level. I took this image as it had been the first time I had ever seen such a thing. It was something that was very cool — pun intended — to experience, and I had my film camera with me, so I thought why not capture this beautiful moment?
— Alexia Koutlemanis, second year, journalism
I was at Granville station in Vancouver, and there was a group of skaters that were doing tricks at the ticketing area. One of them started climbing the machine and I thought it’d make a sick shot, so I snapped a photo. We ended up chatting for a little bit and got some other photos too, but the original candid one felt the realest.
— Kurtis Law, second year, computer science
This photo was taken in Kensington Market on the night of the winter solstice, where there was a festival taking place. It shows a woman standing in a shop front surrounded by colourful hats, scarves, and other garments. I particularly like the expression on the woman’s face. The photo was shot using a Minolta X-570 loaded with Kodak Portra 400 pushed two stops to 1600.
— Gabriel Carter, fourth year, history
When I took this photo, I was wandering the streets of Toronto to complete the visual requests for that week’s The Varsity issue. It was one of my first months here. I got lost, and it started pouring. Trying to shelter myself and my camera from the rain, I somehow found myself at Nathan Phillips Square. In the foggy weather, I saw the skyscrapers that outline the everyday view from my dorm room under a different light — each window of the corporate headquarters was a warm beacon spiking through the condensed sky, evoking a sense of brightness and hope within. I found this nuance very ironic considering the draining culture of corporate work, yet found my inspiration for this photo in that feeling. I now reminisce [about] this photo as the starting point of my (unintentional) Toronto exploration.
— Zeynep Poyanli, first year, life sciences
Every good building has a good base. A good base starts with a good person working on the building. When I took the photo, the man captured in the frame was the only one working on the empty construction site. I [was] reminded of myself, my own identity, and how it has been shaped into the way it is now. Surely someone would have started it, then a few more would have joined in, which eventually became every other person I met over the course of 20 years. This photo is a show of gratitude to all those who helped form who I am as of now. Cheers to whatever I’ve become.
— Joohyeon Park, second year, philosophy
After waiting in the cold for three hours, I took this photo of Gracie Abrams singing a song off her two-week-old (at the time) debut album, “Good Riddance.” As part of Gracie’s top 0.005 per cent of Spotify listeners, this was a long-anticipated moment for me. I associate many of her songs with memories and past versions of myself, having listened to them on loop throughout my senior year of high school. Experiencing her confessional lyricism and captivating sound right in front of me, now in my first year of university and having moved across the country, a lot has changed — but my love for Gracie’s music has only deepened.
— Averyn Ngan, first year, environmental studies