There are not many things more quintessentially Toronto than the humble acorn-style street sign — and now the famous black-and-white design is being celebrated in a series by a local photographer.
Leah Illies (aka heyilivetherephotography) has been documenting the original way-finders in Riverside, Leslieville — and across the city — and will be revealing them in an upcoming photo exhibition pop-up at Black Lab Brewing on April 17 from 5-8 p.m.
“I’ve got a sentimental attachment to Leslieville, a 10-foot ladder, a mild fear of heights, a stubborn need to get a shot with a good story in it and a monster of a heart that believes that where we live is woven into our fabric and worth remembering,” Illies says.
With help from her partner, she’s photographed more than 50 street signs in the east end alone in a process that began unknowingly.
“I started shooting street signs for our little landscaping company,” she says. “They were always highly praised, so I thought I might sell a few. It was supposed to be my off-season project but it has taken on a life of its own.”
Illies says she’s had her share of funny looks while perched on top of a ladder at a busy intersections and goes to great lengths to get the right shot, even producing makeshift repairs if the job calls for it.
“Once, I climbed up to find a sign with no acorn. The sign was gorgeous — original font, specks of rust, bones still perfectly intact.”
Instead of moving on, she spent an entire Saturday making an acorn for the sign. Using a round lollipop and modelling clay from Dollarama, she Macgyvered the proper shape and spray-painted it black.
“I slid the lolli stick in the hole where the acorn used to be and took the shot. I felt like I had won the lottery. And before you ask, no I did not leave it there. It sits in a little vase on a bookshelf, waiting to be called to action again if ever I find another acorn-less sign.”
Head down to Black Lab Brewing on Wednesday, April 17 from 5-8 p.m. for the Hey, I Live There! pop-up shop. Grab a beer and check out the collection of photos, all on sale for one night for $65 (reg. $75 + tax + $15 flat-rate delivery).
Follow Leah’s photography on at heyilivetherephotography on Instragram. Don’t see your street? Leah also takes custom requests at firstname.lastname@example.org.