Toronto Tibetans in the Cosmopolis

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Colin Boyd Shafer is the Toronto photographer behind the “Cosmopolis Project.” Here’s how he describes it on his website,

Welcome to Cosmopolis Toronto

Cosmopolis Toronto should speak to modern day Toronto (including the Greater Toronto Area) – a city that some argue is the most cosmopolitan in the world.

For this project, I set out on a yearlong journey (June 2013 – June 2014) to photograph someone born in every single country of the world, who now calls Toronto home.  Cosmopolis in fact means ” a city inhabited by people from many different countries.” But, while we often say ‘diversity’,  rarely (maybe never) are ‘real stories’ about individuals part of the discussion. The aims of the project are therefore to:

  1. Create an accurate picture of diversity through the unique individuals that make up Toronto today;
  2. Share compelling personal stories;
  3. Create engaging and positive opportunities for dialogue among people from various cultural and social backgrounds within the GTA.

For each person participating in the project, I will be taking a portrait of them in a place where they feel  ‘at home’ in the GTA, as well as another photograph featuring them holding an item they feel connects them to their place of birth.  These two photographs will be paired with a short story and mapped here on the website.

The project has been getting a lot of media buzz.

I wrote Colin a letter recently commending him on his fascinating portraits, but lamented that he had left Tibet off the map, figuratively and literally.

Last Friday I heard back from him:

Great to hear from you.
I completely understand. I guess the one way of looking at it is that the person I photographed from China could have been / identified as Tibetan. The country template has been more or less just a ‘grid’ to span the globe. As you will recognize many of the people I photograph do not fit with the majority (religion, culture, ethnicity) nor are they meant to “represent their country”. 
I long to visit Tibet.  My ex-girlfriend did her MA in Religious Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (while I was there last year) with a focus on Tibet and Possession Practices, and through this I have become more intrigued.
I hope you can continue to follow the project and keep in touch.

This morning I heard from Colin again, to say he had reconsidered and would indeed like someone from Toronto’s Tibetan community to participate. He stressed the importance of meeting his May 15th deadline, and included a copy of the standard project participation application forms.

I’m including here the Cosmopolis Toronto Application Form (.doc) and Cosmopolis Toronto Application Form (.rtf) formats.

Would someone from the Toronto Tibetan community please take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to make a important statement by participating!

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