If there's one emotion that binds us after two years of pandemic existence, it's grief. We've lost people and places we loved. Lost our work and our play. Our connections to one another. On tough days, perhaps even our hope. Meanwhile, the digital world makes attempts to bridge the gap, but all it does is separate us further. Destroying our sense of reality. Our self-worth. Our ability to think for ourselves.
Oddly enough, I found myself thinking a lot about diners, both literally and as metaphor, during this time. They're the kind of place that has nearly been wiped out by the pandemic. Numbers were already dwindling, yes, but like so many independent businesses and small community spaces, most couldn't survive lockdown (after lockdown). It turns out, eggs and sausage don't work as well on Zoom.
So what do we lose? An outdated restaurant style? Sure, ok. But also, simple, affordable food. A place where the menu is 50 items long, but you order the same thing every time, and the act of it, like a prayer, fills you with a kind of solace. A space where you sit with your neighbours (not just your approved friends list) and there's no laptop latte loitering with headphones on. If you don't face a friend at a table or booth, you face the staff at the counter. You speak to other humans. Remember, smiles? You exchange those too. You might even accidentally bump elbows with the leftie beside you and meet the love of your life. It's true.
But I'm preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this, you probably already understand all too well the magic of the diner. You wouldn't judge me for shedding a tear over my archive of diner snapshots, as I tried to assemble these images into more of a feeling than a story. I miss those early mornings. Those late nights. Every one of you who sat with me. My grief travels ahead of me to all the meetings that will never happen, but it also takes a quiet seat when my hopeful heart dreams of those we might still share.
Tanja-Tiziana is a professional photographer and writer based in Toronto. She is best known locally for past roles as Managing Editor of BlogTO and Head Photographer at Toronto's last independent weekly, Now Magazine. Her ongoing documentary series, The Buzzing Lights Project, captures North America’s remaining neon signs and was published as a coffee-table book in 2016. Tanja regularly releases independent photo zines like, A Seat at the Counter, along with limited edition prints, on her blog at Doublecrossed.ca.
A selection of larger Limited Edition Art Prints (signed and numbered by the artist) as well as smaller art prints and zine will be available for sale starting on the opening night and for the duration of the exhibit.