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Documenting Aurora showcases Town’s recently lost landscapes

March 12, 2020   ·   0 Comments

If you’re a recent arrival to Aurora, the time when St. John’s Sideroad was little more than a country road seems like a world away – but things move quickly over the course of a decade or so and, in that time, Anna Lozyk Romeo has been there, camera at the ready.

The Aurora photographer, and creative force behind the popular Living in Aurora blog, has trained her lens on Aurora’s changing landscape for more than 10 years, chronicling what once was and what now is.

Her work comes into focus this month at the Aurora Public Library with the launch of the new photography exhibition “Documenting Aurora” at the Colleen Abbott Gallery. Documenting Aurora launches March 16, running through April 27, and showcases the many changes Aurora has experienced between 2011 and 2019, with a specific focus on demolished and restored buildings and the development of local farmland.

“We moved to Aurora in 1997 and for ten years we were just workaholics,” says Anna of the lifestyle she and husband Dominic enjoyed prior to the arrival of their son Matthew. “For us, Aurora was a bedroom community. For ten years, we didn’t really see what was happening. After ten years, we decided to have Matthew and I decided to have a change of career.”

An engineer by training and practice, she decided to balance her new role as mom while embracing her creativity behind the camera.

A resident of the St. John’s and Bayview Avenue community, the rapidly developing area provided plenty of artistic – and sometimes alarming – inspiration.

“We saw changes – old buildings coming down, new land being developed, and it was very progressive,” she says.

These changes sparked an interest in history and the civic affairs of this Town and she became increasingly interested in following planning applications to get her and her camera ahead of the wrecking ball. As she delved deeper into Aurora’s history, she noticed that what was considered part of Aurora’s history began to drop off after the 1950s, and she made a concerted effort to help fill in the gaps.

The first big project she devoted much of her time to was the saga surrounding the historic Petch House, moved from what is now the Smart Centres development near Highway 404 to a lot near Leslie and Wellington, where it was left to decay for years before being restored and rebuilt behind the Aurora Seniors’ Centre just over six years ago.

“A lot of buildings became abandoned [as lands began being redeveloped] and my photography went from events and walking our streets and trails to actually going to demolition sites,” she says. “I followed Petch House for three years.”

Her work on Petch House opened doors, and she spent days documenting just about every corner of the former Wells Street Public School before it was transformed into lofts, the reconstruction of a historic farmhouse that once stood at the northeast corner of Bayview and St. John’s Sideroad, and, perhaps most meaningful to her, the demolition of the Lundy farm near Leslie and St. John’s.

“All of these projects are equally important, but the one I like the most is Joe Lundy,” says Ms. Lozyk Romeo of her time watching the demolition alongside the former property who grew up in the house and his family. “It was literally the end. You’re watching the end of those farmlands while Joe was laughing and telling stories.”

In curating a selection of the buildings, landscapes and streetscapes she has captured over the last ten years, Ms. Lozyk Romeo says it is all about capturing change as it happens before this change is forgotten.

“We’re such a busy and fast society,” she says. “I wasn’t thinking about it when I started taking the photos, but now when I look that them, I see that sometimes we don’t actually see what is going on. Change is good, but it needs to be responsible. I want to bring awareness to what is going on around you. History is important, continuity is important. I want to make people aware of what is going on because we’re literally losing ground to concrete.”

When she began what ultimately became a photography project, she had myriad historic buildings to capture, all in varying states of preservation and decay. As time has marched on, so too have these sources of inspiration.

“Now I don’t really have anything to work with,” she says with a chuckle. “Aurora has gone through a social and cultural change. We’re trying to be a more diverse community and now I think [my photography] is going to be more about culture – people versus land transformation.”

By Brock Weir



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