SNAP is a photographic art fundraiser and gala with all proceeds supports ACT’s (AIDS Committee of Toronto) crucial HIV prevention, education and outreach programs within the communities most affected by HIV in our city.

Since 2002, SNAP has raised $3 million dollars. Photography for the auction is solicited by a volunteer-led Curatorial Committee who represent galleries from across the country and who hold strong connections to the photography and arts community. This is the first year that the Curatorial Committee is comprised of members outside of Toronto as well as within the city.

Artists generously donate their pieces. As such, SNAP provides a great opportunity for both established and emerging artists to showcase their work. When their photography sells at our above value, both the artists and the clients and community ACT serves win. There’s both a live and silent auction component to the bidding, so anyone can choose which they feel most comfortable with.

TD Bank has been the presenting sponsor of SNAP for 11 years. The event draws over 500 guests, providing patrons with an opportunity to support ACT’s programs and services and increase their awareness of HIV and AIDS while adding to their art collection.

Here’s a spotlight on two of the participating artist, taking a look at their work, why they got involved with this particular fundraiser, and where they get their creative inspirations from.

Talia Shipman

My artistic practice is driven by a fascination with and quest for balance amidst a world of extremes, and the human and natural world’s ability to change and be changed. “Meet Me In The Middle,” was created in the earnest process of navigating the unforgiving conditions of the static desert landscape. Captivated by the colour turquoise as a metaphor for water, fluidity and change, I sought balance between the two extreme environments through the intervention of physical objects and images.

Photo Title: Melt (Cube), 2016 – Edition: 1 of 4  – Dimensions:18″ x 24″ Archival Print – Value: $1,650 – Gallery: Back Gallery Project

“Melt (Cube)” is the title of the individual piece. “Meet Me In The Middle” is the name of the series/body of work.

1. What was the key factor behind your decision to provide a piece of your art work to this great fundraiser?

As a member of the arts community, I have many friends and colleagues that are queer. Although AIDS research and treatment have come a long way, HIV is still a very real (and expensive) disease that many people live with. I don’t think twice about donating to this cause. The curators of SNAP also do a fantastic job; my work will be in great company.

2. What is the significance as to why you chose this particular piece?

I photographed a clear cube shaped sculpture, filled with blue cellophane, juxtaposed against the warm desert landscape. The dichotomy between the object and the environment – the possibility that something could be here one second and gone another – represents life’s fragility. Another notable and relevant observation by a fellow artist, is that the majority of condoms in Iran are that exact color blue, making this photo look like discarded condoms, encased and conserved in a box. That was not an intentional reference on my part, however an interesting and welcome one that I would like to look at more in depth.

3. What was your inspiration behind creating this particular piece?

The entire “Meet Me In The Middle” series was born out of an imagined post-apocalyptic world where water and other basic needs are replaced by consumer objects, examining the human and natural world’s propensity to change and transform. “Melt (Cube)” encapsulates exactly its title: an ice cube, melting in the desert sun. When the earth’s homeostasis is not in balance, everything is off. It’s a metaphor for our depleting environmental resources, as well as life’s delicate struggle and balance.

4. Which individuals, artists and otherwise, do you admire and/or find creative inspiration from?

I view a lot of art in museums and galleries, but I strangely don’t [consciously] look too in depth at a lot of other artists work when it comes to referencing or taking inspiration. My work comes mostly from my physical and geographical environment, as well as my dreams. Some artists I admire are: Vanessa Beecroft, Elad Lassry, Shirin Neshat, Robert Rauchenburg, Jon Baldessari, William Eggleston, Cyprien Gaillard. I just saw the Mark Lecky show at MoMa PS1 and although the outcome of his work is very different than mine, his artist statement as a whole resonated and aligned with a lot of the way I see the world and what I speak to in my own work.

5. What is the most difficult aspect to being an artist? The most joyous?

Staying in one place/ Not staying in one place. Going through all of the emotions and thoughts/Having an outlet for those feelings and thoughts.

John Simone

RuPaul (with pots & pans) by John Simone, printed and first exhibited at Mary Sue Rankin’s Edward Day Gallery’s in the group show, Flash: Queering the Field (curated by Kelly McCray) and again at Buddies as Legends of New York Nightlife, part of the inaugural Nuit Rose Queer Arts Festival 2014. Simone’s nightlife documentarian career started in 1987, publishing celebrity and NY nightlife shots in Stephen Saban’s eponymous club column in the original Details magazine. He shot Susanne Bartsch’s first parties while also documenting society, fashion and most notably the birth of the Club Kids, as chief photographer for Michael Alig\s Project X magazine. He was Lead Still Photographer on the Netflix hit, Glory Daze: The Life & Times of Michael Alig (December 2016), with the film featuring 95 Simone photographs.

Photo Title: Rupaul (with Pots and Pans) at Club MK, NYC 1990 – Edition: 1 of 10 – Dimensions: 14″ x 11″ Gelatin Silver Print – Value: $800

1. What was the key factor behind your decision to provide a piece of your art work to this great fundraiser?

The donation was a nice surprise to me; Sonja Scharf at Akasha Art Projects, submitted the work for consideration. My recent trilogy retrospective at the 2016 Nuit Rose festival was shown at Akasha. This same shot of RuPaul was in that show, but in a different edition, as a monumental 48×72 canvas! One part of that trilogy was A Fashion Cares Retro photo-video of my shots from early Fashion Cares, many that were published in my Johnny Paparazzo column in Xtra magazine, and 28 of which are featured in the 525-page monograph history of Fashion Cares which was a 1000-edition run, that also raised big bucks for the AIDS Committee of Toronto.  The video is fabulously scored with 6 remixes by Melleefresh (vs DeadMau5 etc), and Melleny Melody herself is featured prominently throughout the work. It closes with Melleny`s angel from her steampunk Barberella scene, and a dedication to the victims of Orlando, which occured the week I was putting it together. As a Torontonian, it’s a duty and a pleasure to support the mission of The AIDS Committe over the years.

2. What is the significance as to why you chose this particular piece?

RuPaul, as the first face of M.A.C. Cosmetics, famously headlined many of ACT`s Fashion Cares in the 90’s. And it will be in included in my next Nuit Rose exhibition, RuPaul: Evolution of an Icon. This show will feature over 20 shots in large editions of the earliest looks of RuPaul 6 years before her break out with Larry Tee`s Supermodel.

3. What was your inspiration behind creating this particular piece?

In 1987, after graduating from U of T, I found myself in New York, just after Warhol died, and the scene was evolving, to a world ruled and populated by Michael Alig and the first batch of 100 club kids, that grew into a scene that engulfed NY for ten years. My main gig was supplying shots for the “Stephen Saban” nightlife column in the original Details magazine. Alig’s Project X magazine which I was chief photographer for also published reams of my work, from the covers, fashion spreads, my Celebrity Sheet, Alig’s Club Rub column and the latest fashions in “looks to look for.” It was Michael Alig who actually paid for RuPaul’s ticket to NY from Atlanta in 1987. My archive has everyone you could imagine, but the largest personalities have their own archive. RuPaul was my most frequent subject to shoot (along with Susanne Bartsch, Leigh Bowery, Michael Musto, James St. James, Alig and Julie Jewels). This shot, RuPaul (with Pots & Pans), is from a night which I was hosting at Club MK on Fifth Avenue, and which I secured a payment from the club of $150 to RuPaul for a ten-minute show. The shot was taken just before she was to perform. As always, RuPaul required 5 drink tickets when doing a gig.

4. Which individuals, artists and otherwise, do you admire and/or find creative inspiration from?

My club freak shots, with Leigh Bowery paramount, are close in character to the grimiest of Diane Arbus’s circus freaks and transvestites. The fringes of society is where we both find our greatest subjects. I also shot on the uptown society and Broadway circuits, and those images are closer to the gritty glamour of Wee Gee, who covered the same beat, for the same tabloids, 50 years prior. And who wasn’t inspired by the sheer committment of Bill Cunningham, the great NY Times street photographer, but who also covered black tie events, every single night of the week. I have a stash of the first five years of Details magazines, before I started freelancing for them, and they provided me with a pantheon of notables on the downtown scene and the edgy celebs that the editor Saban exalted. It was my boldface history lesson.

Saban`s pages and pages of witty, biting club reportage and photos, by moi, Patrick McMullan, Tina Paul and Miss Chickie was the first thing anyone read in Details. But the crowning glory of Details were the 100-page fashion season photo spreads  (4-6 times a year), of Bill Cunningham`s work from Paris, London, Milan, Tokyo etc. They are the most incredible document of 1980`s fashion that exists under one masthead. My job was not to dress up and be a freak; it was my job to document. What I really enjoyed, was to give others an acknowledgement of their own personal fabulousness; my editors might see their pictures if  I deemed them worthy of an exposure. Imagine a world with no fashion|nightlife bloggers, documenting everything they do, eat and fart about? Imagine a world with no social media at all except for some scattered individuals like myself (and in the three years I was on the scene, there really was no one else covering the same parties), documenting what was happening during one of the last epochs of originality and exhibitionism.

5. What is the most difficult aspect to being an artist? The most joyous?

Creating a social media presence of what I’ve documented has been a full-time job. It`s a lot of work but a lot of fun. I’ve created 7 websites that are chock-a-block with content. Starting at, I showcase my exhibition editions, books and tear sheets from Details. My travel photography is at Recent Toronto gala events at while my 230 entertainment columns from Xtra magazine are at I`m very excited about my newest site, With 130 photos (from 50 exotic travel destinations) illustrating my 95 Easy Tips for taking better photographs. I taught earlier versions of the course to thousands of passengers during the recent five years I spent as a senior photographer on Princess Cruises. Simple composition tips and an overview of visual inspiration ideas will help save the world from the scourge of bad cellphone photography.

It’s been thirty years since this work was begun, so it is great that there are still stories to tell with them. E.g., another crazy clip is when I appeared on Alig’s podcast, the morning of the festival premiere in New York (June 2015), of the feature documentary by Ramon Fernandez, Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig (which features over 95 of my photos, along with interviews with Alig, Musto, James St. James, Amanda Lepore etc), which is now a hit on Netflix. 


SNAP Gala – Thursday, March 30, 2017 at the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library

Reception and Final Viewing
6pm – 7pm
Live Auction
7pm – 9pm
Silent Auction
6pm – 10pm

Tickets – Cost of the ticket includes: coat check, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, host bar, live auction, silent auction, and entertainment by the incomparable DJ Sumation!

Live auction previews can be seen online here, silent auction here, and limited edition Chris Shepherd prints here.

Public Previews will take place on Friday March 10th and Saturday March 11th at Georgia Scherman Projects.

About ACT

The AIDS Committee of Toronto was founded in 1983 by a group of volunteers. It was founded in response to a new disease that was being ignored by mainstream healthcare, media, and all levels of government. The AIDS Committee of Toronto is a leading HIV service organization, supporting the more than 20,000 people living with HIV in Toronto. They do so by offering a range of comprehensive supports that help people living with HIV confront the stigma, physical and mental health challenges, and financial complexity of living with HIV. ACT also works extensively towards preventing new HIV infections from occurring. Their goal is to reduce HIV transmissions through prevention. ACT works with gay men, women and young people to increase their knowledge of HIV.




About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment, and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors, and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats. Reach out -