My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

The pride and passion
of Brian Bantugan

"Brian came in to check out a show," says Urban Source and Urban Gallery's head honcho Calvin Hambrook while he gallantly hosts the opening party for Pride, Passions, and Portraits: Homage to Male Toronto Artists. "We became friends and that's Brian's way. He's a classic story. He came to this city, this "unfriendly" city, and made hundreds of friends." He gestures at the photos lining the walls of Urban Gallery, "And this is the result."

Brian Bantugan's show Pride, Passions, and Portraits: Homage to Male Toronto Artists, consists of 29 portraits of artists who Bantugan has befriended and then photographed. Bantugan does not shoehorn the artists into a particular style but rather seeks to illustrate what they mean to him. The photographs are in a wide variety of styles from snapshots to Photoshopped to montages - the only link is that they are all done in natural light and reflect the character of the subject. 

It's an honour to have a portrait of myself in the collection, even though curator Allen Shugar did note that my photo, entitled "Music and Lyrics" is rather "pensive." I met Brian when he applied at fab magazine for an intern position. He was one of our success stories and one of  the most industrious and ambitious workers the magazine ever had. However it did take a lot of work to get him to be less serious and rigorously intellectual, to find the humour and sexiness in every story, in order to fit fab's format. Ironic that my portrait is the "pensive" one.

Bantugan met many of the featured artists when working at fab but getting them to happily pose for portraits that range from whimsical to intimate to, well, pensive, is a tribute to his own artistry. And I'm just delighted to be included in the company of such stellar members of our community as Stev'nn Hall, Maurice Vellekoop, John Greyson, Christian Jeffries, Spencer Charles Smith and the very erotic, old fab habits die hard, photo of pole dancer Gary Horne.

Pride, Passions, and Portraits: Homage to Male Toronto Artists continues until Sat, Jan 4 at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St E.