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Steam. Moody skies. Dark shadows. There’s plenty of this stuff in the images of Toronto-based photographer Ori Raynai (aka @ori.ginals on the Instagram). Combined with an eye for architecture and an affinity for heights, everything lends the 25-year-old’s work real sense of Canadian Gotham. With shots taken high above the cityscape, it’s not hard to imagine some Marvel comic hero drawn into the frame, crawling over a bridge, standing at the edge of a high rise.
Holding court in the north of this fine continent, we talked to Raynai about his bodega buys, how he survives winter without losing his mind, and dollar pizza in NYC.
Your neighborhood in Toronto. Tell us about it…
I live in Midtown Toronto. The area is called Forest Hill. Growing up, I would spend my weekends playing hockey on the streets or going downtown with my siblings or with friends shopping. I have always been very active and very interested in fashion and in particular sneaker culture. Downtown Toronto has been the biggest inspiration in my work thus far, but I could not have picked a better neighbourhood to have grown up in.
You have $15 to spend in a bodega. You buy what…
A pack of smokes—I'm a hack; I need to quit. A two-liter bottle of water— sometimes you have to climb a lot of stairs. A Snickers bar, a bag of Skittles, and some Sour Keys or gummy coke bottles with the leftover change—everyone loves candy.
Ideal sneaker and sock combo:
Air Jordan 1 Bred (black and red)—with low-cut, white Nike socks. I love colourful fun socks, as well. Instance is one of my favourite companies right now making fun quality socks for men, but the ideal combo would have to be the simplicity of the Bred with a low-cut simple sock.
Winter survival tactics:
LAYER! I enjoy the beauty and utility winter brings. Snow has the ability to make any scene more interesting or horrifying to capture. And for as long as I can remember, I have skied and played hockey, so as long as there is a hill (we do not have mountains in Ontario) or a rink, I can handle it.
What's your favorite part about New York?
The bridges, buildings, shopping, and dollar pizza. I enjoy watching random documentaries on Netflix and the Internet about anything and everything—before coming to New York, I had recently watched a film on the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Seeing it in person and walking across it after watching a documentary about men losing there lives building that monument was very memorable and I will never forget the amazing sites the city has to offer... especially from up top!
What's your least favorite part about New York?
Our bagels are better, sorry...
How do you find places to shoot around the city?
Toronto currently has more cranes in North America than any other city. I am lucky to live in a city where there are an abundance of condominiums and office towers to try and shoot from. I have never climbed a crane or destroyed private property. The best way to find new places in your city—or roofs to get on—is to just go out and shoot! Explore your city and you will be amazed at the places you find. Finding spots that other people take pictures from is easier than going out for a day with friends and having an amazing time in your city but it is the adventure and fine tuning of your skills that is the reward, not the likes on a social media app.
What's the highest building you've shot from?
78 floors. Around 890 feet.
You ever get nervous going so high up?
It has an odd ,calming effect. I am more nervous of someone seeing us and thinking we are doing something bad when we are just trying to capture a unique and breathtaking view of a city we love.
Daytime person or nighttime person?
Night and morning person. It’s easy for me to stay up late editing or working on a project. No matter how tired I am, I rarely go to sleep before 2 or 3 unless I am ill. As for the morning comment, there’s nothing better than capturing sunsets and McDonalds’ breakfast.
Where do you want to shoot next?
Detroit. The abandoned churches and buildings are extremely beautiful to me. I drove through Detroit on a road trip to Tennessee last summer and was amazed by the buildings that lay idle and empty. Exploring Detroit and capturing the true emotion of a struggling city would be very rewarding—not just the architecture, but the people as well.
Follow @ori.ginals on Instagram.