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Darcy Killeen of the CONTACT Photography Festival dishes on his favourite exhibits this year

Follow along as Andrew takes an intriguing person out for a night on the town, visiting some of Toronto’s newest hot spots and offering tips on how you can create your own date night.

I had a date with Darcy Killeen, the executive director of the CONTACT Photography Festival — a date I was really looking forward to. CONTACT is Toronto’s annual month-long photo bonanza, and I was curious to learn what it takes to run it.

We met at Yorkville’s Café Boulud in the Four Seasons Hotel, clinking cocktail glasses as a perfect start to the evening. Throughout dinner, while Killeen and I chatted photography, I couldn’t help but notice a pop art portrait by Mr.

Brainswash starring Grace Kelly staring down at me as if she were listening in on our conversation. Ms. Kelly was flanked by portraits of Kate Moss and Madonna, a feminine trilogy known for never shying from the lens.

As Kate, Madonna and Grace spent the evening glancing over us, our feast at Café Boulud tasted of a new season, with fresh flavours via risotto of spring herbs, Nova Scotia lobster salad and agnolotti of wild leek.

Killeen says that as a young boy, he always dreamt of working on Wall Street. It was a goal he met in his early 20s, and it brought a lifestyle he describes as “non-stop, exhausting and exhilarating.” Having found his fortune at a young age, he wanted to give back to the community by volunteering on the boards of several arts organizations. His first introduction to Toronto’s CONTACT Photography Festival changed his life. “I saw a great opportunity for growth in the organization and wanted to use my business skills to help the festival realize its full potential,” he says.

Killeen is obviously proud that the CONTACT Photography Festival is the world’s largest. This year, the fest will showcase a mind-blowing 1,500 Canadian and International artists and photographers exhibiting at more than 175 venues to an eager audience of more than one million.

The theme of this year’s festival is Identity, a perfect prelude to our World Pride celebration in June. Photo fans will have an opportunity to explore the notion of identity through photographs that showcase a broad range of communities such as queer, marginalized, female and African.

Be sure to check out two of Killeen’s favourite exhibits this year: Pictures from Paradise, Caribbean images that will be presented at Harbourfront Centre, and a collection at BAND Gallery by Gordon Parks, the first African American artist to work for Life Magazine.

Where to go before, after

Pre: Enjoy an early Spanish feast at Grant Van Gameren’s always-bustling Bar Isabel.

Post: Grab a late-night glass of sparkling wine at the Drake Hotel, and drink it under the stars on their rooftop patio.

Join the photo parade

The Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival runs throughout the month of May. Visit for more details.

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