I became intrigued with the places of worship (POWs) found in Toronto’s light industrial and suburban employment areas a few years ago. There are close to 5000 POWs that have been formally identified by the city. Many of these POWs are hidden from the public by being in some of the city’s most mundane urban landscapes, but they are vitally important social sites for the people that use them – often new immigrants – and the breadth of spaces illuminates the variety of religious cultures that are part of Toronto’s immigrant population. Taken as a whole the photographs also indicate the economic limitations and resourcefulness faced by immigrants as they seek to express and practice their religion in Toronto’s inner suburbs.
Thus the exterior of the Tamil temple, has been modified with decorative trim that mimics the exterior stone decorations of traditional temples in Sri Lanka. Similarly the facades of Hanuman Mandir, and Divine Light suggest the range of strategies used to create sacred spaces. In addition to sites that are found through out the employment areas, many of the images fall into the category of “store front churches’ and demonstrate the banality of many of the sites. Each place of worship is evidence of how individuals and groups are integrating into and becoming part of the complex visual and social fabric of the city.