What was EyeSpy?

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EyeSpy was a photography first social column focused on the arts, nightlife and cultural events that took place in downtown Toronto, Canada. It was published every Thursday in “Eye Weekly” from December 1992 to July 1995.

EyeSpy column samples

EyeSPY WAS THE FIRST THING A CERTAIN SEGMENT OF THE TORONTO ARTS COMMUNITY TURNED TO EVERY THURSDAY, TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED THE WEEK BEFORE, TO SEE IF ANYONE THEY KNEW WAS IN THE PHOTOS, AND TO WONDER HOW THEY COULD GET IN THE NEXT ONE.

LET ME SET THE SCENE

Before the internet and social media, people found out about the world through television, radio and print newspapers. TV, radio and daily newspapers excelled at national issues aimed at a mass audience. If your interests were more niche, locally published newspapers, printed and distributed weekly were a great source of of keeping up to date on your community.

Toronto had several weeklies that gave the cultural interests of young people – movies, music, theatre, nightclubs and visual art – a lot of attention.

EyeSpy was a photography first social column focused on those cultural interests at events that took place in Toronto, Canada. It was published in “Eye Weekly” every Thursday from December 1992 to July 1995.

It featured coverage of film festival parties, award shows, CD release parties, nightclubs openings or anniversaries, fashion shows, live theatre or art show opening, and a whole bunch of other cultural events that attracted the attention and attendance of the arts community in downtown Toronto. Sometimes actual celebrities made appearances.

Its’ target audience was the same as the majority of the people it featured: young, ambitious, arts oriented, and trying to get noticed.

To many in the arts scene, getting your event or photo in the column was a great source of free publicity. There was no such thing as social media. An artist on their own had very limited ways of promoting their work, or band or night club or event beyond a poster stapled to a telephone pole. To reach a wider audience, an artist had to get the attention of a member of the media and hope to be written about. It took even more luck to get your photo published.

Promoters would send invites to the paper, the editors and art director decided what events should be covered and chose which photos were to be featured. My job was to go to the events, take the photos, and write down the name of everyone in the pictures. The editors were pleasantly surprised to discover I could write my own copy.

The column was popular and drew attention right from the beginning. Newspaper columns are assigned a certain amount of space based on popularity and the interest of advertisers to purchase ad space beside specific columns. EyeSpy started out sharing a page with another column, but within a couple of months it was expanded to it’s own page, surrounded by advertisements that paid a premium to be placed beside the column.

As the writer / photographer I quickly understood the desire of promoters to have me feature their event in my column. I also encountered an ever larger group of people who knew about the column, and were eager to have their picture taken, in the hopes of it being printed in the newspaper.

In the future I hope to be able have contributions from some of the people who were featured in column on what kind impact it had.

Steven Lungley

January 2024

OPINIONS FROM THE SUBJECTS

HERE ARE THE VIEWS OF THE COLUMN FROM PEOPLE WHO WERE FEATURED IN THE PHOTOS

What was EYESPY TO: