All About the SNAP Photography Auction

By: Dara Vandor

Re-imagining fundraising during Covid-19

The annual SNAP gala and photography auction is a glamorous affair, held at the Art Deco-inflected Arcadian Court in downtown Toronto. Art collectors mingle, the wine flows, and the dancing continues late into the night—that is, it did before COVID-19. In light of the new circumstances, ACT (AIDS Committee of Toronto) has re-imagined the event and is working in partnership with Waddington’s to offer the works from the photography competition portion of the annual gala event.

Waddington’s is proud to partner with ACT to present the SNAP Photography Auction online from October 3 – 8. The auction represents the winners and jury selections from the annual Photo Competition. These contemporary, lens-based works are selected from among hundreds of entries by a blind jury of talented professionals working in the fields of photography, printing and framing.


Proceeds from this auction will support the free programs and services offered at ACT, Canada’s largest HIV and AIDS service organization. ACT was founded in 1983 by a group of community volunteers with the mission to end AIDS in Toronto through sexual health education, prevention and outreach. ACT works towards a city with zero new HIV infections, zero HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths while promoting the independence, dignity, health and well-being of those living with HIV and AIDS and those at increased risk of HIV. ACT primarily serves gay, bi, queer people living with HIV and those at increased risk for new HIV-infection. They offer counselling and support groups, social support programs and anonymous HIV-testing. ACT also offers programming for young people, women, and has a one-of-a-kind employment program to help people living with HIV and LGBTQ2+ folks find meaningful employment in their field after taking time to focus on their health. To learn more, please visit ACT’s website at

ABOUT THE photography competition WINNER – Leah DEN BOK

DUFFY, Leah den Bok, SNAP 2019 Photo Competition Winner

The winner of the 2020 SNAP Photography Competition, Leah den Bok, is the youngest finalist in the competition’s history at age 19, as well as a first-time entrant. Coming from an artistic household, den Bok cites her parent’s encouragement as the key to her career. Picking up the camera early in life, she notes that her father’s influence remains particularly strong, noting that “without my dad’s encouragement I would likely have not even begun photography, and would probably have quit soon after I did start.” She began her most recognized and ambitious project to date, entitled “Humanizing the Homeless,” when she was 15, explaining that it is “really a partnership between my dad and I. He accompanies me on my photo shoots, interviews the individuals, and does most of the writing. He also helps me to choose which photo to edit after I’ve done a photo shoot, and, often, offers advice during the editing process.” Other influences include British photographer Lee Jeffries and his work photographing those experiencing homelessness, Kathe Kollwitz and Rembrandt van Rijn—particularly his use of chiaroscuro and lighting.

Den Bok’s winning photograph, Duffy, comes from her “Humanizing the Homeless” series, and is a particular favourite of the artist, so much so that she selected it for the cover of her third book Nowhere to Call Home—Photographs and Stories of People Experiencing Homelessness: Volume Three. Of the making of the photograph, den Bok explains that she first saw Duffy while driving in Hamilton with her father. “Because of his striking appearance and wild hair, I knew immediately that I wanted to take his portrait,” she recalls. “It took me 15 minutes to park. Fortunately, Duffy was still there when I went looking for him.” The artist and her father take care to chronicle the stories of the people they photograph, documenting the encounters in detail and posting them to den Bok’s Instagram. To read more of Duffy’s story, please click here.

Patrick Lightheart, a Toronto-based photographer and one of the members of this year’s competition jury, notes that Duffy perfectly set the tone and level of artistry for this year’s winning collection of photographs. He explains that “the sense of this person’s character, the dark depth of it and sculptural nature of the subject’s silhouette were all very compelling. We also had never chosen a portrait as the winning piece and knew when we saw den Bok’s submission that it would be considered for that prize.”

Lightheart speaks of the joy of helping a cause that he is extremely passionate about, both as a juror and as an artist—his work was featured on the cover of the SNAP auction catalogue twice, in 2010 and 2015. He explains that his experience as a lens-based artist has helped him to see work differently from jurors from other arts-related fields, and that each member on the panel brings their own diverse creative backgrounds and opinions to the table. He notes that “minds have been changed from chosen to not chosen and vice versa in some instances. We examine each entry with the upmost scrutiny in the hopes of ending up with the best of the best so that we can raise as much money as possible for ACT.”

Past winners of the SNAP photography competition credit the opportunity with expanding their careers and providing them access to new audiences and opportunities. What’s next for den Bok? She has just begun her third year of the Bachelor of Photography program at Sheridan College and plans on continuing her work documenting those experiencing homelessness. She also dreams of “going to Kolkata with my mother and photographing the people Mother Teresa called the “poorest of the poor,”” while also pursuing a career in fashion and beauty photography. She is aware of the wild disparity between these two spheres, explaining that each new subject and challenge “demand a totally different approach.” A very wise 2020 mantra indeed.

about the Auction

Please view the full online gallery for the auction, and remember that the sale of all the artworks in this auction support the important work that ACT does in our community.

Click here to find out how to register for the auction, and to review the auction’s specific Terms & Conditions.

We also invite you to view the work of Theodora Mitrakos, SNAP Photo Competition Rising Star Award of Merit recipient, (lot 2, Oyster Mushrooms) and the work of Alexander Alter, SNAP Photo Competition Award of Merit recipient (lot 3, Mail Portrait, Study).

Support ACT

Especially without a gala, it is our hope that new audiences will participate in the SNAP online auction so as to better help support the important work that ACT does through charitable giving. For more information, we invite you visit SNAP’s website or contact Matt O’Donnell at [email protected].

SNAP would like to thank its partners, including the TD Ready Commitment, Toronto Image Works,, Labatt, Trius, TPH, Air Canada, Inspired Media, Akasha Art Projects, Dimensions Custom Framing & Gallery, Amazing Thailand, Goway Asia, the Vienna Travel Board and Waddington’s.



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