We're pleased to announce Tim MacDonald, a.k.a. bangkok on our Forum, as the first recipient of UrbanToronto's Jasonzed Award. Tim's photography stood out as worthy of recognition through this new annual UrbanToronto photography award, named in honour of a beloved late contributor to our Forum, and to thank those who help make UrbanToronto the online community that so many enjoy.

@bangkok surveilled by his own drone, image courtesy of Tim MacDonald

UrbanToronto thrives on the huge number of people who go out of their way to keep tabs on the growth of this city, through both text and imagery, and who post everywhere from several times a day to several times a year. We are the sort that benefit from each other's experiences of the city, so we are drawn here for just such contributions. 

It was a year and a half ago now when the importance of the community built here by each of you really hit home.

We are told often enough that we don't know how much we value something or someone until we have lost it or them, and it was the news that one of our most prolific members, Jason Zytynsky, who went by the handle Jasonzed, had passed away on May 2, 2021, having taken his own life. We learned from Jason's sister Karen that he had been battling mental illness for years, a stigmatized affliction that we do not talk enough about. We witnessed an outpouring of grief, reflection, and thankfulness for Jason, which first culminated this June in a ceremony at Mississauga City Hall in Jason's hometown, where a bench in his honour was dedicated in the Queen Elizabeth Garden at that building.

Jasonzed, by Jason Zytynsky

At that time we also announced the Jasonzed Award that would be given out annually in October to honour Jason's contributions, to thank other UrbanToronto contributors who give of their time and talents in a similar way, and to raise awareness of the toll of mental illness. Each year, UrbanToronto staff will identify potential candidates and decide upon a worthy winner who will receive a cheque for $500 and our thanks, while at the same time a donation of $500 will be made to CAMH, Toronto's premier agency battling mental illness. UrbanToronto and Karen Zytynsky are each providing half of the funding for the annual awards.

This year, the UrbanToronto team identified a shortlist of seven contributors from among the many whose photos stood out for us. Discussions produced the feeling that there are many people who deserve recognition for what they do for us, but the nature of such awards is that you have to decide upon one winner at a time, and for us, the contributions from bangkok rose above the rest.

We contacted Tim, and asked him for his thoughts. Here is what he had to say:

I am truly honoured to be the first recipient of the award but I am melancholic because of the reason behind it. Jason is no longer with us and no longer posting his interpretation of the world through his vivid photographs.

I never met Jason but it felt like he was a friend. I bought my first drone – a DJI Phantom 4 – at the same time he bought his after a bird downed his Phantom 3. We traded messages on the UrbanToronto Forum as I learned to fly.

I had always wanted to fly with Jason but life became busy and my wife became pregnant with our now-three-year-old daughter. My Phantom 4 sat unused for so long that the rechargeable battery no longer functioned and had to be replaced. I couldn’t fly much when my daughter was born and I really depended upon seeing Jason’s photos from various parts of the GTA, Ottawa, and Montreal. Seeing his photos on UrbanToronto was my escape to the outside world aside from work. I didn’t appreciate at the time the lifeline his photos were to me. Six months later the pandemic circled the globe and Jason’s fight intensified. During the early part of the pandemic I was laid off from work for a few months and bought a DJI Mini drone with my income tax refund. It was a difficult time as my brother had passed weeks earlier. Soon, I was recalled to work, my wife’s maternity leave ended, I started looking after our daughter weekdays and the mini sat in the box just like the Phantom 4.

I didn’t know it at the time but as I scrambled to get out the door to work one Sunday morning about a year later I hesitated with my hand on the car door. I raced back inside the house and picked up the mini which also hadn’t flown for a while. I charged the battery at work and then flew at Port Credit GO afterwards. It was the first time I had flown in many months. I learned with horror through the Forum a few days later that it was the day Jason had died.

Jason’s death affected me more than I anticipated. He was only a couple of years older than me but it was a spiritual shoulder shake that life was short and there really was no time to lose in living every day. 

My time is short and I usually have just a couple of hours to fly on a Sunday morning before or after work, weather permitting. Looking after my daughter during the week while my wife travels to work means I work my full time IT job at night and on weekends.  Photography was always a passion of mine from the time I was a ten year old and my eldest brother gave me a kodak instamatic X-15F at Christmas. Flying is my escape and I enjoy seeing the progress week over week as a previous structure is razed and a new building emerges. It reminds me of Easter – death, sorrow, and finally resurrection.

Even with my limited time to fly, I try to post a photo everyday because I now know there are readers that might look forward to seeing aerial shots of the GTA just like I did with Jason’s photos.

I’m deeply saddened how Jason’s life ended. Please, if you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, reach out and seek treatment. Suicide transfers the suffering to those living. End the suffering through treatment and not death.

Thank you to all the UT photographers, to Ed Skira, Craig White and the team at UT along with Karen Zytynsky – Jason’s twin sister for making this award possible.

We also asked Karen Zytynsky for her thoughts. Here is what she had to say;

When Craig White first approached me sharing in the excitement that Jason's legacy and his unique yet eclectic vision captured through his art would be honoured with the annual Jasonzed Award, I was humbled, elated and moved, as Jason would be. I was impressed with this display of dedication and commitment by UrbanToronto in honouring and identifying other contributors who had displayed his or her own distinctive capabilities, keen eye and savvy sense of photography; who bring compassion, unique talent and integrity to this art forum with the Jasonzed Award. Equally important is that the Jasonzed Award correlates with this month's initiative to raise awareness and reduce stigmatization surrounding mental health. This in itself is honourable and outstanding. 

I would now like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to this year's inaugural award winner, Tim MacDonald (bangkok). I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Tim at my brother's memorial bench ceremony in Mississauga this spring and have also, most recently, had the opportunity to go over his drone photography. I had come to realize, quite quickly, that Tim's exuberance, distinctive portrayals, and his own passion paralleled that of Jason's distinctive gift. I have come to appreciate this unique talent that so many community members possess and share, so much more profoundly but ironically since my brother's death. 

Karen Zytynsky speaking at the Mississauga City Hall dedication in June, 2022, image by Craig White

Jason would have certainly and undoubtedly agreed with UrbanToronto's selection naming Tim as the inaugural winner and would be humbled and ecstatic knowing other contributors will be recognized for their own contributions with this award in the years to come. Like many of you, Jason was in his glory with a drone in hand and took every opportunity to explore not only infrastructure but nature and all its beauty. The simple pleasures in sharing his photography in any forum brought Jason peace and happiness on so many levels.

May each of your legacies carry on, bring you and those who are fortunate to share in your passions, peace, calm and happiness.

I look forward to meeting each and every winner in the upcoming years.

Here are some of bangkok's recent images on UrbanToronto:

Late day sun on the Mississauga City Centre area, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor @bangkok

A new tower stands out just south of Mississauga's Square One area, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor @bangkok

Urbanization comes to rural northern Oakville, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor @bangkok

Fall colour beside QEW widening over the Credit River in Mississauga, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor @bangkok

Cranes stand tall at a Humbertown area construction site in Etobicoke, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor @bangkok

Etobicoke's Humber Bay Shores area with the Downtown Toronto skyline in the distance, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor @bangkok

Sunset over Toronto's Entertainment District, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor @bangkok

Tim also provides videos from time to time as well!

You can find hundred's of Tim's contributions in his own thread, as well as scattered across scores of project threads in the UrbanToronto Buildings Forum.

Thank you to Tim, to Karen, and everyone who gives of their time to UrbanToronto!