From the Toronto Archives, a Photographic Record of Street Life




From the Toronto Archives, a Photographic Record of Street Life

The City of Toronto Archives shows off its collection of street photography.

“Life on the Grid”
City of Toronto Archives (255 Spadina Road)
June 27, 2013 to May 2014

The upper crust out for a stroll. Punks resting on a store step. An office worker scanning the day’s news. Sidewalk vendors and performers plying their trades. Children selling produce. The daily routines of Torontonians captured in the gaze of a camera lens.

The genre of street photography is the focus of “Life on the Grid”, a new exhibit inspired by the City of Toronto Archives‘ recent acquisition of photos taken by Ivaan Kotulsky between 1990 and 2000. Almost every day, before he died in 2008, Kotulsky shot pictures of people outside his jewellery business near Queen Street West and Euclid Avenue, creating a record of the neighbourhood’s street life.

The Kotulsky collection made exhibit curator Patrick Cummins, whose own photography focuses on the city’s bricks and mortar, think about other examples of street photography within the Archives’ holdings. “There’s been a huge explosion in street photography recently with the advent of the internet and social media,” he notes. “There was a period there where it was under the radar.”

Many of the earliest photos on display provide glimpses into the daily lives of Torontonians only accidentally. Shot for City infrastructure departments like public works and the TTC, they reveal much more than the projects or vehicles they were intended to focus on. As cameras became more portable, everyday photographers captured life passing by while shooting shots of, say, downtown landmarks during their lunch hours.

The image gallery above provides a small sample of the photos on display, which offer a cross-section of Toronto’s social strata over the past century.