Exhibition at the City of Toronto Archives

September - December 2017  |  March - August 2018

Photographing children in the Ward:

Diverging practices of Goss and James

This section compares the photographs of two professional photographers of the period, who took many pictures of children in The Ward. Their distinctive practices were shaped by the commissions and objectives of their work, by their respective employers and audiences, and by their personal aesthetics. Arthur S. Goss, (1881-1940) appointed the first chief photographer of the City of Toronto, in 1911, responded to commissions from various city departments, documenting housing and pavement conditions, health and education, and engineering feats, with the purpose of recording city achievements, and civic and administrative concerns. His photographs provide information about the material and human conditions of life in the city. William James, (1866-1948) an independent photographer, mainly sold his photographs to city newspapers. He looked for the ‘human story’, and tended to profile dramatic characters, offering close-up portraits and striking, if not prototypical, scenes. His work relates directly to the waif tradition and to photojournalism.

In Goss’ and James’ photographs, we can notice differences in the ways children are shown in their environment. Children appear to different degrees as circumstantial/ incidental, or as intended subjects, their postures alternatively at happenstance, or posed and even composed, framed up close, or located by important features of context. 

ARTHUR GOSS 

1841 - 1940

WILLIAM JAMES 

1866 - 1948