Exhibition at the City of Toronto Archives
September - December 2017 | March - August 2018
Children on the street - visual precedents
During the period of the mid- to late-19th century in both North America and Britain the image of the impoverished child on the streets of large cities became a subject of aesthetic pleasure (through the painterly genre of the “waif” or “urchin”) and, as photography became technically more accessible and reproducible, a subject of media interest and a vehicle for social reform. As well, with the advent of Kodak in the 1880s and the explosion of amateur photography, a counter-image of the middle- and upper-class child as a tasteful photographic subject was actively promoted by the company. The range of potential image uses illustrates well the play between the formal and the factual that characterized, and still does, an inherent tension within the medium. This constitutes the larger image environment in relation to the representation of children that photographers working in Toronto in the early 20th century, such as Arthur Goss and William James, would have been aware of and influenced by.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHILE LOOKING AT THE EXHIBIT PHOTOGRAPHS
Why were photographs made? What was the commission?
Who made photographs? When and where? Were they a professional photographer or an amateur?
What were they used for? Did they get reused?
Where are they kept now? A public or private collection?
If archived, under what section or category? And which archive has the photographs, copies, negatives?
What, if any impact did they have?
a. At the time they were made
b. In between when they were made and the present
What is the child’s presence in the photograph?
a. Incidental – are they “Stowaways?” (E. Edwards) Is their presence accidental, i.e. non- deliberate?
b. Is it a deliberate inclusion and/or is purpose primarily to document the children in public spaces?
If deliberate, are the children:
c. Given a context? What are they doing? What is their agency in the public space?
Archives & Special Collections
Research was conducted on photographic publications between 1900-1935 that instructed individuals “how” to perform photography. Various photographic texts, monthly journals, trade circulars, and magazines were researched to locate advertisements, photographs, articles, and essays that highlighted the various methods of “making” photographs. These materials were useful in understanding theories and representations surrounding women and children, street photography, cityscapes, public spaces, and social welfare and reform.
Click here to see the materials that were included in the exhibition.
THE ROLE OF PHOTOGRAPHY - A TIMELINE
1886 - 1918 Circulation and diverse use of photographs of children in Toronto social reform movements
1888 First portable camera aimed at amateurs introduced by Kodak
1888 System of archiving photographs introduced by Alphonse Bertillon
1888 - 1900 Key period of socially-concerned photography by Jacob Riis, New York
1890 - 1895 Invention of half-tone printing allows media to begin printing photos in newspapers regularly
1900 - 1930 Pictorial photography aims to advance the status of photography as fine art
1900 - 1920 Rapid expansion of amateur photography encourages a diverse and interesting approach to story-telling
1900 - 1913 Rise of child portraiture in a professional studio setting
1905 Kodak launches the Brownie Camera
1906 - 1936 Key period of socially-concerned photography by Lewis Hine
1906 Kodak’s 3B Quick Focus Camera hits the market
1909 - 1915 Key period for documenting Toronto’s playgrounds
1909 - 1940 William James photographs Toronto
1910 - 1930 Kodak photography contests create mass interest and participation amongst amateur photographers
1910 - 1930 Female photographers play a key role as producers of children’s portraiture
1911 Creation of blueprint and photography section in the Toronto Public Works Department
1911 - 1940 Arthur Goss photographs for the City of Toronto
1911 - 1917 Department of Health and Housing commissions Goss to photograph unsanitary conditions in rears of houses in downtown Toronto
1913 Kodak promotes “At Home” portraiture creating a new photographic practice and aesthetic
1913 Jacob Riis presents his piece, The Value of Playgrounds to the Community, in Toronto
1916 Kodak’s How to Make Good Pictures becomes an essential instructional text
1917 - 1927 Key period for assembling and viewing the “Album”
1918 Kodak’s Graflex Camera – “the best camera to use for ‘news-worthy’ images”
1919 - 1928 Key period for Toronto’s Central Neighbourhood House use of photography
City of Toronto Archives
Ryerson University Archives & Special Collections