“Made In Canada”
Lambeth worked in isolation. There was no tradition of art photography in the 1950s, and little preoccupation with the aesthetics of city life, or of Toronto as a living entity. Lambeth came across a cache of early photos of Toronto commissioned by various City departments at the turn of the century. He published these in a limited edition, Editions Grafikos, which was printed by Stan Bevington at The Coach House Press in 1967, and with the title Made In Canada.
It wasn’t only Toronto Michel was thinking about when he published these pictures. Three years earlier, his photo-essay of a poor, rural community in Québec’s Gaspésie called “A Candle for St. Nil” was rejected by the Star Weekly. It was too stark for readers, he was told. They wanted photos that were “uplifting”.
Lambeth introduced the collection with this short introduction:
In Canada there have been no acknowledged pioneers of the concept of ‘the free-lance conscience with a camera’ as were Jacob A. Riis and Lewis W. Hine in the United States. However, in Toronto circa 1910, working for the city or province, sometimes for themselves, a handful of anonymous Canadian photographers did produce a body of work which is astounding in its optic perception of the time in which they lived. Working conditions, health, housing, education, sanitation, children, motherhood, all came under their close scrutiny. Totally unknown, the 1910 address of these photographers can only be described as ‘ubiquitous’. Often told when and where to go for pictures, what to include, the very discipline of what they had to reveal provided them with an ‘art of seeing’ with which they produced many images of poignant intensity.
It was not by accident that many of the photographs show what needed to be corrected or what was being corrected in the lives of immigrants and workers of 1910. Portrayed in all the harshness and bleakness of an age which was turning from gas to electricity, their moments of appreciation were few; yet it was on their backs and shoulders that our city eventually grew. To the memory of the photographers who made these picture this small album is dedicated.
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