Inside Toronto: Urban Interiors 1800s to 1920s
published by Cormorant Books Inc.
Based on 260 vintage images and extensive original research, Inside Toronto is the first book to investigate the complex, interior life of a single city - the ordinary and extraordinary places where Torontonians of all types lived, worked, shopped, and performed the rituals of daily life.
Whether for technical reasons, or simple lack of interest on the part of contemporary photographers and their clients, only about ten per cent of surviving photographs in most collections are of interior views; found among the thousands of vintage photographs are hundreds of gloriously evocative and informative pictures. Such interior shots form the visual core of Inside Toronto: Urban Interiors 1880s to 1920s.
With the eye of an artist and the judgement of a scholar, Gibson takes the reader inside the rooms where deals where struck, meals were shared, decisions taken, and history made. The private lives lived inside Toronto are explored from the homeless to the wealthy, from the factory floor to the corner office, from the farmers' market to the carriage trade as is the public life, from city hall to the provincial parliament and government house. Rooms into which the public rarely, if ever, gets a look are on display: Masonic halls, private clubs, and artists' studios.
Through lively commentary and superbly chosen photographs, Inside Toronto brings a new perspective to studying urban life and experiencing the surrounding city.
Sally Gibson is a graduate of Vassar College, as well as a Master of Urban Studies (Yale University), and a Master of Library Science and a Ph.D. in Urban Geography (University of Toronto). Originally from New Jersey, Sally has lived in Toronto since 1969; the city has been both a source of inspiration for her and the object of many years of research. Her previous book, More Than an Island: A History of Toronto Island, was published in 1984. Of it, the late Jane Jacobs said "... city history at its very best. Not only does Sally Gibson vividly depict the social economic, political and natural history of Toronto, she also illuminates the history of the city as a whole. A work of impeccable and thorough scholarship, it teems with life. A marvellous book about a marvellous place." Sally is the mother of two daughters, Meg and Katie, and a grandmother. She is now the Manager of Heritage Services at The Distillery District.
Excerpt from Inside Toronto
Interior Life of a City
Interior photographs are relatively rare, always informative, and often evocative drawing the viewer further and further into their private and sometimes mysterious depths. The reasons for their rarity are many technological, social, and commercial. From a technical perspective, interior photography had to await the developments of more sensitive photographic plates, faster films and shutters, smaller cameras, and the invention of flash photography. From a social perspective, interior photography depended on such factors as the access the photographer had to private realms, whether homes or jails or corner offices. Commercially, professionals photographed what the clients would pay for studio portraits, business-related scenes, or mass-produced postcards and left the rest undocumented or to the amateur. Most books about cities use photographs and other graphic materials as afterthoughts to illustrate the text and perhaps amuse potential readers. Even when photographs vintage or modern are integral parts of the book creating process, most of the images are exterior views that illustrate the city's public face. This, of course, distorts our understanding of Toronto or any other city. For the reasons just mentioned, less than 10% of surviving photographs from the era under study were interiors, and generally only 10 to 15% of those published portray the spaces and places inside buildings where most urban life then, as now, actually took place. It is a measure of Toronto's maturity as an historical subject that the time is ripe to focus on the interior parts of the city. Thanks to such pioneering books as Eric Arthur's No Mean City and William Dendy's Lost Toronto, we know what many of Toronto's grander buildings looked like on the outside. Now we have the intellectual luxury of concentrating on what they looked like and how they functioned on the inside, where most people spend much of their lives. This is the first book to use vintage and contemporary photographs to investigate the wide-ranging interior life of a single city, Toronto, which happens to be my chosen home.
From Inside Toronto: Urban Interiors 1880s to 1920s by Sally Gibson. Published by Cormorant Books Inc. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
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