News   Feb 26, 2024
 1.4K     2 
News   Feb 26, 2024
 566     0 
News   Feb 26, 2024
 667     0 

Kensington Market in the 1950's: The Photographs of Michel Lambeth (1923-1977)

thecharioteer

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jun 17, 2009
Messages
3,735
Reaction score
4,170
From:

http://www.whatistoronto.ca/section-overview/michel-lambeths-toronto

Michel Lambeth 1923-1977

His name is Michel Lambeth. Born Thomas Henry Lambeth in Toronto’s east end, he was in his early thirties when he first took to the streets with his camera. He’d gone to war at twenty, served as a tank gunner in Western Europe, and when he was demobbed in ’45 stayed on in London and Paris to study art.

Michel came home in 1952 with a wife and new name, which didn’t mean he was settling down — only that he was settling into the Bohemian life of a practising artist. He took a day job as a treasury clerk at City Hall, and after-hours continued with his real work. In Paris he’d studied sculpture with Ossip Zadkine, and exhibited some drawings. He started writing in Europe, too, and for a time worked seriously on a novel. Now he began experimenting with film, and as part of the Production Unit of the Toronto Film Society won a prize for his first effort, Eight-Fifteen.

Then one day in 1955 he picked up his new 2¼” Rolleiflex and took a trip to St. Lawrence Market. Almost immediately he knew he’d found his true medium. He’d also found his subject.

After six years in Europe, returning to Canada turned me back to the streets of Toronto where I had grown up. The first images were extremely nostalgic. I photographed the children and grandchildren of the Macedonians, the Greeks, the English, the Irish, the Scottish, who had come to Toronto — just as my father did — about 1910. I photographed my coequals as though one day they would suddenly disappear — as I had, momentarily — to war in Europe or elsewhere.
— 1972

Lambeth gave himself the task of creating a portrait of Toronto. It was to be an intimate portrait of the city with nothing staged; a sustained meditation which he hoped would captured the essence of the place in its bustling diversity. He acquired a 35mm Leica, a smaller, lighter camera capable of delivering the spontaneity his approach demanded. He was free to wonder about.

He began by haunting the markets, travelling up Spadina to Kensington photographing the stores, the kids, the street vendors, shoppers, and pan-handlers along the way. He invaded public spaces like Union Station, Allen Gardens, the old AGO (then the Art Gallery of Toronto which is long gone, consumed from the inside by succeeding renovations), and the Royal Ontario Museum following the flow of interaction between people and city, watching and waiting for unguarded moments. He made repeated trips to Woodbine racetrack on the eastern edge of his terra cognita, and the CNE and High park on the Western edge. He people-watched in back alleys, underneath bridges, and at parades.

Vancouver writer and photographer, Steve Osborne (aka Mandelbrot) makes this passing comment about Michel in a piece about North Winnipeg’s John Paskievich, “His genius is to have created or perhaps discovered a singular photography: as Fred Herzog can be said to have created a Vancouver photography and Michel Lambeth a Toronto Photography, so John Paskievich created a Winnipeg photography.”








































http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/...gitalContentInd=1&query=kensington&mediaType=
 
Last edited:
Stunning. Thank you so much for posting these; I could pore over them for hours. Nice to learn about Lambeth too and his "documentary humanism." Cheers, ElJay (UT lurker extraordinaire).
 
Stunning is right. We are all the richer for having seen these; thank you for the link thecharioteer.

Thanks, all! Mustapha, you were the inspiration with your Kensington pic recently on your Then and Now thread.

Going back to the collectionscanada website, I realize I made one error in my labeling. The last pic in the series is from Lambeth's St. Lawrence Market series, not Kensington Market. Here are some more from that set:



































 
Last edited:
Street life:

Hayter Street:



Parliament Street:



Visit by Queen Elizabeth to Old City Hall:



Cabbagetown:



Bloor Street East:



Allan Gardens:

 
Last edited:
This treasure trove of work by Lambeth's is fantastic. Not only good (or better) than his contemporaries at the time but also like the recently discovered works of Vivian Maier. This is our vintage street photography at its best. Why isn't this work in a gallery or published in a lavish table book?! These images of Lambeth's give soul and feeling of every day people of a bygone era. Bring us more.....please!!
 
This treasure trove of work by Lambeth's is fantastic. Not only good (or better) than his contemporaries at the time but also like the recently discovered works of Vivian Maier. This is our vintage street photography at its best. Why isn't this work in a gallery or published in a lavish table book?! These images of Lambeth's give soul and feeling of every day people of a bygone era. Bring us more.....please!!

And Harry Joy's collection of Kensington photography (c.1950s-1960s) is also wonderful.
He's now in his 90s!
http://www.blackandwhitephotography.ca/harry#1
 
This treasure trove of work by Lambeth's is fantastic. Not only good (or better) than his contemporaries at the time but also like the recently discovered works of Vivian Maier. This is our vintage street photography at its best. Why isn't this work in a gallery or published in a lavish table book?! These images of Lambeth's give soul and feeling of every day people of a bygone era. Bring us more.....please!!

Thank you! I agree. Lambeth was a true artist who went beyond simply recording the passing scene of Toronto of the 50's and 60's. His composition and lighting was extraordinary (he was also a film-maker). I feel like I've discovered a lost world in finding his work, totally by accident.

People:







The artist Robert Markle (and friend) 1962:



Looking in a store window:







Hallowe'en on Queen Street:



CNE 1955:





 
Last edited:
Mesmerizing, i felt like a voyeur intruding on a intimate street scene an observer who has just stepped around a corner into a time warp, more of these please, black and white nothing beats it for Clarity and focus.
 
Last edited:
Michael Lambeth; more reading:

A good essay in Blackflash from a few years back:
http://www.blackflash.ca/michel-lambeth

And another from Border Crossings, reprinted on the Center for Contemporary Canadian art website, wherein the author wonders why there has never been a monograph of Lambeth’s work. Article was written in 2000:
http://ccca.concordia.ca/c/writing/h/heath/hea029t.html

An essay from art historian Debra Antoncic which looks at his Toronto photographs in relation to the work he undertook in Mexico:
http://www.amec.com.mx/revista/013/08 Michel Lamberth A Canadian Photographer In Mexico.pdf

page 93 of this Vie des Arts, from 2008, has a review of a show of Lambeth’s photographs at the Mount Allison University Gallery, Sackville, NB:
http://www.erudit.org/culture/va1081917/va1094571/52458ac.pdf

His memoir Confessions of a Tree Taster comes up at auction periodically:
http://thecollectedimage.com/artwork/1938290_MICHAEL_LAMBETH_The_Confessions_of_a.html

Amazon has a catalogue of an exhibition of his work curated by Maia-Mari Sutnik, who teaches in the School of Image Arts, Ryerson:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B000IUXI8I/ref=dp_olp_used?ie=UTF8&condition=used

As does abebooks:
http://www.abebooks.co.uk/9781895235968/Michel-Lambeth-Photographer-Sutnik-Maia-Mari-1895235960/plp
 

Back
Top