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What Early 1900s Torontonians Would Look Like on Today's Streets

Ten years ago, Toronto photographer Harry Enchin went to explore The Junction, a neighborhood on the city's west side. It's where his mother grew up. And after she started to suffer from dementia, Enchin began to think more about what Toronto used to look like.

He dug through the city archives to develop his most recent photography project, Toronto Time. In Toronto Time, Enchin merges archival photos, mostly taken between 1910 and 1950, with the exact same spot today, creating a unique representation of the city's evolution.

To create the images, Enchin puts a copy of the historic image in his smart phone. He then visits the exact spot where the photograph was taken, pulls out his phone to match the photo with the precise site and angle, and takes his own photograph with a digital SLR camera. He then combines the two images, creating a final result that gives viewers a curious clash of two eras. 

While the results are always interesting, one image that combines today's streetcar with the men who built its tracks in 1923 stands out to Enchin. "They were building back then the infrastructure for the city," says the photographer. "Little did they know what they were building the foundation for 80 years later."

What exists now is a region that has gone from less than 1 million residents when those construction workers were laying down streetcar tracks to nearly 6 million today. But beyond fashion shifts and traffic increases, Enchin still sees a lot of old Toronto in today's version of his hometown.

"Even though there have been a few neighborhoods that have gentrified," says the photographer, "Some still haven't and are still being marginalized." 

Dundas & Ossington 1923/2011 from the Toronto Time series Copyright Harry Enchin   

King & Bay 1a, 1931/2010 from the Toronto Time series Copyright Harry Enchin  

Bay and College 2A 1930/2012 from the Toronto Time series Copyright Harry Enchin           

Queen & James 1908/2011 from the Toronto Time series Copyright Harry Enchin   

Yonge and College 2A 1948/2012 from the Toronto Time series Copyright Harry Enchin

Yonge and King 1 1937/2011 from the Toronto Time series Copyright Harry Enchin

Yonge & King 2 1914/2011 from the Toronto Time series Copyright Harry Enchin 

Condom Shack 1 1931/2010 from the Toronto Time series Copyright Harry Enchin 

Bay and Front 1930/2011 from the Toronto Time series Copyright Harry Enchin           

Toronto Time is on exhibit at Akasha Art Projects in Toronto until October 26. Its opening reception is this Thursday.

Keywords: Toronto, Canada, Photography

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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