Arthur Goss

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Arthur Scott Goss
Arthur Scott Goss, Toronto′s first official photographer
Arthur Scott Goss, Toronto′s first official photographer
Born 1881
London, Ontario, Canada
Died 1940 (aged 58–59)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Other names Arthur S. Goss
Occupation photographer
Spouse(s) Ethel Ross Munro Goss
Children Enid, John, and Mary

Arthur S. Goss was the City of Toronto′s first official photographer.[1]

Early life[edit]

William Arthur Scott Goss was born in London, Ontario on 4 March 1881. He moved to Toronto in 1883, where his father, John Goss, worked in the newspaper and publishing industries. When his father died, Goss, age 10, began work as an office boy in the city engineer’s office. He was promoted to clerk of street repairs in 1899 and worked as a clerk and a draughtsman for nearly twenty years. Then, in 1911, he was promoted to head of the photography and blueprinting section and became the city’s first official photographer.[2][3]

Professional life[edit]

Working until his death in 1940, Goss made photographs for a range of municipal departments. Some of his best-known images were taken for the Works and Health Departments. For the Works Department, he photographed street cleaning, the construction of new roads, and major infrastructure projects, such as the city’s new hydroelectric system and the Bloor Viaduct. His photographs of street grading and widening, bridge, underpass, and sewer construction, street cleaning, and garbage disposal were used as records to assist with the routine business of the Works Department, which, at the time, was focused on improving the physical environment of the city.[4]

Medical Health Officer Dr. Charles Hastings enlisted Goss’s help in his crusade to improve public health. Goss photographed unsanitary and overcrowded conditions for the Health Department, and Hastings used Goss’s photographs as evidence in his 1911 report on slum conditions. Many of Goss’s photographs for the Health Department were never published, but were used internally to identify problems, to track the progress of particular projects, or to report on new technologies and methods for carrying out the Department’s work. With Goss as the city photographer, photographs quickly became an important resource in many aspects of Toronto’s municipal government.[5]

Artistic Interests[edit]

Goss was a member of the Toronto Camera Club and an active member of the pictorialist movement. He explored customary pictorialist subject matter, such as portraits and landscapes, and experimented with the characteristic soft-focus style of pictorialism. Like others associated with the movement, Goss aimed to produce aesthetically pleasing images and viewed his artistic practice as a form of personal expression. He organized exhibitions of art photography and won awards for his own photographs, which were shown at exhibitions in Canada and England.[6][7]

Legacy[edit]

There are approximately 26,000 negatives in the Arthur Goss collection at the City of Toronto Archives. These negatives were found in the attic of old City Hall and were catalogued by city archivists in the 1960s.[8]

Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje relied on Goss′s photographs when researching his novel In the Skin of a Lion about the immigrant and working class experience in early 20th Century Toronto. Ondaatje decided to include Goss as a character in this novel.[9] Following the interest in Goss, following the publication of Ondaatje′s novel, the City of Toronto Archives developed a special lecture and tour, tailored for students, addressing the role of Goss′s photos in Ondaatje's book.[10]

Goss's duties included providing a visual record of the health and social problems posed by urban poverty.[11] Scholars have compared Goss's photographs of urban poverty to those of Jacob A. Riis and Lewis W. Hine.

Decades after his death, his work is celebrated, in several books collecting his photographs, and in magazine profiles.[12][13][14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dennis Duffy (Summer 2001). "Furnishing the Pictures: Arthur S. Goss, Michael Ondaatje and the Imag(in)ing of Toronto". Journal of Canadian Studies. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  2. ^ Victor Russell and Linda Price. Arthur S. Goss City Photographer: Works by Toronto’s Official Photographer, 1911–1940. Toronto: City of Toronto Archives and the Market Gallery, 1980.
  3. ^ City of Toronto Archives, Arthur Goss Employment Records, Arthur Goss information file.
  4. ^ Sarah Bassnett, Picturing Toronto: Photography and the Making of a Modern City. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016
  5. ^ Sarah Bassnett, Picturing Toronto: Photography and the Making of a Modern City. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016
  6. ^ Lilly Kolton, ed. Private Realms of Light: Amateur Photography in Canada, 1839-1940. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1984.
  7. ^ Sarah Bassnett, Picturing Toronto: Photography and the Making of a Modern City. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016
  8. ^ Victor Russell and Linda Price. Arthur S. Goss City Photographer: Works by Toronto’s Official Photographer, 1911–1940. Toronto: City of Toronto Archives and the Market Gallery, 1980.
  9. ^ Michael Ondaatje (1987). In the Skin of a Lion. McClelland and Stewart. ISBN 9780307776631. Retrieved 2013-01-26. In the tunnel under Lake Ontario two men shake hands on an incline of mud. Beside them a pickaxe and a lamp, their dirt-streaked faces pivoting to look towards the camera. For a moment, while the film receives the image, everything is still, the other tunnel workers silent. Then Arthur Goss, the city photographer, packs up his tripod and glass plates, unhooks the cord of lights that creates a vista of open tunnel behind the two men, walks with his equipment the fifty yards to the ladder, and climbs out into sunlight. 
  10. ^ "In the Skin of a Lion". City of Toronto Archives. Retrieved 2013-01-26. On a visit to the City of Toronto Archives, students will see archival photographs recording the construction of the Bloor Street Viaduct and the R. C. Harris filtration plant, the two major settings in In the Skin of a Lion. 
  11. ^ Justin D. Edwards, Douglas Ivison (2005). "Downtown Canada: Writing Canadian Cities". University of Toronto Press. pp. 130–131. ISBN 9780802086686. Retrieved 2013-03-06. According to Ralph Greenhill and Andrew Birrell, the photographs of Jacob A. Riis in the slums of New York, and Lewis W. Hine's pictures of child labour in the United States are well known, but work of Goss in Toronto has received little recognition'. 
  12. ^ Arthur Scott Goss, Alfred Joseph Casson (1980). "Arthur S. Goss, City Photographer: Works by Toronto's Official Photographer, 1911-1940". City of Toronto Archives. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  13. ^ Derek Flack (2012-01-10). "The Toronto photographs of Arthur Goss". Blogto. Archived from the original on 2013-01-29. In fact, Goss was pretty much everywhere during the early 20th century in Toronto, having produced over 35,000 images over his 37-year career as City Photographer. Along with the construction of the filtration plant and various pumping stations, other noteworthy projects he documented included the Bloor Viaduct, the Municipal Abattoir, and TTC trackwork across the city. 
  14. ^ Peter MacCallum, Rebecca Diederichs (2004). "Peter MacCallum: Material World : Photographs: Interiors, 1986-2004, Concrete Industries, 1998-2004". YYZ Books. pp. 137–140, 142, 144, 157. ISBN 9780920397824.