This photo is of my mother, taken by my grandmother, in 1983 or 1984. I'm not sure where it is exactly, but it's probably in the Don Mills area of Toronto, where I grew up. I would have been around 9 years old at the time.

She's wearing her Canon AE-1, the first camera I ever knew and still the one that defines what a camera should look like for me. That camera is also what she used to teach me the first two rules of photography: always put the strap on before picking up the camera, and then only handle it over a soft surface. She's the reason why I took up photography, and I still try to follow those rules today.

My father's also a bit of a photographer, but like me he takes more of a tech/gadget approach. My mother used this same camera for twenty-five years, and only bought an Olympus digital SLR after I did. She would have turned 75 today.

Another photo taken by my grandmother, this time from the beginning of 1974. I still wasn't born yet, but this the view would become very familiar because it was taken from the balcony of the apartment I grew up in. It's a two-building complex with a playground tucked into a small gap between them, and they were build in an "L" configuration around this more communal courtyard. This is facing the core of Don Mills, a somewhat utopian planned community that would never exist today.


And I'm not just being cynical when I say this idealized community couldn't exist now – it's been gone for a decade or more. That giant willow tree, the courtyard, and benches have all been replaced by a donut store. The driveway for the parking lot, where I learned to ride a bike, feeds the drive-through. The superintendent's apartment that was adjacent to the lobby, outside of the secured area of the building, is now a dental office. Ironic, since one of the super couple's would come out to give me chocolates whenever they heard me passing through. It was that kind of a place, at least for a while.

I don't go back there any more.

This current-day image is a screen capture from Apple Maps. The building poking into the bottom of the frame is the part where I lived, and the direction we're looking is about the same. I am glad to see that some of the other green spaces have survived.


And to get a sense of how old that photo from my childhood home is, here's the Toronto skyline taken at about the same time. The note on the back says it was taken from "the wharves", which we now call the port lands and is itself undergoing massive redevelopment. The tall black building is the Toronto Dominion Centre, which was the tallest building in Canada when it was finished in the late 60's. It's no longer visible from the waterfront.

The concrete spike is the CN Tower; the note on the back says it would be completed in 1974.

It was not. And I have another photo in the family archives that proves it.

And I've previously posted another photo, this time from a slide instead of a print, showing the waterfront from Centre Island in 1969 against a photo that I took in 2014. That then-and-now treatment is something I'm going to try to do more of.       

And one last photo from the snapshots that I've recently scanned.

My mother notes that this is a photo of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – helpfully identified as "the one with the bald spot". (His son, Justin, is two and a half years older than I am.) While the year isn't written on the back of the photo, the occasion was, and it can't be that often that he was in Toronto for the air show.

My mother also notes that the pile of brush and debris in the foreground was for a bonfire. While text doesn't carry tone, to me she seems a bit put off that she had to photograph across it, but I'm trying to imagine an event where someone would get this close to a major political leader today. I'd say that she did pretty well.