Slideshow: Lutz Dille’s Toronto street photography, on display at the U of T Art Centre

Slideshow: Lutz Dille’s Toronto street photography, on display at the U of T Art Centre

Lutz Dille’s 1950s street photography captures characters from the city’s gritty past

Slideshow: a sneak peek of the Lutz Dille Toronto photos on display at the Art Centre

When Lutz Dille immigrated to Toronto from Germany in 1951, he brought only $30 and his Leica IIIf camera. During the day, he worked in car washes and bowling alleys; at night, he slept at the Fred Victor Mission above the St. Lawrence Market, where he’d curl up around his camera to hide it from thieves. He got to know the city by shooting its residents. By the time he left Canada in 1980—he moved to Wales and later France, where he died in 2008—he’d built up a distinguished career as a documentary filmmaker and photojournalist, though he’s best known for his street shots, which have been collected by the National Gallery of Canada and the MoMA.

Like all great urban portraitists, Dille understood that a city’s character comes from the people who walk its streets. He communed with oddballs and grifters, always searching for new faces to shoot. The results, chronicled in a new exhibit at the University of Toronto Art Centre, capture some of the city’s most colourful personalities. A shrunken old man at a downtown flophouse struggles to keep his pants up. A guy outside Old City Hall rifles for newspapers in the trash. A rotund tattoo artist leans against his ­Kensington parlour, a black panther roaring on his chest. Each shot is blunt and spontaneous, casting a naked gaze on the people who occupied Toronto’s slums and shadows.

Lutz Dille’s Toronto
University of Toronto Art Centre
Jan. 14 to March 8

See 7 Lutz Dille photos »