Toronto: 1977 vs 2007
August 17, 2007 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Toronto: 1977 vs 2007. Shige Sakamoto spent a week in Toronto back in 1977, and took several photographs. Damon Schreiber is retracing Sakamoto's steps, taking photos of the same locations today. He's presenting the photos on his photoblog.
posted by chunking express (44 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
[via Torontoist, which has a few more details as well]
posted by chunking express at 8:05 AM on August 17, 2007

Each day Schreiber details more about his project: how he tracked down the location, some history, difficulties in getting the angles right, etc.
posted by chunking express at 8:08 AM on August 17, 2007

I love this. Thank you.
posted by randomination at 8:10 AM on August 17, 2007

Great post! I live and work around where these photos are taken, and it's really amazing to see what they looked like 30 years ago. Interesting to see that people are now cheaper than horses were 30 years ago.
posted by reformedjerk at 8:22 AM on August 17, 2007

I would love to see 1977 versus 2007 for Mississauga. Now there is a city that had some change.
posted by srboisvert at 8:23 AM on August 17, 2007

In case this is as unclear to anyone else as it was to me: You click the "next day" link on the right to see the next picture. ultimate goal with regards to angle and perspective was to be able to overlay my image with one of Sakamoto-san's in Photoshop so that all the common elements were aligned.

Yes! I love this kind of project but too many photographers just stand on the same side of the street and call it good.
posted by DU at 8:23 AM on August 17, 2007

He's gone above and beyond the call of duty in many photos. The rickshaws vs horses is really cool.
posted by chunking express at 8:25 AM on August 17, 2007

Nice. I love this sort of stuff, I have a couple of books of then and now photos of my city. It's always amazing to see how buildings and landmarks that stay the same can look very different when the surrounding context changes.
posted by octothorpe at 8:27 AM on August 17, 2007

What a truly fantastic post. And yeah, this guy took it quite seriously, trying to match things in his old pictures with modern equivalents.

It's interesting to see a city that doesn't change all that much. There cities like the one I live in (Caracas) that given the economic boom they've seen from oil, they are constantly tearing everything down and building new stuff all the time. The few comparative pictures I've seen from a few show areas that aren't easily recognized when compared to the new ones. It would be really cool to expand this Toronto project to other cities, wouldn't it?
posted by micayetoca at 8:36 AM on August 17, 2007

Damn. "from a few" should read "from a few years back"
posted by micayetoca at 8:37 AM on August 17, 2007

Well, this is just fantastic. The parallels are really well-done, especially for things like a 1977 bus,in the same position as a 2007 bus. It's like everything's morphing into its final form, in the great Boss Battle that is Toronto.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:40 AM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

Forgot to say: one thing I really liked from this is that one of the constant changes you can see in the pics is the growth of the trees. It's quite nice that the thing blocking something that appear in the original picture is a tree that has grown through the years.
posted by micayetoca at 8:41 AM on August 17, 2007

Really nice set. Reminds me of what Toronto was like when I visited it as a kid.
posted by sfred at 8:41 AM on August 17, 2007

It's really incredible to see how little some things have changed, and how much others have. I'd love to similar projects in other cities in the world as a comparator.

Thanks for this; fascinating.
posted by modernnomad at 8:42 AM on August 17, 2007

Sorry, a couple more observations:

1. I've always thought the Beck Taxi colour schemes were ugly, but when you see it on the 70s cars in the 70s setting, it almost makes sense.

2. The Toronto Hydro Building looks out of place in the 70s because it looks so modern, so...not-70s. Any Mefites around in Toronto when it went up? What was the reception to it then?
posted by reformedjerk at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2007

I love this kind of stuff. It seems that there are more of these sites popping up lately. Check out Atlanta Time Machine, Springfield Rewind, and Port Townshend.
posted by Ref72 at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2007

This is what we call progress?!!!?!?!! DAMN YOUUUUUUUUUUUUU *shakes fist at sky*

In all seriousness, these pictures make give me a strong feeling of sentimentality. This would be a year before my Mom met my Dad in a smoky bar, meaning to interview him for a Toronto Star article. They'd be married four months later.
posted by pcameron at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2007

With all the condos that have gone up in the last decade, a comparison between aerial or rooftop photos would be far more dramatic. Maybe in 2037 the big smoke will finally have that monorail (YouTube) I've been dreaming of.
posted by disgruntled at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2007

The Toronto Hydro Building looks out of place in the 70s because it looks so modern, so...not-70s. Any Mefites around in Toronto when it went up? What was the reception to it then?

That is the Ontario Hydro building (now Hydro One? or is it OPG, whatever..) on the south west corner of College and University.

Ontario Hydro was often said to have more power and influence than the provincial government. The building was built across the road from the provincial legislature as some kind of political statement. From the wikipedia page on Ontario Hydro:
In 1989, Ontario Hydro published a 4-volume study, up to the year 2014, under the title "Providing the Balance of Power. Ontario Hydro's Plan to Serve Customers' Electricity Needs." with different scenarios attempting to solve the need for additional facilities to replace aging electricity generation stations. This was derailed when electricity growth rates declined due to the recession of the early 1990s.
Unfortunately, all of this is hearsay and such. Maybe someone else has a good link..
posted by Chuckles at 8:54 AM on August 17, 2007

Fascinating indeed.

Anyone please feel free to come back in 10 years and repeat that comment.
posted by gomichild at 8:59 AM on August 17, 2007

Incredible. Seconding the excitement to see the trees grow up.

In the neighborhood I grew up in, they've just built a new parish hall where a convent used to be. The whole block looks so different, it boggles the mind.

I may have to try something like this in St. Louis.
posted by notsnot at 9:26 AM on August 17, 2007

Wow, this is an amazing piece of work, but it makes me sad and nostalgic - 1977 was when I first visited Toronto, and I can remember that day like it was yesterday.
posted by Flashman at 9:33 AM on August 17, 2007

In fact my family's visit could well have been during this week - the sky was the same deep blue.
posted by Flashman at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2007

This is really cool, I just sent the link to my Aunt who moved to Toronto from Ireland in 1977. She'll get a huge kick out of it. I agree about the Hydro building, if you'd asked me I'd never have guessed when it was built.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:37 AM on August 17, 2007

Ah, Torontofilter always makes me smile - seeing my hometown with new eyes is always good. Hi Res means new wallpaper, although I'm so homesick for T.O. that might not be a good thing to do.

Don't forget to see the portfolio section for other non-T.O 77vs. 07 photos - community photo logs are as fascinating as group blogs.

Great find, thanks! A global project out of this would be wonderful to see as well.
posted by rmm at 9:49 AM on August 17, 2007

This is really cool, and thanks for the post. The way the city is headed, though...I'm not sure I'd want to see a 2037 update.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:12 AM on August 17, 2007


I was born two years after the initial photos, so I grew up with all of these changes. The walk down memory lane is intense... red subways (remember how the lights used to flicker?), fat yellow streetcars, Coles, Eatons omg, trolley buses (remember how they'd always come detached from the overhead wires?), Teperman!

Interesting how the view from Queen & Bay looking north hasn't really changed.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm amazed at how little has changed in some ways.
posted by GuyZero at 10:49 AM on August 17, 2007

Oh God, even the transfer dispensers in the subway station were different. I really miss the old streetcars and subway cars, with their deep colours and rounded edges.
posted by maudlin at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2007

I found a postcard set of Toronto in the 70's that I scanned and posted to my flickr account, looks like it's the same era, but gives you more of a broad idea of what the city looked like back then, when the CN tower was almost finished, and there was nothing South of Front but railroad tracks. Great post.
posted by loquax at 10:58 AM on August 17, 2007

These are fantastic, thanks!
posted by graventy at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2007

I love the idea of him sitting there, all set up for the shot, just waiting for a bus or drawn carriage to come into frame.

waiting... waiting... Now! ::click:: Fuck, it's a foot too far forward, waiting... waiting...

And yeah, these are really awesome photos. I'm so glad that he was obsessed with getting the exact same shot. Too often when this is done, the photographer is just in the general area, and even a casual viewer can see that the shots don't line up.

One thing that really struck me was the prevalence of large lighted advertising in the modern pictures. You really don't realize how ubiquitous it's become in modern cities.
posted by quin at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2007

The really strange thing is the low level of advertising in the 1977 pictures versus the prevalence of images and signs in the 2007 pictures. These things just sneak right up on you.
posted by nixerman at 11:54 AM on August 17, 2007

There are a LOT more trees in Toronto today! when I was there I thought it was a pretty sparsely treed city, I couldn't imagine what it would have been like 30 years earlier.

As well as the trees there seem to be a lot more poles and doodads for bikes cluttering up the sidewalks today.

Great photo set! Thanks!
posted by joelf at 12:44 PM on August 17, 2007

These are great- and I've only been there once.
posted by wfc123 at 12:45 PM on August 17, 2007

There are less cars now. That makes me happy.
posted by blacklite at 1:16 PM on August 17, 2007

I was born there in the late sixties, but have zero memories of Toronto as we moved shortly after. So for me there's a hint of nostalgia which isn't based on any actual experience.

Thanks for the link!
posted by maxwelton at 1:41 PM on August 17, 2007

posted by chuckdarwin at 3:26 PM on August 17, 2007

I'm amazed by the change in green space. In some shots it doesn't look like much, but landscaping really goes a long way in improving appearances.

Anybody know what this statue is (1977 pic). Looks interesting...
posted by purephase at 8:53 PM on August 17, 2007

He gives details on the statue in the text of the post.
posted by stavrogin at 9:49 PM on August 17, 2007

I guess it's one of those you have to scroll down on to truly appreciate.
posted by purephase at 9:04 AM on August 18, 2007

This is good.

Apart the fascinating changes in the city, the growth of the trees and the morphing of the buildings, I think what I like best about these pictures is getting a sense of the different aesthetics or personality of the two photographers. They each have an eye but it is for very different things.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:16 AM on August 18, 2007

Love this post!

I'll have to check out that Atlanta Time Machine site when I have some more free time.
posted by Neilopolis at 10:13 AM on August 18, 2007

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