Toronto: 1977-2007

Ask anyone who was alive at the time what Toronto was like in 1977 and you will get a large variety of responses. Some people will talk about how the city has changed in the last 30 years. Others will point to similarities; buildings, places, attitudes that have remained relatively the same for the last three decades. Some will say that the city has gone downhill, lost its luster, that it's no longer "Toronto the Good" while others think the city has continued to improve throughout the years. It's a debate that could go on forever.

While it would be almost impossible to compare values, attitudes, trends, and other societal issues across time periods, there is one thing we can do. We can compare photographs. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and, if that's true, Damon Schreiber's most recent photo project definitely tells many stories.

Damon found a collection of Toronto photos online originally taken by Shige Sakamoto, a Japanese man who spent a week in the city in June of 1977, and set out to take the exact same photos today.

"The juxtaposition of the photos from 1977 and today can be of tremendous value to Torontonians especially, but [also] to any student of urban development," says Damon.

"So often a familiar structure is torn down or a new one is built, and we forget all about how that scene looked before. These photos allow us to remember how things were and to see how they are today. It gives us a way to step back and consider whether our urban landscaping is improving or deteriorating."


Damon even went so far as to try and take the exact same scenes in his updated photos, not just shots of the same places. The angles of the photos are almost identical. If a bus was in the 1977 photo he waits until there is a bus in the same spot today before taking his updated picture.

So how does he weigh in on the debate? How much has Toronto changed in the past 30 years?

"I can tell you from my own experience with these photos that Toronto certainly appears much more dense today than it did 30 years ago," says Damon.

"In other photos, though, it's remarkable how little has changed."


Taking the photos has not only helped Damon with his photography skills and his knowledge of Toronto history, it's also got him in touch with the original photographer.

"As soon as I thought about undertaking this project, I contacted Mr. Sakamoto by email. He wrote back and gave me many additional detail on the circumstances of these photos," says Damon.

"I owe him infinite thanks for his photos and all his help, and I think he's getting a kick out of it as well."

Damon does have one request however. He has a photo of a house from the original set of photos (seen here) that he can't seem to identify. If anyone knows where this house is, please leave a comment on this post or contact Damon Schreiber through his website.

For more posts on Toronto history check out blogTO's columns The UnderTOw and On This Spot.

All modern-day photos courtesy Damon Schreiber. All 1977 photos by Shige Sakamoto.

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