In the 1890s Andrew Goss, a resident of an east end Toronto neighborhood acquired his first camera while working as an office boy at local government offices. He was hired in the engineering department where they used a camera to photograph work sites, land conditions and other infrastructure to keep for their records. Photographic evidence was also important in damage lawsuits against the city.
Goss began to strategically document the development of much of the infrastructure of the city including roads, sewers and transit lines. Not confined just to infrastructure as a skilled artist Goss was also able to include images that portrayed the poverty and unhealthy conditions that existed in parts of the city and work to bring about health reforms.
As his skill with a camera became more widely known, he was called upon to take images for other government departments and he continued to portray the real-life scenes of the city including photographing boarding houses, shacks and places lacking basic life amenities like heat or water. Goth became the city photographer hired on in an official capacity for the city in 1912 when he also acquired his own department and a small staff. Known as the Civic Photography Department all the negatives of the pictures Goss photographed were labeled and filed.
More than just photographing areas of the city Goss is best known for his photographic dedication to the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct, which finished in 1918. A link from the city to the eastern suburbs the entire project was documented in great detail in photography and has since been used extensively for historical purposes including writing a novel.
Goss’ work continued as the city’s official photographer and as his personal passion until he passed away in 1940. By this time he had amassed over 35,000 photographs many of which to this day are still available in the City of Toronto archives. Goss watched Toronto become a city from behind the lens of a camera and in the process left a remarkable history for us to look back on in better understanding the development and growth of our beloved Toronto.