Dave Heath, New York City , 1962, silver gelatin print, 8.26 x 12.07 cm, Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

Dave Heath, New York City , 1962, silver gelatin print, 8.26 x 12.07 cm, Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery


On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth

WAAP in collaboration with Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, will be presenting a selection of works by the under-recognized master of 1960s black and white photography, Dave Heath (born Philadelphia 1931, died Toronto 2016).

Striving to capture people’s inner landscapes, Dave Heath’s black-and-white portraits focus on quiet moments of solitary contemplation, self-reflection, longing, pain, and ennui. Heath photographed strangers in public, while off in their own worlds, disconnected from those around them, isolated by their internal monologues. Like so many other great street photographers, Heath manages to capture people seemingly unnoticed.

Heath’s photos were curated for his sumptuous black and white 1965 (reissued in 2000) book ‘A Dialogue with Solitude’, which features a foreword by Robert Frank. An original, signed copy will be included in the exhibition. Heath subsequently won two Guggenheim Fellowships, after which he moved to Toronto in the 1970s.

Integral to understanding Heath’s work is appreciating the technical crafting of his photographs. Dodging and burning his images, both through hand manipulations during darkroom exposure as well as through chemical reduction and intensification of tones after development, Heath’s deliberate yet artful manipulation of the lights and darks grants access to deeper interpretations of his subject’s psyche and emotions. Often the resulting image is a powerful contrast of stark whites and heavy blacks and his subjects ebb and flow through every gradient in between.

The works selected for this exhibition share a common theme of youth culture, isolation, and abandonment. With subjects consisting primarily of children and adolescents, Heath captures moments of the intense, and often confusing, emotions experienced by youth. This exploration of immortalised youth is rooted in Heath’s lived experiences. At the age of four, he was abandoned by both of his parents. By the age of fifteen, he had lived in a series of foster homes, and, finally, in an orphanage. It was at this early age that Heath knew he wanted to be an artist, seeing this as the best way to experience the world and come to define himself within it.

“To be young is to be one of the Immortals…for there is no line drawn, and we see no limit to our hopes and wishes. We make the coming age our own…”
– William Hazlitt, ‘On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth’, A Dialogue in Solitude by Dave Heath (1965)

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