Work on this record display is under way. Some features may be unavailable or non-functional.
- Record Information – Brief
- Dave Heath fonds [graphic material, textual record]
- Hierarchical level:
- Fonds / Collection
- Type of material:
- Art, Photographs, Textual material
- Found in:
- Archives / Collections and Fonds
- Item number:
- Link to this page:
This link identifies the web page describing this particular record. Unlike the temporary link in your browser, this link will allow you to access, and reference, this page in the future.
To link to this descriptive record, copy and paste the URL where ever needed (wiki, blog, document).
- Record Information – Details
- Fonds / Collection includes:
5 lower level description(s)View lower level description(s)
- Bilingual equivalent:
- Click here
- Place of creation:
- 225 photographically illustrated journals (ca. 13,5 m of textual records, ca. 38000 photographs) : col., b&w.
- Language of material:
- Scope and content:
Fonds consists of 225 albums, in the form of photographically illustrated journals, documenting the activities and projects of photographer Dave Heath, from January 1, 1974 to February 23, 2016. Each journal covers a range of time as brief as a month, or as long as a few years. The first ten journals are in a larger format book than the rest of the collection and have been given titles by the author while the remainder of the collection remains untitled. The last journal (December 1, 2015 - February 23, 2016) is unfinished. There is one box which contains only ca. 223 loose pages (8.5 x 11 in.), printed for future entries in the journals (Volume 225). Volume 224 is a larger book, 7 x 9 in., and covers entirely his trip to New York in 2000.
The journals are each in their own individual boxes and are arranged chronologically with entries of varying lengths; the journals on average are composed of 71% photographic material by David Heath, 21% reproductions from books and magazines and 8% written material by David Heath. From the outside, the journals appear identical with black covers, each one expanded beyond the size of the book spine and filled with precisely placed pictures and mixed media layouts. Some journals begin with text, others may have either a clipping from a newspaper, book, magazine, a print, an historical photograph or a photograph taken by Heath. Composed around his musings, creative instincts and thoughts on core thematics the pages of the journals extensively treat a range of subjects visually and textually. Heath is preoccupied with his identity as an American expatriate living in Toronto, the city, urban life and being an artist in Canada. He personally grapples with his own history; the loss of his family, being abandoned and being Jewish. His tendency toward bouts of deep depression, his desire to create art, to pass on his knowledge and inspire others through art and teaching and his angst toward personal relationships with women are treated extensively.
"I told myself that if I start to put my thoughts to paper I could, in about 10 years or so, reclaim them and organize them into a theoretical treatise on the language of photography" (David Heath from Journal no. 1).
Heath used the journals at first as a place to present and organize his thoughts on photography but became progressively compulsive about arranging, composing and collecting each thought, idea, conviction, fear, dream and desire he experienced both in sleeping and in waking life. The final presentation of each journal is technical, planned, and as precisely composed in image and text as a film would be. Heath liked to play with the juxtaposition of images and photomontage. Overall the journals are, as they were intended, a voice of the time, a cultural portrait, a sketch of time and space. For Heath, his journals gave a self-constructive texture to his life in the same way that he described Peter Beard's obsessions with ephemera and creating journals (Journal no. 125). The journals offer a rare glimpse into the process of creating from an artist's point of view. Heath's psyche is revealed and the reality of how difficult it is to establish and maintain a career dedicated to creation surfaces brilliantly and prophetically. An artist, a student of Heath, and anyone involved in creating art would find these journals an engaging and invaluable source of reflection on the artist in society, the creative muse, and the balance between creation and making a living that every artist must maintain. Moreover, the journals offer an entry into the life of David Heath, the photographer, during a period where he was no longer producing or showing that many photographs.
Over the 40 year span of the journals Heath became a compulsive journal creator and his obsession with the journals and Polaroid photography became his art and his passion. Never able to stop at just one photograph, Heath committed himself to exploring the expressive possibilities of groups of interconnected images, moving through a number of visual forms and media. His first maquette entitled 3 consisted of three separate photographs, which were only loosely linked together conceptually and visually which Heath called, "an attempt to feel out something about the form of relationships between pictures"(Dave's Story by William S. Johnson). The way the photographs are placed on the pages and the intricate linking of the successive pages is part of the concept of style that Heath worked with. He is interested in collage to the point that it is intertwining and shaping larger images from many single images,however his main purpose was to juxtapose images through placement and order. The journals are very self-referential but do provide a window into the cultural history over a span of forty years. Heath often wrote about events in the news, at Ryerson and in the city of Toronto and Canada, as well as the United States especially New York City. He also focused on the art world, gallery openings, the politics of exhibition and teaching the art of photography in a university setting. He also explicitly struggles with the life he chose to live and the decisions that guided, yet haunted him such as his decision to reside and work in Canada.
The collection of artist's books Heath has created represents the artist's continued search for self through a photographic process that is normally associated with the innocent snap-shooter. He recorded everyday events using Polaroid SX-70 and through montage, juxtaposed images and text in a sequence of thoughts, probes, and inquisitions of the external world around him and his internal sight lines. Innocent, at least in appearance, Heath was hardly an amateur snap-shooter but used the medium to tease out the mundane and perplexing moments of life though a photographer's eye. Heath relentlessly documented everything his eyes saw and then combined the Polaroid images with ephemera, images from secondary sources, written reflections and inner dialogue, recollections of a days activities or a return to a reoccurring theme all of which combine to form a visual history, a cultural portrait, and a legacy of thought and inquisition. The journals are not meant as individual pieces but flow together in presentation, composition, and the overall feel. They are a window to the artist's psyche and were intended to be works of art themselves.
- Creator / Provenance:
- Biography/Administrative history:
David Heath was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 27 June 1931. He became a landed immigrant in Canada in 1970 and a Canadian citizen in 2014. Heath began photographing in the late 1940s and in 1959 was in New York studying and working as a photographer. In the tradition of those he most admired like Walker Evans, David Heath endlessly compiled and chronicled everyday life toward a graphic and contemplative essay on the human condition and his own human condition. Heath's major influences were W. Eugene Smith whom he studied under in New York, Edward Steichen and Robert Frank who encouraged him to apply for a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships in Photography in 1963 and 1964 for photographic studies of the human condition in the United States.
David Heath is an internationally known photographer most famous for his collection of photography A Dialogue With Solitude that first appeared in 1961 and was reprinted by Lumiere Press in 2000 and 2002 with a Photogravure Edition and a foreword by Robert Frank. Hugh Edwards, Curator of Photography at the Chicago Institute of Art called A Dialogue With Solitude "a self-portrait in which the artist himself never really appears." A Dialogue With Solitude was the product of more than a decade of personal exploration and the resolution of Heath's creative search to enunciate his statement in the visually poetic form of sequence and stands as a testament to mankind's ability to transform through art, misery into beauty, loneliness into solitude"(Janine Smiter, National Gallery of Canada, 16 Nov., 1981).
After moving to Toronto to teach photography at Ryerson Polythecnical Institute in the early 1970s, Heath began experimenting with Polaroid technology. He created a series of narrative works in Songs of Innocence and began working with historical photographs in Le Grand album ordinaire (1973) and Ars Moriendi (1980). In 1981, the National Gallery of Canada mounted a retrospective exhibition of his work. Heath retired from teaching in 1997 but remained in Toronto.
In 2001, he gave up Polaroids and took up digital photography, returning to his original subject, street photography, on the sidewalks of Toronto and New York. A selection of this digital colour work appeared in his self-published book "Dave Heath's Art Show¿ (2007), dedicated to Robert Frank, in which he revisited familiar themes, the "undoing" and "rewriting" of A Dialogue with Solitude. ¿To undo the book then rewrite it a new¿ (Edmond Jabés in Heath¿s journals).
David Heath died in Toronto on June 27, 2016, the day of his 85th birthday. He is represented at major galleries across North America including National Gallery of Canada; the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the International Museum of Photography, New York; the George Eastman House, New York; The Getty, Los Angeles; the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions and influenced generations of young artists during his more than 20 years as a professor at Ryerson University, Toronto.
- Finding aid:
- Additional information:
- Custodial history:
- David Heath donated the first 192 journals in 2001 (BAN 2001-00994-1). The remaining 33 journals were acquired in 2018 (BAN 2018-00434-4) from Michael Schreier.
- Related control no.:
- Ordering and Viewing Options
- Conditions of access:
- Copyright: Estate of David Heath. The Estate of David Heath must give permission prior to any consultation or use.