“100 Adelaide St E” 1989/1998, by Patrick Cummins

Patrick Cummins’s Flickr account: [top] 100 Adelaide St E – 1 – [March] 1989 / [bottom] 100 Adelaide St E – 2 – April 4, 1998. © Patrick Cummins.

Patrick Cummins, 55, is a photographer from Toronto. For the past 30 years, he has been documenting the city’s vernacular architecture. The two photos displayed above are part of his huge “Collations” project which he started back in the eighties. A small sample of it is hosted on Flickr. Here how he presents it:

For 30 years I’ve been conducting comparative studies of downtown Toronto commercial and residential structures, documenting the ways in which they shift and change over time. The ever-growing archive of images documents the survival, transformation and, sometimes, demise, of various relatively ordinary structures as they continually change, in function and facade. Toronto is full of such structures, which constantly undergo alterations, in a pragmatic adaptation to changes in building materials, in design attitudes, and, indeed, in social values, having layer upon layer of new, often discordant details added to their surfaces. At this time, I present herewith a very small sampling of pieces from this ongoing undertaking.

In an interview he did with The Globe and Mail in spring of 2012, Cummins explained how it all began:

In the eighties, you had an epiphany.

I’d been doing this sort of work for about 10 years. I was cataloguing my negatives and discovered that one particular building at 140 Boulton Ave., east of Broadview at Dundas, I’d photographed in 1988 but I had also done eight years earlier. This house was now a landscaping business. It was this shock of realization: It was the same building. What really attracted me was that you could not apply any architectural style to that house. There are many examples of this in Toronto, houses that are really hard to date. The number of layers that get added, it starts to be treated like a blank canvas. I realized quickly that it wasn’t the only building that I had re-photographed. This is what the whole thing was: When you’re standing in front of something, you would swear it’s always been that way. (“Patrick Cummins: photographer, City of Toronto archivist” by Zosia Bielski, April 27, 2012).

Another very good interview with Patrick Cummins was published at blogTO: “Toronto through the lens of Patrick Cummins” by Derek Flack, January 14, 2012.

In the summer of 2012, Cummins published Full Frontal T.O.: Exploring Toronto’s Architectural Vernacular which documents Toronto streetscape in over 400 photos. The editor Coach House Books’s promotional page offers a substantial list of additional online resources (scroll down to the “News & Reviews” section). The book also has a dedicated blog which offers some samples from the “Collations” project along with contextual explanations. Cummins’s book was launched as part of the 2012 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

A couple of weeks ago, the short documentary film Impermanence of the Ordinary which profile the work of Patrick Cummins premiered at the 2013 Hot Docs Film Festival (see the official website). Here’s the official trailer:

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First spotted via Evan P. Cordes’s Mlkshk


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