Female youth homelessness in urban Canada: space, representation and the contemporary female subject
In Canada there have been no acknowledged pioneers of the concept of the 'free lance conscience with a camera' as were Jacob A. Riis and Lewis W. Hine in the United States. However, in Toronto circa 1910 a handful of anonymous Canadian photographers produce[d] a body of work which is astounding in its optic perception of the time in which they lived...Working conditions, health, housing, education, sanitation, children, motherhood, all came under their close scrutiny. Totally unknown, the 1910 address of these photographers can only be described as 'ubiquitous'. Often told where and
when to go for the pictures, what to include, the very discipline of what they had to reveal provided them with an 'art of seeing' with which they produced many images of poignant intensity. It was not by accident that many of the photographs show what needed to be corrected or what was being corrected in the lives of immigrants and workers of 1910. (Michel Lambeth (1967) Made in Canada: Photographs of Toronto, Circa 1910 from the collection of Michel Lambeth)
This chapter takes for its point of departure some vivid photographic images representing working-class youth in early twentieth century urban Canada. While it does not focus explicitly on historical analyses of these images per se, it draws upon them as a hermeneutic device to explore, in terms both of theory and ethics, some of the ways in which the lives of generations of disadvantaged young women may be seen to connect with each other across time. Drawing substantially upon the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Hannah Arendt, the paper describes an interdisciplinary theoretical approach and culturally oriented methodology for examining contemporary representations of urban female youth in the media and other public records. Such work is seen as contributing to the refinement of a theoretical lens for interpreting the part played by public representations of female youth homelessness in shaping the contemporary social order.