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The Alleys and Laneways of Toronto: Where History Lives and Change Never Stops

Part of the urban beauty of this city lies tucked away behind the buildings and houses. There’s amazing graffiti, yes, but Toronto's alleys and laneways are more than that. They’re hidden gems: often grimy, occasionally beautiful and, above all, lived in.

Photo by bridgetj

They’re where kids play and where residents and workers sneak out for a smoke. They’re how drivers who know a neighborhood well, make their way around the traffic jam at an annoying intersection. They can be a quiet refuge from the traffic-laden streets, some acting as quick shortcuts between roads, some coming to dead ends, others long and straight, and still others containing dog-legs and further branching alleys that make it easy to get turned around. A lot of the time when I explore a new lane, I’m not sure where I’m going to come out!

There are miles of laneways in Toronto, in both commercial and residential areas. Tucked away in these corners is a nearly endless supply of subjects for photographers. Sometimes the lanes are tidy, like the ones that serve as narrow driveways to old carriage and coach houses – from when vehicles were still horse drawn, which have been renovated and turned into small homes. Sometimes they are the access to an extra parking space or even the entrance, for an apartment above a street front shop. Often, they’re gritty and packed with graffiti, garbage bins, and crumbling sheds.

Local artists love them, and it’s no wonder. In an ever-changing city landscape, sometimes an old lane becomes an overlooked microcosm of the history of that neighborhood.

They’re a clear favorite of Toronto Lomographers, too. The alleys around the Toronto Gallery Store on Queen Street might be some of the best documented in the city.

And of course, there is the graffiti. Miles upon miles of continuously evolving urban art.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of exploring lanes in the west end of the city myself, and I always love exploring the pictures of others – locals and visitors – who inevitably see things that I don’t. Search for the tag ‘toronto’ and you’ll find plenty of photos. Here are a few other related articles:

LGS Toronto Workshop: See the Queen Street Alleyways Through an analogue lens
Roaming the Queen Street West graffiti alleys with 110 Baby Fisheye
Creativity in the City: Toronto’s Other Side

Explore the hidden nooks and crannies of your city – I guarantee it will be anything but boring!

Photo by bridgetj

written by bridgetj

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