Vincenzo Pietropaolo is a social documentary photographer who has travelled extensively to document various cultures, cities, people and their way of life. His passion for social justice and human rights is a common thread in his work, ranging from Mexico, Cuba, Italian immigration to Canada and seasonal migrant farm workers to Canada. The preservation of the natural environment is another theme seen in his series on trees in both Italy and Canada.
Vincenzo Pietropaolo was born in 1951, in Maierato, Italy, and immigrated as a young boy with his family to Toronto, Canada. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Ryerson University, Toronto.
He has distinguished himself as a photographic bookmaker, mixing photographs with his own original writing. His works and documentary photographs have been the subject of over 12 books and featured in art magazines like Border Crossings, as well as receiving critical acclaim in periodicals like The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Canadian Geographic has called him “one of Canada’s pre-eminent documentary photographers.” Recognizing his empathetic approach and social commitment, Geist Magazine wrote that his work “is a brilliant example of photography at its most ‘communicative’: for Pietropaolo, the camera is a tool for touching the world.” His most recent book is _Where Angels Come to earth: An Evocation of the Italian Piazza _(2020).
He has produced extensive photo essays on workers across Canada, seasonal migrant farm workers from Mexico and the Caribbean, cities in Italy, religious ritual, architecture, historical preservation, and a variety of social justice issues such as refugees, disadvantaged youth, people with disabilities and the elderly.
He is particularly interested in cities, and has spent considerable time documenting street life and architecture in Toronto, New York City, Havana, Mexico City, and several cities in Italy. His photographs of Toronto were selected to illustrate a landmark exhibition of Jane Jacobs’s seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, held at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Toronto.
Pietropaolo has taught part time at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, York University, and Seneca College (Toronto), and has also been invited to give lectures and workshops in many schools, universities and institutions – in Canada, Italy, Mexico and the United States. He is a member of the Documentary Media Research Centre at Ryerson University, and writes regularly on photography for POV Magazine. He recently lectured on Toronto as the annual Leo Srole speaker at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.
TYPES OF PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTS PRODUCED BY PIETROPAOLO:
The black and white prints—gelatin silver prints—are individually produced from negatives, by Pietropaolo himself, on Agfa photographic fibre paper processed archivally. Agfa paper has not been manufactured for a few years now, making these prints a rare commodity. An acknowledged master printer, Pietropaolo has made his own gelatin silver prints throughout his career, and his prints are known for their luminous quality. Today he is one of the few active photographers who will not give up his traditional darkroom.
The colour or chromogenic prints produced by Pietropaolo are made under Vincenzo’s supervision, on photographic paper manufactured by Kodak and Fuji. The papers are no longer manufactured, making these prints equally rare to the black and white prints.
Vincenzo now works with digital cameras, and the prints from his current work—archival pigment prints—are made from his original digital captures using archival inks and papers. Future prints from his early analog work will be made mostly as archival pigment prints from scanned negatives or slides.
Pietropaolo has exhibited internationally including in New York City, Mexico City, Havana, Rome, Amsterdam, and Zurich. His work has been featured in over 100 solo and group exhibitions in North America, Latin America, and Europe.
Pietropaolo’s works are in many private collections and leading Canadian institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Library and Archives Canada, University of Toronto Art centre, Ryerson Image Centre, and the City of Toronto Archives. Since 2015, many of his works have been continuously featured in the exhibition Defenders of Human Rights at the Canadian
Museum for Human Rights. His most recent solo exhibition was Visa Gallery, Brock University in October 2019, and his most recent group exhibition, True To the Eyes, opened at Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto, in January 2019.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
- 2019 The Italian Immigrant Experience Revealed, Visa Gallery, Brock University
- 2017 Mexico and the Days of the Dead, Artscape Wychwood Barns Gallery, Toronto
- 2017 Ritual, Italian Cultural Institute Toronto
- 2016 Havana City at a Crossroads, Charlotte Hale Gallery – James Rottman Fine Art
- 2015 Ritual, Ryerson University Artspace
- 2012 From the Land of Olives to the Land of Maples, part of the Tree Project, McMichael Canadian Collection.
- 2011 In Retrospective, De Luca Fine Arts, Toronto.
- 2011 Invisible No More, Nuit Blanche, Abilities Festival, Carlton Cinema.
- 2010 Peregrinos de la Cosecha, Museo de las Migraciones, Zacatecas, Mexico.
- 2009 Harvest Pilgrims, Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, Hamilton, Ontario.
- 2009 Peregrinos de la Cosecha, El Atrio, Embassy of Canada, Mexico City.
- 2008 En misa y en procesión (Religion in Cuba), Galeria Espacio Abierto, Havana.
- 2007 Not Paved with Gold. Italian-American Museum, New York.
- 2006 Not Paved with Gold. Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba.
- 2005 Essential Work: Mexican Farm Workers in Canada. Art Gallery of Windsor.
- 2003 Latin Traces / Huellas Latinas: photographs of Cuba and Mexico. Ryerson University Gallery, Toronto.
- 2003 Vincenzo Pietropaolo: A 30-year Retrospective, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto.
- 2000-02 Growing Cultures, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
- 1999 The Streets Were Not Paved With Gold, Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- 1998 New York/Toronto, David Mirvish Books on Art, Toronto.
- 1996 Harvest Pilgrims, curated by Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. Opened at El Atrio, Embassy of Canada, Mexico. Later traveled through ten locations across the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada.
- 1991 The Death and Life of Great American Cities. (Based on Jane Jacob’s seminal work.) Faculty of Architecture, University of Toronto.
- 1995 Safe Haven, Heritage Gallery, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
- 1994 Peregrinos de Cosecha. Fotoseptiembre, Morelia, Mexico.
- 1993 Harvest Pilgrims. Photo Passage, Harbourfront, Toronto.
- 1987 Ritual. Photographers Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
- 1986 Italiani in Canada. Touring exhibition opened at Sasso di Castalda (PZ), Italy.
- 1985 Primers and Kiln Hangers. Photo Union Gallery, Hamilton, Ontario.
- 1984 The Italian-Canadians. Canadian Academic Centre, Rome, Italy.1974.
- 1974 I Paesani: Faces of Italy in Toronto. St. Lawrence Centre, Toronto.
- 1971 Toronto Public Library, five month traveling exhibition in five locations.
SELECTED JURIED/CURATED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
- 2019 True to the Eyes, Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto
- 2018 Imago Mundi, OCAD Art Gallery, Toronto
- 2017 Imago Mundi, Palazzo Loredan, Venice
- 2015 The Daily Grind, December 19, 2015 to April 24, 2016. Museum London, London, Ontario
- 2011 State of the Arts, Venice Biennale – Italian Overseas Pavilion, Italian Cultural Institute, Toronto
- 2010 Migrante, Università di Roma Tre, Rome, Italy.
- 2006 A Collected View, City of Toronto Archives Centre.
- 2005 Viajeros: North American Photographers’ Images of Cuba, Zoellner Arts Centre, Bethlehem, PA.
- 2005 Paradiese auf Erden, Credit Suisse Bonviva, Zurich, Switzerland.
- 2003 Documents and Dreams, Narrative 360, Vancouver, BC.
- 2003 Havana Returns, You Me Gallery, Hamilton, ON.
- 2003 Growing Cultures, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, AL.
- 2003 Cuba Now: Glimpses of Daily Life, Photo West Gallery, Philadelphia, PA.
- 2003 Presenza, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa.
- 2003 Toronto Photo Grid, York Quay Gallery, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto.
- 2003 Canadian Photographers in Cuba, Toronto City Hall.
- 2002 Making Home in Havana, Leica Gallery, New York City.
- 2001 Fotografía Canadiense, Fototeca de Cuba, Havana.
- 1999 La Vita Nuova, Ontario Workers’ Arts and Heritage Centre, Hamilton.
- 1998 Spirit of Resistance, Mayworks Festival, Toronto.
- 1998 Trois Perspectives du Mexique, Galerie Mistral, Montreal.
- 1997 Who Grows Our Food, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
- 1995 Five Photographers, Steven Bulger Gallery, Toronto.
- 1994 Peregrinos de Cosecha y El Tiempo de Nuestra Vida, Morelia, Mexico.
- 1993 The Magic Assembling, City of Toronto Archives, Toronto.
- 1991 Imaging Labour, Ministry of Culture and Communications, Toronto.
- 1988-90 Fotografia Canadiense Contemporanea, Touring exhibition through Mexico.
- 1988-90 Italy Outside of Italy, Touring exhibition, Rome and Italy.
- 1988 The Month of Photography, Merida, Mexico.
- 1985 The Art Bank at Work, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba.
- 1986 Toronto in Focus, De Meervart, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
- 1983 The Portrait, Espace Ovo, Montréal, Québec.
- 1982 Humor in Photography, New York University, New York City.
- 1981 Sights of History, National Film Board traveling exhibition across Canada.
- 1974 Bittersweet: Women in Ontario, 1900-1975, Traveling exhibition, Ontario.
- 1973 Two Documentations, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto.
PIETROPAOLO’S PHOTOGRAPHIC WORKS ARE INCLUDED IN THE FOLLOWING COLLECTIONS:
- Art Gallery of Ontario
- Art Gallery of Windsor
- Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa
- Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Quebec
- Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa
- University of Toronto Art Centre, Toronto
- The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario
- Photographers Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
- City of Toronto Archives
- Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa
- The Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Family Charitable Foundation
- Centre for Health and Safety Innovation
- Family Education Centre of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, Port Elgin, Ont.
- Goodman and Goodman
- Ursel Phillips Fellows Hopkins LLP
- Industrial Accident Prevention Association
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
- Institute for Work and Health, Toronto
- Janusz Dukszta Collection
- Kensington Gardens
- National Labor College, Washington, D.C.
- Ontario Ministry of Labour, Toronto
- Skyworks Charitable Foundation
- Workers Health and Safety Centre
Video – 2016 Video interview with Vincenzo Pietropaolo