Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath

Explore the compelling work of one of the finest street photographers of his generation.

Whether picking out a single face in a crowd, capturing an act of violence between siblings, or framing close-up portraits of quiet despair, Dave Heath (1931–2016) had an instinctive ability to capture the soul behind the public persona. Extending the autobiographical mode of American photojournalist, W. Eugene Smith, he produced intense and profound images that plumbed the depths and subtleties of the human condition.

This acclaimed travelling exhibition focuses on Heath’s skillful crafting of the photographic print, as well as his innovative use of sequencing. A central component is Heath’s poetic masterpiece A Dialogue With Solitude (1965), which displays the artist’s important explorations into the potential of the photo book. Other handmade photo books and a digital version of his first audiovisual slide show, Beyond the Gates of Eden (1969) reveal Heath’s profound understanding of photography’s many expressive facets.

Exploring Heath’s artistic trajectory from teenage prodigy to influential photographer, Multitude, Solitude celebrates work that reflects the loneliness and alienation of modern life.

Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath has been organized by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.


Thursday, March 14, 2019 Monday, September 2, 2019


National Gallery of Canada Canadian Photography Institute Galleries
380 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4

What I have endeavored to convey in my work is not a sense of futility and despair, but an acceptance of life’s tragic aspects. Out of acceptance of this truth—that the pleasures and joys of life are fleeting and rare…—must come love and concern for the human condition.

– Dave Heath


I don’t know why some people become artists and others don’t, but there was some deeper sense within myself of survival, of having to define and declare myself on my own terms and not in other people’s terms. And the way I found to do that was through being an artist.

– Dave Heath

About Dave Heath

Dave Heath (1931–2016) was a master of darkroom technique, carefully dodging, burning and bleaching his prints to create the deep, luminous images for which he has become known. Here are four other things to know about the artist’s life and work.


Dave Heath was abandoned by his parents when he was four years old. He lived in a series of foster homes, ultimately ending up in an orphanage, where he remained until he was sixteen. The alienation and desire to connect that are hallmarks of his work are said to stem from a deep-seated physical and psychological rootlessness.


Dave Heath was entirely self-taught. Inspired by a photo essay on a foster child in LIFE Magazine, he filched two dollars from the orphanage director to buy an inexpensive Falcon Miniature camera. He soon joined a camera club and began haunting museums and galleries to study art. Heath produced his first handmade book of photographs in 1952, when he was barely 21.


Dave Heath served during the Korean War after being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953. Some of his most evocative early images are of his fellow soldiers — Korean and American alike — at work, rest and play.


Although born in Philadelphia, U.S.A., Dave Heath came to Canada in 1970, settling in Toronto. He remained in Canada for the rest of his life, teaching photography and darkroom techniques at Ryerson University for a quarter century.

Dave Heath, Rochester, New York, 1958. Gelatin silver print, 16.5 cm x 24.7 cm. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.1428. © Howard Greenberg Gallery and Stephen Bulger Gallery.

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Study the work of a darkroom master, and one of the finest street photographers of his generation, in the Canadian Photography Institute Galleries of the National Gallery of Canada, until September 2, 2019

Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath


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Visitors will be immediately captivated by an artist whose work often took unique directions in both style and substance. — Le Devoir


Supported by

Scotiabank Photography Program


Soutenu par

Programme de photographie Banque Scotia