About Below the City

This land known today as Toronto is the traditional territory of nations that include Mississauga of the Credit, the Ojibwe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Huron-Wendat. This territory is under numerous Treaties that include One Dish, One Spoon, a mutual agreement between nations to share and protect land and resources. Scarborough, the now eastern suburb of Tkaronto, is under the pre-confederation Williams Treaties. See native-land.ca for mapping of indigenous lands.


From Old French subburbe, derived from the Latin suburbium, formed from sub (“under” or “below”) and urbs (“city”)

In Ancient Rome, the lower class lived in low elevation areas outside the powerful hilltop city centre. The wealthy and aristocrats avoided Subura of Rome, home to the poor, gangs, and crime. But it was also a place crowded with vibrant commerce and manufacturing: merchants, metalsmiths, barber shops and large meat, vegetable and wine markets. Similarly, though today’s Scarborough is dismissed by those in the powerful city centre, it’s home to diverse ethnic enclaves and is an interwoven landscape rich with culture and activities.

As someone who grew-up in and, together with his parents, still makes their home in Scarborough, Lee challenges views of the suburb as uninspiring and lackluster. To show the Scarborough he knows, Lee depicts it as a site of transition and movement: between natural-urban, preservation-change, and varying generations of immigrants. His images show Scarborough as a coalescence of typologies from both rural and urban cultures, interwoven by dynamic migrant communities.

error: © Esmond Lee