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Photography Essays

A Room in the City

Photographs of Gabor Gasztonyi

by (photographer) Gabor Gasztonyi

introduction by Harold Rhenisch & Gabor Maté

Anvil Press Publishers
Initial publish date
Jul 2010
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2010
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'A Room in the City' is a self-revelatory journey into a world of darkness and light, a place of blatant lies and transcendent truths. Photographer Gabor Gasztonyi presents a Vancouver with deep roots in an otherwise forgotten past, and an East End populated by people seeking shelter, safety, and love in extreme social conditions. 'A Room in the City' presents Gasztonyi's five-year project of photogrpahing the residents of the Cobalt, Balmoral, Regent, and Sunrise Hotels in Vancouver'sDowntown Eastside, the poorest postal code in the country. They are represented in private moments, with respect and dignity-in their rooms and on the streets-as they wish to be seen. Gasztonyi's style continues in the great documentation tradition of Czech photographer Zdenek Tmej and Jousef Koudelka, the photographer of the Roma.

" 'A Room in the City' is a haunting collection of photographs by Gabor Gasztonyi. ... There's more here than prostitution and crack pipes, although they're in evidence. Whether confronting the lens or averting their gaze, the subjects expose their vulnerability but also their attachment to another human being or a cosseted pet. In the book's foreword, addiction expert Gabor Maté notes that for many of these people, mental illness or substance abuse is a response to trauma. ‘Their entire life,' he adds, ‘has been one of survival against odds.' We're left wondering how people have to live this way in Canada." -Uptown Magazine

"Gabor Gasztonyi spent five years photographing and talking to the men and women of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and 'A Room in the City' is the mesmerizing result. The black-and-white images, and Gasztonyi's diary entries, forcefully and unforgettably capture the desperation-and the unexpected glints of dignity and joy-of lives ravaged by poverty, drugs, mental illness and social dislocation." -The National Post

Finalsit , George Ryga Award for Social Awareness In Literature

About the authors

Gabor Gasztonyi (photographer) Gabor has had numerous exhibitions across Canada, including Vancouver, Montreal, and the Arta Gallery in Toronto in 2008. His awards include the Professional Photographers of BC Nikon Prize in 2006, Society of Canadian Artists Award of Excellence in 2008, runner-up Magnum Scotiabank Scholarship, 2008, and a Canadian nomination for the International Black & White Spider awards in 2008. He operates a photography studio and art gallery in New Westminster, BC.

Gabor Gasztonyi's profile page

Harold Rhenisch is an award-winning poet, critic, and cultural commentator. His awards include the Confederation Poetry Prize in 1991 and the BC &: Yukon Community Newspapers Association Award for Best Arts and Culture Writing in 1996. He is a seven-time runner-up for the CBC/Tilden/Saturday Night Literary Contest. In 2005, he won the ARC Magazine Critics Desk Award for best long poetry review and the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize for "Abandon." He won this prize again in 2007 for "The Bone Yard." His non-fiction book Tom Thomson's Shack was short-listed for two BC Book Prizes in 2000. For its sequel, The Wolves at Evelyn, he won the 2007 George Ryga Award for Social Responsibility in Literature.  Harold Rhenisch has recently moved from 150 Mile House in BC’s Cariboo region to Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

Harold Rhenisch's profile page

Born in Budapest, Gabor Maté immigrated to Canada at the age of twelve. He spent some time working as a teacher before returning to university to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. He ran a popular family practice for many years, and spent twelve years working in Vancouver's downtown eastside, caring for patients suffering from mental illness, drug addiction, and HIV. In the 1990s, Dr. Maté was a regular medical columnist for the Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail. He is also the author of four works of non-fiction. His most recent book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction, won a Hubert Evans Award in 2010. In addition to being a physician and bestselling author, Dr. Maté is a highly sought after public speaker. He has three grown children and currently resides in Vancouver, BC, with his wife. Please visit

Gabor Maté's profile page