"Dave Heath, a photographer whose images expressing his sense of urban isolation and a yearning for personal connection won a fervent group of admirers despite his many years of public obscurity, died on Monday, his 85th birthday, in Toronto.
Cara Heitmann, a friend of more than 25 years and executor of his will, said he had fallen at his home in Toronto and died in a hospital there.
Although his lustrous black-and-white prints owed a lot to the bleaching techniques of W. Eugene Smith, and though his poetic images of people glimpsed in streets and public parks sounded some of the same broken chords as those struck by his friend Robert Frank in his book “The Americans,” Mr. Heath was in many ways a school of one.
His photographs, notably collected in his signature work, the 1965 book “A Dialogue With Solitude,” reflected his own troubled experience.
Born on June 27, 1931, but quickly abandoned by his parents, David Heath (he was named David after a maternal great-grandfather, a rabbi in Russia) was raised in an orphanage and a series of foster homes in Philadelphia.
His discovery of photography as a teenager was his salvation.
“I don’t know why some people become artists and others don’t,” he told an interviewer in the 1980s, “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.”
Mr. Heath largely taught himself, hunting for pictures in downtown Philadelphia or taking his 35-millimeter camera aboard buses. The photo essays of Smith and other contributors to Life magazine were early inspirations."