Wise, Lou

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Wise, Lou

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Lou Wise is a pilot and former Director of Educational Media for the Toronto Board of Education, who has photographed Southern Ontario for over three decades.

Wise grew up in Toronto's east end, near Gerrard and Main Street, the son of George Wise, a waiter with the King Edward and Royal York hotels. Wise took an aircraft course at Central Tech High School and learned to fly at the Island Airport during 1941 and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at the outbreak of World War II. Wise earned his pilot's wings in the fall of 1944 after serving three and a half years on a ground crew, but did not see overseas service. After the war, Wise worked for Colour Photo Labs, an early Toronto colour film lab. From 1947 to about 1961, Wise worked in the film department of Avro Aviation Limited, documenting the development of the Avro Arrow, all while continuing to fly as a hobby. He purchased his own aircraft in 1978.

From 1962 to 1984 Wise worked in the Toronto Board of Education Media Resources Department, beginning as an audio visual technician and spending the last eleven years as department manager.

Between 1964 and 1975 Wise earned a B.A. in English from York University and a master's degree in educational media from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

In 1979, Wise set up Aerographic, an aerial photography business.

Wise has photographed thousands of images of the Southern Ontario landscape. Taking low-level oblique photographs from the left-hand side of a Piper Cherokee 180D airplane at about 1000 feet, Wise was often accompanied by his autistic daughter Melanie. These flights were taken on behalf of several conservation authorities, engineering consultants and GO Transit in Southern Ontario with the objective to systematically document the changing landscape and land use. Wise worked with Charles Sauriol in particular to assist the heritage land conservationist and other local conservation authorities in their advocacy work monitoring and managing watersheds and nature reserves in the province.

In 1988 Wise conducted a three year funded project to photograph 150 Class 1 wetlands across Southern Ontario from Windsor to Cornwall and up into the Muskokas. In the 1990s his photography focused on the Oak Ridges Moraine. In recent years, his focus has been on tributaries of the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, the Duffins Creek Watershed, the Nottawasaga Valley Watershed and the Niagara Escarpment.

Wise is the recipient of the North York Environmental Award of Excellence in 1996. In 1997 he received the Ontario Senior Achievement Award. In the same year the book "Oak Ridges Moraine" published by STORM (Save The Oak Ridges Moraine) was published, featuring thirteen of Wise's own aerial photographs.

Wise also received the 2001 Watershed Award from the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, in 2002 he received the "99's Canadian Award in Aviation" Wise was the 2007 recipient of The A.D. Latornell Conservation Pioneer Award in recognition of his significant contributions the conservation movement in Ontario.

Lou Wise married his wife Lena in 1951 and the two settled in Don Mills. They have two children and three grandchildren. He retired from flying in 2012 at the age of 91.


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