Born and raised in Toronto.
George Pimentel’s studio, 1661 Dundas St. West, Toronto
On the weekend I was in Los Angeles at the Golden Globes and I see the Kardashians, Lady Gaga, Mel Gibson, Leonardo DiCaprio, I see them all. And then I come back. This who I am. I feel very comfortable in my own skin down here. This is my Rabo de Peixe. This is my little village – George Pimentel.
George Pimentel is one of Canada’s most recognized celebrity photographers, whose work has been published in every major entertainment magazine in North America. A third generation photographer, George’s father, José, opened one of the first photo studios serving the Portuguese community in Toronto after immigrating from São Miguel, Azores, in 1963. George combines his passion for celebrity photography with his dedication to continuing the family tradition of serving his local working class community in Dundas West.
George Pimentel is a Toronto-born, third-generation photographer and descendant of immigrants from the fishing village of Rabo de Peixe, São Miguel island, Azores. His maternal grandfather, Francisco “Laranja” Custódio, first learned photography as an immigrant in the United States. After returning to Rabo de Peixe he opened the village’s first photography studio. Custódio’s sons followed in his footsteps when the whole family immigrated to Canada and opened the first photography studio to serve the Portuguese community in 1963. The business was very successful, as the city’s Portuguese hired them for weddings, baptisms, communions, religious festivals, and other special events. As the business grew, the brothers realized that they needed their own space. George’s father, José Pimentel, bought his studio on 1661 Dundas St. West – conveniently located across from St. Helen’s Catholic Church – in 1975. Like many Portuguese businesses at the time, the studio also became a place where newcomers went to ask for help reading documents and filling out paperwork.
George grew up in this environment, helping out in the studio by taking photos of the local processions and other festas. After completing high school, George studied photography at Ryerson University, during which he “returned” to Rabo de Peixe for a few months to complete his thesis. This trip was important for George’s identity formation and helped him understand his parents history and decision to immigrate to Canada.
George’s first celebrity photo was taken in 1993, when he captured Robert De Niro during the Toronto International Film Festival. However, it took him another seven years before publishing his first celebrity photo. George slowly gained recognition and several magazines began buying his photos. Three decades after De Niro’s shot, George’s team, which includes five photographers, does roughly 700 corporate events annually. Although he no longer photographs weddings or family portraits, he still takes portraits and passport photos of customers that walk into his studio.
In April 2020, George launched his “Canada COVID Portrait,” in which he documented the everyday experiences of Torontonians during the global pandemic. The project received over 5,000 submissions taken between March and October. Some of these photos were displayed on the façade of Harbourfront Centre’s Main Building.
Hora dos Portugueses
Courtesy of George Pimentel. All rights reserved.