Fur Trader's Photographs

Fur Trader's Photographs: A.A. Chesterfield in the District of Ungava, 1901-4

Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 120
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  • Book Info
    Fur Trader's Photographs
    Book Description:

    Chesterfield recorded the effects of post life upon the Cree and Inuit, and showed how the white agents of the church and fur trade made us of native implements, clothing, and transportation. Recognizing the threat to native ways of life posed by the white man's advancing civilization, he photographed the native people's dress, their everyday activities, the details that define a culture. Much of what he recorded is now lost forever.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6131-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Map
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. [Illustration]
    (pp. xiv-1)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 2-10)

    Albert Alexander Chesterfield (1877-1959) spent most of his working life in Montreal as a commercial photographer. For twenty-five years, from about 1910 until the mid-1930s, he did free-lance advertising and publicity work, documented the news and sports events of the day, and did commissions for both the CPR and CNR. A fire in his Montreal studio destroyed his photographic equipment, as well as the negatives for the photographs of that period, and caused Chesterfield to abandon photography. For a time he turned to journalism and then, in 1939, he married and moved to a farmhouse in eastern Ontario where he...

  8. I The Post and the Mission
    (pp. 11-30)

    In an article written in 1939 Chesterfield nostalgically recalled the time of his arrival at Moose Factory in 1901. He had just come to the James Bay District of the Hudson’s Bay Company on the annual supply ship as a newly appointed clerk. From the vantage point of half a lifetime later, Chesterfield was conscious of the momentous changes that had taken place sinc those years. At the turn of the century this “fur trade dominion larger than France and Spain combined” was administered by a half-dozen officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company at a few posts spread along the...

  9. II Inuit at Great Whale River
    (pp. 31-50)

    The initial major trading contact with the Inuit along the East Main coast was established by the HBC at Fort George in 1840. When a small post was opened at Little Whale River in 1851, an expansion of the Inuit trade was one of the goals. By the 1890s, having assumed the trading operations of the Little Whale River post, Great Whale River post had become the centre of the Inuit trade along the east coasts of James and Hudson bays.

    In the nineteenth century the Inuit had worked at whaling in Hudson Bay, sometimes on behalf of the HBC...

  10. III Cree at Fort George and Great Whale River
    (pp. 51-70)

    One of the distinctive features of the post at Great Whale River, evident to a lesserdegree at Fort George, was the presence of both Inuit and Cree. Along the Ungava coast the Cree were generally found south of Cape Jones, the division between James Bay and Hudson Bay, while north of the Richmond Gulf was the exclusive territory of the Inuit. In between, along the few hundred miles of coast centred at Great Whale River, the areas inhabited by these two peoples overlapped. Though the Cree and Inuit did not (and still do not) intermingle to any great extent, the...

  11. IV Portraits of Inuit and Cree
    (pp. 71-86)

    A strictly documentary photograph provides a visual record of an activity, a place, or a people. Such a photograph shows how things are done, how people feed and clothe themselves, where they live, and the means by which they get about. This documentary impulse becomes specifically ethnographic if the photographer has travelled to remote regions and lived among people of different race and culture. Without doubt the angle of vision, the way of seeing, characteristic of the largest part of Bert Chesterfield’s documentary photographic record was determined by his role as an agent of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Since he...

  12. V White Men and Native Ways
    (pp. 87-102)

    Chesterfield’s photographs provide evidence of the impact of white institutions on the north, especially of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Church of England. The buildings erected by these two organizations and the personnel who staffed them drew the Cree and Inuit to the posts at Great Whale River and Fort George and to some extent modified the annual cycle of native life. But the whites who came to the Ungava District also had to adjust to this rugged northern land, its climate, its geography, and its people. It is too easy to see the whites in the north as...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 103-110)

    “The Furtrader’s Reverie,” an unpublished poem of about one hundred lines, is a carefully written manuscript bound with ribbon. One can see where a photograph, now missing, was pasted or taped inside the front cover of the little volume. Opposite this photo, serving as a kind of subtitle for the poem as a whole, are the words: “Written in description of a photograph taken at Great Whale River, Hudson’s Bay, Novem 28th, 1903.” The poem is without doubt the most revealingly personal document of any kind that we have from Chesterfield. It sums up his attitudes, his hesitations, his problems...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 111-113)