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The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada

The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada

Carol Payne
Andrea Kunard
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  • Book Info
    The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada
    Book Description:

    The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada is an in-depth study on the use of photographic imagery in Canada from the late nineteenth century to the present. This volume of fourteen essays provides a thought-provoking discussion of the role photography has played in representing Canadian identities. In essays that draw on a diversity of photographic forms, from the snapshot and advertising image to works of photographic art, contributors present a variety of critical approaches to photography studies, examining themes ranging from photography's part in the formation of the geographic imaginary to Aboriginal self-identity and notions of citizenship. The volume explores the work of photographs as tools of self and collective expression while rejecting any claim to a definitive, singular telling of photography's history. Reflecting the rich interdisciplinarity of contemporary photography studies, The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada is essential reading for anyone interested in Canadian visual culture. Contributors include Sarah Bassnett (University of Western Ontario), Lynne Bell (University of Saskatchewan), Jill Delaney (Library and Archives Canada), Robert Evans (Carleton University), Sherry Farrell Racette (University of Manitoba), Blake Fitzpatrick (Ryerson University), Vincent Lavoie (Université du Québec à Montréal), John O’Brian (University of British Columbia), James Opp (Carleton University), Joan M. Schwartz (Queen’s University), Sarah Stacy (Library and Archives Canada), Jeffrey Thomas (Ottawa), and Carol Williams (Trent University/University of Lethbridge).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8572-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Figures
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    In 1875 William James Topley (1845–1930), Ottawa’s leading photographer of the day, publishedThe Ottawa Album, a compendium of fifty-nine albumen prints. Intended to publicize the national capital, the volume was essentially promotional. Picturesque vistas of local scenary share pride of place with advertising images of various commercial enterprises and the obligatory views of Parliment Hill. As such, the album typifies the entrepreneurial nature of much nineteenth-century photography and, at the same time, participates in imagining Canada’s capital in the early days of the dominion as a thriving centre of government and economic activity. Now held in the collection...

  6. Part 1 Visual Imaginings

    • 1 Felix Man’s “Canada”: Imagined Geographies and Pre-Texts of Looking
      (pp. 3-22)

      From the first week in January to the last week of March 1856, the Photographic Society held an exhibition of photographs and daguerreotypes at the Gallery of the Society of Water Colour Painters, 5 Pall Mall East, London. Among the exhibits were two prints,The Wigwam(#511) andThe Birch Bark Canoe(#518), taken by British pioneer of photography John Dillwyn Llewelyn at Penllergare, his estate in South Wales. A variant of this work, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, titledThe Wigwam, a Canadian Scene at Penllergare,¹ presents a tightly cropped view of a forest scene...

    • 2 Economic Necessity, Political Incentive, and International Entrepreneurialism: The “Frontier” Photography of Hannah Maynard
      (pp. 23-42)

      Nineteenth-century commercial photographer Hannah Maynard of Victoria, British Columbia, is perhaps best known for her interior studio portraiture of babies, women, and children as well as theatrical self-portrait photomontages (Figs. 2.1 and 2.2).¹ Her studio partner and husband, Richard Maynard, on the other hand, is known for “in-situ” scenic landscape photography that, today might be characterized as documentary.² While Richard’s photographic output appeared more concretely historical and linked to the agendas of colonial modernization as well as to the administration of same, Maynard’s portrait specialties, apparently domestic or feminine in content and interest, seem to advance less explicitly the social...

    • 3 Photography, Ethnology, and the Domestic Arts: Interpreting the Sir Daniel Wilson Album
      (pp. 43-56)

      In a letter to his niece Madge (Margaret Oliphant Wilson) dated 23 January 1882, Sir Daniel Wilson (1816–1892), a prominent nineteenth-century Canadian ethnologist, wrote, “I have a large photograph Album in which I busied myself putting in a collection of Indians, Pacific Islanders, &c. &c. last September. When College duties began I had to lay it aside till Xmas; and now it is once more laid aside till summer; for I had not a moment’s leisure, – in fact no holiday at all.”¹

      The following will explore Wilson’s album as a hybrid scientific-domestic document in which ideas of race were...

    • 4 John Vanderpant’s Canada
      (pp. 57-69)

      As the leading pictorialist photographer in Canada, John Vanderpant has been the subject of many scholarly efforts that have critically examined his salon work within both the aesthetic and cultural contexts.¹ However, one of his largest undertakings has been generally neglected, perhaps in large part because so few of the negatives were ever printed. In 1930 Vanderpant travelled from Vancouver to Quebec City on a commission from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), producing over nine hundred images in the process. While the photographs did not break new aesthetic ground for the photographer, the substantial project does provoke questions both about...

    • 5 Returning Fire, Pointing the Canon: Aboriginal Photography as Resistance
      (pp. 70-90)

      In 2003 Chris Wabie (Timiskaming First Nation) created a small installation out of rebuilt Canon cameras. The piece was based on his observations of the photographic practice of two artists who were instructors at the White Mountain Academy of the Arts, Arthur Renwick and Rosalie Favell. Wabie converted several cameras into cannons and created battle scenes in which they faced each other, with roles of film as ammunition (Fig. 5.1).The War Camerasoffers a useful point of departure for a discussion of our – Aboriginal people’s – relationship with the camera. Almost from the moment of the camera’s introduction to the...

  7. Part 2 Circulating Narratives

    • 6 Colonizing Images: The Roles of Collected Photographs in Colonial Discourse
      (pp. 93-105)

      The worldwide presence of the British Army grew as the British Empire expanded in the nineteenth century. In British North America, tensions arose both within the colonies and between the colonies and the United States. After the War of 1812, at least five thousand British troops were stationed in British North America at all times.¹ Additional personnel were sent in 1837 to quell rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada; subsequent border disputes with the United States in the 1840s and the Trent Affair in 1861 at the beginning of the American Civil War ensured a continuing presence.² By February 1862...

    • 7 Shooting Immigrants: Ethnic Difference in Early Twentieth-Century Press Photography
      (pp. 106-119)

      Like many other major North American cities, Toronto experienced a period of rapid growth between the turn of the century and the First World War. With a substantial rise in manufacturing and construction, as well as new land appropriations that significantly increased the area of the city, Toronto became one of the country’s major commercial, industrial, and financial centres.¹ At the same time, the city experienced a rapid influx of new immigrants, who contributed to an 80 per cent increase in the population.² While the majority of immigrants continued to arrive from Britain, a growing number came from eastern and...

    • 8 Picturing Communism: Yousuf Karsh, Canadair, and Cold war Advertising
      (pp. 120-135)

      In 1955 Canadian readers of many popular magazines, includingReader’s Digest,Maclean’s,Time, theFinancial Times, and theFinancial Post, encountered an extensive advertising campaign that asked provocatively, “Do we actuallyknow whereto face Communism?” Sponsored by aircraft manufacturer and defence contractor Canadair, eight different advertisements on this theme appeared over the course of the year. The topics ranged from “Communism’s Ability to Invade Canada” to “Communism and Christianity” to “Communists: World’s Finest Athletes?,” and all included a patriotic appeal for “young men” to join the armed forces. The advertisements were a sequel to a similar campaign from the...

    • 9 The Economic Nationalism of Weekend Magazine
      (pp. 136-152)

      At its peak in 1965,Weekend Magazinewas carried by forty-one newspapers across Canada, blanketing over 2.5 million Canadian households with photographic images from the brightest talents in Canadian photography. In its heyday, this newspaper insert – a mix of topical reporting and advice on fashion, leisure, and housekeeping – sold as much advertising as the top five Canadian periodicals combined.¹ Just after its first four years of publication, in 1955, silver lighters with the words “one million” engraved on one side were distributed to staff as gifts by management in celebration ofWeekend’s incredible circulation numbers. The magazine was such an...

    • 10 Photojournalism and Award: The Aesthetics and Ethics of Press Pictures in Canadian Contests
      (pp. 153-162)

      In Canada as elsewhere, prizes awarded in the field of photojournalism honour photographers whose images emblematically depict such current events as wars, horrors, and catastrophes. In spite of the nature of the subject matter, these images are raised to the rank of “masterpieces” of photojournalism, symbols of excellence and merit, objects of reward. But what exactly is being rewarded when a National Newspaper Award (NNA) is handed out – the photographer, the image, or the event? If the photographer is the recipient of this honour, is it because of his or her ethical engagement, journalistic probity, or talent and aesthetic skills?...

  8. Part 3 Remembering and Forgetting

    • 11 Unsettling Acts: Photography as Decolonizing Testimony in Centennial Memory
      (pp. 165-181)

      In the opening years of the twenty-first century, the province of Saskatchewan has struggled to represent itself in a series of commemorative centennials. While the official provincial birthday bash was in 2005, centennial celebrations have not been confined to a single year. Rather, the residents of Saskatchewan have been trapped in a culture of “serial” centennials for a number of years as different cities, towns, organizations, and institutions queue up to celebrate their hundredth birthday.

      Working as a visual historian at the University of Saskatchewan in this centennial moment, I am interested in the uses and abuses of photographic testimony...

    • 12 On Photographing a Dirty Bomb
      (pp. 182-194)

      On Valentine’s Day, 1950, a United States Air Force (USAF) plane jettisoned an atomic bomb over Canadian territory. Ice had caused three of the engines of a B-36 bomber to fail while flying south along the British Columbia coast en route from Alaska to Texas. Following the emergency protocol established for US aircraft carrying atomic weapons, Ship 2075 released its nuclear payload over open water. An Mk IV bomb, the same kind of weapon that was dropped on Nagasaki, was detonated in Queen Charlotte Sound approximately ninety kilometres northwest of Bella Bella, minus its plutonium core. The device consisted of...

    • 13 Atomic Photographs in a Fallout Shelter
      (pp. 195-211)

      Every exhibition of photographs provides an opportunity to think about the relations that exist between photographic content, exhibition context, and the reception of viewers. Anthropologist Elizabeth Edwards emphasizes this relational dynamic, noting that viewers “look into photographs and through them into culture, both the culture portrayed and the representing culture.”¹ One might go further to suggest that photographs on public display perform a reflexive cultural work, offering up revelations not only of a culture viewed but of a viewing culture as well. Photographs depicting past events come with histories attached, but when they are exhibited, their meanings are further shaped...

    • 14 Emergence from the Shadow: First Peoples’ Photographic Perspectives
      (pp. 212-228)

      As a guest curator for the exhibitionEmergence from the Shadow: First Peoples’ Photographic Perspectives, shown at the Canadian Museum of Civilization from 23 October 1999 to 2 January 2001, I wanted to challenge notions of Aboriginal peoples prevalent in popular culture as disseminated through decades of anthropological research.¹ Cigar-store icons, television, and the Hollywood Western – among other popular forms – have played major roles in creating and ingraining stereotypical images of the North American Indian. Emerging from the shadow cast by this popularized notion of Indian life, I organized the show along two perspectives to explore themes of community and...

  9. Part 4 Writing Photography in Canada

    • 15 Writing Photography in Canada: A Histography
      (pp. 231-244)

      In acknowledgment of the links between generations of scholars, we conclude this volume with a historiographical essay addressing writing on the photograph in Canada. As a relatively nascent field, Photography Studies in Canada has to date been a rare subject of consolidated scholarly analyses. This concluding essay aims to initiate that discussion. It is first intended to provide historical and historiographical context for the fourteen other essays that constitute the core of this volume. Second, we hope that this survey can serve as a resource for other scholars and students, facilitating their own research in the field. Finally, historiographical analysis...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 245-246)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-266)
  12. Index
    (pp. 267-270)