The Artist’s Mirror: Celebrating a new exhibition of artist self-portraits at Glenbow

On June 15, 2018, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and Glenbow Museum come together in Calgary, Alberta, to officially celebrate the beginning of a very successful collaboration. March 10th marked the opening of the first in a series of five co-curated exhibitions. All of the exhibitions feature portraits from LAC’s collection. In some cases, they also include portraits from Glenbow’s collection.

This exciting collaboration provides the opportunity for more Canadians to see many of Canada’s most important national treasures: all of the exhibitions will be presented at Glenbow, in Calgary. Each of the exhibitions in the series has a different theme related to portraits and portraiture.

A colour photograph of the entrance to the exhibition space at the Glenbow Museum.

Installation photograph of The Artist’s Mirror at Glenbow, courtesy of Glenbow Museum

A special kind of portrait

The first exhibition in the series focuses on one of the most fascinating types of portrait: images that artists create of themselves. The proliferation of mirrors during the 15th century is said to have contributed to the popularization of artist self-portraits. When artists hold the mirror to themselves, it is very difficult not to be drawn in.

A painting of a mirror and a still-life arrangement on a dressing table with several books, a brush, a radio, and two oranges on a plate on top of a newspaper. The mirror’s reflection shows the artist and another painting.

Self-portrait in Mirror, William Lewy Leroy Stevenson, ca. 1928, e011200954

Artist self-portraits are particularly intriguing because they appear to give privileged insight into the creative process. They are also exciting for their variety. The choice of medium is just one way in which artists have experimented with self-portraits, over the years, as statements of creative identity.

The exhibition includes 17 historical and modern self-portraits of Canadian artists, drawn from LAC’s collection. There are examples of video and sculpture self-portraiture as well as paintings, drawings and prints.

Many faces, many stories

A stand-out self-portrait in the exhibition is this sculpture by Inuit artist Floyd Kuptana.

A colour photograph of the front of a stylized sculpture of a man with his tongue sticking out.

Self-portrait by Floyd Kuptana, 2007, MIKAN 3922914

It is important to view this self-portrait from a variety of angles. The playful stone sculpture smiles, when viewed from one angle, and sticks out his tongue when viewed from another:

A colour photograph of the front of a stylized sculpture of a man with his head tilted to the side. A colour photograph of the front of a stylized sculpture of a man sticking his tongue out.The humour in this self-portrait masks a much more serious exploration of self, on a variety of levels. Kuptana created this self-portrait with traditional ideas as well as modern ones. The multiple faces and angles reflect shamanic beliefs about transformation. Yet, the idea of multiple personalities, within one self, is also associated with modern psychology.

A colour photograph of the side of a stylized sculpture of a man.Self-portrait… or portrait?

The exhibition provides a chance to see a portrait that remains at the centre of one of Canadian art history’s most interesting unresolved mysteries. Certain scholars feel strongly that this portrait, created by important British Columbia artist Emily Carr, is a rare, early self-portrait. However, others have argued that this drawing is merely an image Carr may have made of somebody else.

A charcoal drawing on paper of a young woman with bare shoulders seen from the back with her face in profile. Her hair is styled in a loose bun with short curls framing her face. Her gaze is off to the right.

Self-portrait thought to be of Emily Carr, ca. 1899, e006078795

Most agree that Carr created the drawing when she was an art student in London, United Kingdom. The drawing is done in a traditional academic style, not typical of Carr’s later work, but very much typical of a student demonstrating her mastery.

Those who believe this to be an image of Carr herself point to the strong resemblance between the drawing and contemporary photographs of her. They acknowledge that Carr was notoriously prudish and thus unlikely to pose with bare shoulders. However, they point out that it would be quite common, in women’s drawing classes of the day, to practise drawing the human form from suitably draped ancient classical sculptures. An artist could place their own head on a body copied from one of these unexceptionable nudes.

A vignette of the Emily Carr portrait showing the drawing’s classical lines of the shoulders and chin.With this image, Carr may have been striving to project herself within a particular style, fashionable when she was a young woman.

The exhibition invites you to judge for yourself.

A western connection

The exhibition provides a chance for LAC to present self-portraits that have a particular connection to Calgary.

One example is this amusing self-portrait by Calgary-based artist Gary Olson.

A pencil drawing of a man’s face squished up against a piece of glass. Most of the left side of his face is indistinguishable, but his right eye is keenly focused.

I Am Up Against the Picture Plane Again, by Gary Olson, 1977, e011195950. @ Gary Olson

The image is part of a series created by Olson while he was a college art instructor. He came up with these lighthearted images to convey the difficult theoretical art concept of the picture plane to his students. He portrays the plane literally, in these images, by flattening and distorting his own features against it. At the same time, Olson takes the opportunity to poke fun at the theory of art, capturing something of his own irreverent desire to push the envelope

Come see the exhibition

A colour photograph of a dimly lit room with various art pieces hung on the walls.

Installation photograph of The Artist’s Mirror at Glenbow, courtesy of Glenbow Museum

Be sure to visit The Artist’s Mirror, if you happen to be in Calgary. The exhibition runs from March 10, 2018 to January 6, 2019 and is open every day. For more information, please contact Glenbow Museum.

The case of the patent leather photograph: a Library and Archives Canada pannotype mystery

By Tania Passafiume, with assistance from Shannon Perry

While working on a census of over 300 cased objects in Library and Archives Canada’s photographic holdings, I discovered a hidden treasure. I noticed that one of the cased images looked a bit odd, as it did not resemble a daguerreotype, an ambrotype or a tintype, which you would typically find as the photograph in one of these small leather, paper or plastic cases.

A colour image of a paper case with red velvet. On the right-hand side, a black-and-white photograph in a brass mat of a man wearing a dark jacket.

A pannotype of an unknown sitter, in a paper case (MIKAN 325561)

The questions began: What is this? What photographic process was used to create this object? The first clue that I was dealing with something different came when I noticed that the item was unsealed, meaning that there was no original sealing tape. Historically, paper tape was used to seal the package found within the cased object, for various reasons. But there was no indication of any original tape, so with no tape to disturb, I decided to open the package.

The findings

Immediately after removing the package from the paper case, I noticed a piece of thick card attached to the back of the package. This card appeared to be a leftover piece of paper. Handwritten in pencil in the top-left quadrant were some words that were partially cut off: “hol” and “acid.” There was also some sort of damage along the top. From the discolouration, it had to be a liquid stain. At first, I did not think much about the card. Since there was no longer any original sealing tape, someone might have previously removed the tape and placed a piece of paper behind the photograph. This finding was not unexpected, as photographic plates were often taken out of cases and the cases switched. Only later did I realize that the text was indeed vital to understanding the nature of the photograph.

After I removed the card, I saw a piece of leather. I knew immediately what I was holding in my hands! The leather was not another layer that had been added behind the photographic plate. This was an actual photograph on leather! This photographic process is called pannotype (the prefix comes from the Latin pannos, which means cloth). I had read about pannotypes and seen modern recreations; however, it is very rare to find originals, let alone for them to be in good condition. I turned the object over and removed the brass mat with its cover glass. And there, under the deteriorated and soiled glass, was a glossy leather surface with, in excellent condition, the image of a man. The deteriorated glass had distracted me and made me question the type of photographic process. Now, through my careful analysis and with an added dash of serendipity, Library and Archives Canada has an identified 19th-century pannotype in its holdings!

The history behind the process

Pannotypes were a bit of a trend between 1853 and the early 1880s. They were made by a method similar to that for ambrotypes. But instead of glass, a piece of cloth or leather was used as a support. What is interesting is that pannotypes were made by placing drops of a dilute solution of nitric acid in alcohol onto an existing ambrotype. This was done to allow the photographer to remove the emulsion (which contained the actual image) from the glass support and place this emulsion onto a new support, such as a piece of leather. This brings me back to the handwritten partial words on the piece of paper that I found on the back of the leather, “hol” and “acid.” Could the words be alcohol and nitric acid: the very ingredients required to make a pannotype?

A colour image of a stained piece of paper with partial text “hol” and “acid” written on it.

The paper found at the back of the photograph, with the text “hol” and “acid” written in pencil.

A colour image of gloved hands holding a piece of leather that has been stained along the top and sides.

The leather back of the photograph. Photo credit: Carla Klück

A colour image of gloved hands holding a black-and-white portrait of a man, which is being peeled away from a brass mat with its cover glass.

The photograph (patent leather with emulsion) and the brass mat with its cover glass. Photo credit: Carla Klück

This pannotype photographic process was presented for the first time in 1853, to the French Academy of Sciences by the firm of Wulff & Co. Instructions for the process were made available for sale by that firm for 100 francs. Pannotypes soon became generally known, with many professional photographers making commercial use of them, as evidenced in surviving advertisements and journal articles. Customers were interested in the process at the time because pannotypes were believed to be more stable, since they could not break because they were not printed on glass like ambrotypes, nor could they be easily scratched like daguerreotypes or bent like tintypes. We know very little about how the pannotype process was developed and practiced here in Canada, but we do know that there were several prominent photographers using this process, including George Robinson Fardon (1807–1886) from Victoria, British Columbia. His images of “Portrait and Views on patent leather” were sent to the London International Exhibition, 1862, and they eventually became part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s holdings.

Here and now

Today, discovering a pannotype is rare, as their durability was very limited because of their inherently fragile qualities. However, the newly discovered pannotype is on patent leather and is in excellent condition. The only difficulty here is that the original glass in the brass mat had begun to deteriorate; however, following some conservation work, the problem has been fixed. Our next step is to share this information with the public, and perhaps to try and solve the next mystery: who is the man in the photograph, and who was the photographer? Stay tuned!


Tania Passafiume is the Head Conservator of Photographic Materials in the Care of Collection Division of the Digital Operations and Preservation Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Shannon Perry is a Photo Archivist in the Government Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Guest curator: Scott Dickinson

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


A wedding portrait of Samuel Leonard Tilley and Julia Ann Hanford

A colour photograph of a sepia-tone image in a wood and gold frame showing a seated man and woman. The man is wearing a suit, waistcoat and cravat. The woman is wearing a bonnet, dress and patterned shawl.

A daguerreotype of Samuel Leonard Tilley and Julia Ann Hanford, ca. 1843. (MIKAN 3192569)

Canada is no longer known as a “Dominion” of Great Britain. According to legend, Father of Confederation Samuel L. Tilley borrowed the word from a biblical psalm. It would become part of our nation’s first formal identity.


Tell us a bit about yourself

I became interested in history—more specifically, the history of technology and of industry—while growing up in Brantford, Ontario, an old factory town not too far from Hamilton. If Hamilton was known for making steel, Brantford was known for making farming equipment. By the time I lived there, all the big Canadian farming companies had left, leaving nothing but the old factory buildings and the memories of the older generation. Exploring that history left me deeply interested in the machines that Canadians invented, made and used—and the places where they did all three. It was the start of my journey into history. I no longer live in Brantford, but everywhere I go I find myself searching for signs of Canada’s industrial past.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

The first practical photographic process was invented in 1839 by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, which is why this type of photograph is called a daguerreotype. Although the photograph is normal to us, the daguerreotype process is not, and probably requires a bit of explanation.

The daguerreotype used a silvered copper plate as “film.” The surface of the plate was chemically treated so that it would be sensitive to light. This light-sensitive plate was placed in a dark box—the camera—until it was exposed to the scene it was meant to capture. After another chemical treatment, the image of what the plate had been exposed to was plain to see, in a very crisp black and white. Daguerreotype images seem to float above their plates, giving them the illusion of depth, a unique property that no other form of photography has managed to duplicate.

Daguerreotype exposures are not instantaneous. One would have to hold still for up to two minutes, or the resulting image would be blurry. This is the reason why most early photographs are formal portraits of sitting individuals or other static scenes. The expense and time required also meant that taking a photograph was an event worth dressing up for.

Have you ever had to keep smiling as someone fumbles with their camera? Holding a smile for more than a few seconds can be painful. Now imagine trying to hold a smile for two whole minutes. Early photographs like this one show our ancestors to be grim, but a frown is much easier to hold than a smile!

When we look at historical photographs, we must think about not just the subject matter, but the technology used to capture the image. The Tilleys, pictured here in stiff and formal poses, were not necessarily stiff and formal people. We would never know it from these daguerreotypes, as the limitations of that technology meant only some sorts of scenes could be captured. When historians look at historic photographs, we have to think about what we have seen—and what we have not.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

A black-and-white photograph of two small boys wearing wool coats and hats sitting on a wooden bench. One is slumped over sleeping; the other is staring the camera and holding a suitcase. A blurred crowd of people can be seen in the background.

New arrivals aboard S.S. ARGENTINA awaiting clearance in the Immigration Examination Hall, Pier 21, March 1952 (MIKAN 3212241)

There is an item in LAC’s collection that complements this daguerreotype quite well. It is another photograph, one that shows a scene quite different from the genteel setting that the Tilleys were photographed in.

More than a century after the daguerreotype of Samuel Tilley was taken, Canada was in the midst of one of its periodic booms in immigration. Photography was now more than developed enough to do what the old daguerreotype could not—candid snapshots. More importantly, photographers were now interested in taking pictures of regular people, like those of new immigrants, and later of refugees. Both are represented in this exhibit.

This snapshot is of a pair of young immigrants, waiting to be processed through Pier 21 in Halifax. The year is 1952, and these two tired-eyed children have just disembarked from the S. S. Argentina. Their faces show exhaustion, trepidation and perhaps some annoyance at the wait.

Which of these photographs show a better image of Canada? I would suggest that the versions of Canada that these photographs depict are equally valid. Both photographs show stories that are worth telling.

This photograph does not show a Founding Father of Canada. The names of these two children are not recorded. But they are Canadians, all the same. Their experience of Canada was quite different from the experience of Samuel Tilley, but both were important to the growth of our nation. Photography has become a great social leveller. It is no longer the preserve of the well-off. We are indebted to those early daguerreotypists for capturing the faces of early Canadians, but they could not capture how they looked outside of the studio. More modern photographers have given us windows into what Canadians really look like.

Biography

A colour photograph of a young man standing with a diploma.Scott Dickinson is a young museum professional with a great interest in the history of the technology that Canadians use every day. He holds an Honours Specialization in History from the University of Western Ontario (2014) and a Master’s Degree in Public History, also from the University of Western Ontario (2015). He is currently a student in the Museum Management and Curatorship program at Fleming College.

Guest curator: Katie Cholette

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


Red and black Norwegian text on a cream background awards the prize to Lester Bowles Pearson. Text is topped by a red lion holding an axe on a blue mountain bordered by blue waves with a circled star at the top.

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Lester B. Pearson for his role in establishing United Nations Peacekeeping, 1957. Designed by Gerhard Munthe for the Nobel Committee (MIKAN 4900031)

Former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s idea for a neutral military force, to help stabilize conflict zones, earned him the Nobel Prize. Most Canadians now regard peacekeeping as uniquely ours.


Tell us about yourself

I have always had an interest in graphic design. My first career was as a graphic artist and typesetter. I eventually found my way into art history, teaching and now archival work. Although I work primarily with textual documents these days, I am frequently delighted by the array of aesthetically pleasing items in LAC’s collection.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Prize for his role in negotiating a peaceful resolution to the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis. The crisis erupted when Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser seized and nationalized the Suez Canal (then jointly owned by France and Great Britain), a move that threatened the supply of oil to Europe. In retaliation, France, Great Britain and Israel secretly collaborated to attack the Sinai Peninsula. The United States and the Soviet Union subsequently became embroiled in the conflict, with the Soviet Union threatening to use nuclear weapons against the assailants. Pearson, at the time Secretary of State for External Affairs and head of Canada’s delegation at the United Nations, stepped in and helped establish the United Nations Emergency Force, which was instrumental in de-escalating the conflict.

At the presentation ceremony on December 10, 1957, in Oslo, Norway, the Chairman of the Nobel Committee, Gunnar Jahn, stated that the prize was being awarded to Pearson because of “the powerful initiative, strength, and perseverance he has displayed in attempting to prevent or limit war operations and to restore peace in situations where quick, tactful, and wise action has been necessary to prevent unrest from spreading and developing into a worldwide conflagration.”

Although Pearson was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957, the design of the certificate dates from the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to hand-drawn calligraphy, it features a lithograph designed by Gerhard Munthe in 1901, the year the Nobel Peace Prize was first awarded. A Norwegian painter, decorative artist and illustrator, Munthe took many of his artistic motifs from his native Norway. He worked in the National Romantic Style, the Scandinavian version of Art Nouveau in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This style, which was a reaction against industrialism, promoted ideas of northern nationalism based on the renewal of interest in Norse mythology and sagas. The illustration at the top of the certificate shows a lion holding an axe, a symbol of power and courage that appeared in Norwegian folk art as far back as the 13th century. The motif also appears on the coat of arms of Norway. Atop a decorative frieze of stylized fir trees, the lion stands proudly in a wild northern landscape. Northern lights swirl above his head, and the image is surmounted by the North Star. Although the overall design is delicately rendered and restrained, it is nevertheless a powerfully evocative image.

Detail of the certificate showing a red lion holding an axe on a blue mountain bordered by blue waves and a star in a circle.

Detail of Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize showing the lion on the certificate  (MIKAN 4900031)

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

Pearson wearing a suit with a bow tie and holding a pencil in his upraised hand.

Lester B. Pearson holding a pencil. Photo taken August 11, 1944. (MIKAN 3607934)

A smiling man speaking with another man against a curtained window with the drapes drawn back. Both men are wearing suits and ties.

Anthony Eden. Photo by the Alexandra Studio. (MIKAN 3215249)

I was particularly struck by a photograph that shows Lester B. Pearson with another of the key players in the Suez Crisis: British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden. Duncan Cameron, an Ottawa photographer from Capital Press Limited (and the only Canadian contract photographer for Time Life Inc.), snapped the photo of Pearson and Eden outside the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa on February 6, 1956. Eden, who had known Pearson since the 1930s, was visiting Canada and had just given a speech to the House of Commons. A long-time politician known for his skill in public affairs, Eden succeeded Winston Churchill as prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1955. In the photograph, the two men appear relaxed and happy; there is no premonition that a rift would develop between Canada and Great Britain a few months later, after Eden collaborated with France and Israel to invade Egypt. While Pearson went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, become Canada’s 14th prime minister, and gain a reputation for international diplomacy, Eden’s popularity took a nosedive, and as he was in ill health, he resigned in February 1957. Interesting side note: the photographer, Duncan Cameron, would eventually join the Public Archives of Canada, where he became Photo Custodian of the National Photographic Collection. LAC holds his fonds, which consists of 175,000 prints, negatives and slides.

Biography

Katie Cholette is an archivist in the Governance and Political Archives section. She is currently working in the private military and non-LAC Act institutions areas. Katie has a BA in Art History, an MA in Canadian Art History, and a PhD in Canadian Studies. She has previously worked as the Curator of Acquisitions and Research and the Curator of Exhibitions at the Portrait Gallery of Canada (2007–2008; 2011), held two Research Fellowships in Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada (2006; 2012–2013), and taught courses in Art History and Canadian Studies and at the College of the Humanities at Carleton University (2003 to present). She has delivered papers and published articles on various aspects of art, architecture, culture and identity, and has worked on a number of freelance curatorial and research projects. As a student at Carleton, she was a regular patron of Mike’s Place, the graduate student pub named in Lester B. Pearson’s honour.

Portraits on Metal: Tintypes from Library and Archives Canada – an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada

By Jennifer Roger

The tintype process was introduced in 1855 and quickly became one of the most popular ways for people to access and experience photography.

Tintypes are direct positive images, meaning they have no negatives. Created on a thin sheet of iron that is coated in a dark lacquer or enamel and layered with a collodion emulsion, tintypes are one of the most durable photographic processes. Prevalent in both museum and personal collections, they are compelling records of 19th-century life.

Much more affordable than a daguerreotype, tintypes became the medium of choice for people seeking to have their portrait made. Portrait studios offered tintypes for mere pennies. Their ease of processing created more portability, allowing mobile studios to flourish and expand their services to outdoor fairs or tourist destinations. Tintypes were used to record many outdoor scenes and events. The new medium offered the public an accessible option for capturing likenesses, and it became a catalyst in the acceptance of photography into popular culture.

A hand-tinted, black-and-white portrait of a seated woman.

Portrait of a woman, possibly a member of the Boivin family, mid 19th century (MIKAN 3262334)

Because of their affordability and ease of production, tintypes were appealing to the middle and working classes. The move from the controlled environment of the studio to the outdoors led to a proliferation of never-before photographed scenes of 19th-century life, including people at work, street scenes, buildings and structures, and even battle scenes.

A black-and-white photograph of five men assembling wooden boxes inside a mill.

Interior of a mill, showing men assembling cheese boxes, Maberly, Ontario, mid 19th century (MIKAN 3316695)

A new exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada features a selection of these intriguing objects. Drawn from the collection of Library and Archives Canada, these tintype portraits were created both inside and outside the studio and offer glimpses of life in 19th-century Canada.

The exhibition features several studio portraits, such as one of an unidentified woman posing in front of a Niagara Falls backdrop. Backdrops and studio props were widely used in 19th-century portrait studios, not only for aesthetic reasons but also as a method of self-expression.

Niagara Falls was one of the most desirable tourist destinations in the 19th century, so when used as a backdrop, it could have served as an expression of prestige or of personal interest in the attraction. If one could not personally travel to the site, a backdrop could be the next best thing. Backdrops can also provide clues as to the identity of the photographic studio.

A black-and-white studio portrait of an unidentified woman standing next to a fence with a scene of Niagara Falls in the background.

A studio portrait of an unidentified woman standing next to a fence with a scene of Niagara Falls as the backdrop, mid 19th century (MIKAN 3210905)

People often posed with personal items that were of sentimental value or professional significance, as a way to convey who they were or express what was important to them. Sitters chose items that they felt characterized them, such as tools of their trade, musical instruments and photography equipment. Known as “occupational” portraits, these images are revealing and intimate records of past identities.

A black-and-white portrait of two young men seated. One is holding a violin and the other is holding a cello.

Two young men seated, one is holding a violin and the other is holding a cello, mid 19th century (MIKAN 3262290)

For more examples of these intriguing tintype portraits, visit Portraits on Metal: Tintypes from Library and Archives Canada on display within the Canadian Indigenous Galleries at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa from December 12, 2017 to July 6, 2018.


Jennifer Roger is a Curator in the Exhibition and Loans section at Library and Archives Canada.

Guest curator: Jill Delaney

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


Temples of Today by John Vanderpant, ca. 1934

Black-and-white photo of a grain elevator with tall, circular towers in front of a taller rectangular building.

“Temples of Today” by John Vanderpant, ca. 1934. (MIKAN 3784205)

Photographer John Vanderpant saw Canada’s grain elevators as temples. They were part of his utopian vision for the country, based on a faith in trade and industry. For him, industry would define the nation’s future.


Tell us about yourself

It is amazing to think that I have been working at LAC for almost two decades now. The work in the photography section is incredibly diverse as are the collections themselves, and my time here has gone by incredibly quickly.

I come from an art history background, but I have always been as interested in the context of the work, as in its aesthetic qualities. By exploring the social, cultural and historical context of a photograph, we can begin to understand why it exists in the first place. Why was it created, who asked for it to be created, where and how it was circulated—all of these questions fascinate me. I suppose this is how I ended up as an archivist, because context and provenance are the pillars of any archival collection. I enjoy both the detective aspect of working on the historical photographs in the collection, and working with current photographers, digging into the rationale behind the taking of a photograph. I’ve published and presented on a wide variety of LAC photographs and collections over the years, including photos by John Vanderpant and Yousuf Karsh that were taken on cross-Canada trips in 1930 and the early 1950s respectively. These cross-country trips really intrigue me. They seem like a Canadian rite of passage even today, but they also speak volumes to the ever-shifting notion of Canadian identity.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

The John Vanderpant fonds has become one of LAC’s most important photographic fonds, as his work has grown in stature through the research of a number of Canadian art historians over the last 30 or 40 years. The photograph was taken around 1934 in the Vancouver ports area. Vanderpant was one of Canada’s leading pictorialist and straight photographers, and his series of images of the grain silos in Vancouver is now considered iconic.

When Vanderpant arrived in Canada from Holland in 1911, he saw the nation as most other Europeans did—a vast and empty wilderness. By the time he took the photograph “Temples of Today” in 1934, he dreamed of a country with the immense potential and unexploited resources to become an industrial powerhouse of the future. Of course he was not alone in this sentiment, and the interwar years were a period of great urban and industrial development in Canada. This photograph in particular illustrates his turn away from the more painterly, “fuzzy” qualities of pictorialism toward straight photography. This style embraced a stripped down modernist aesthetic and, just as importantly, a subject matter that represented a strong belief in a future dominated by an urban and industrial life. “Temples of Today” purposely eschews beauty, focussing instead on the massiveness of the silos coming out of the shadows into full light, with the foregrounding of the hydro poles reinforcing the industrial message. The photograph perfectly illustrates the development of a popular philosophy about the natural progression of mankind through industrialization. Vanderpant strongly subscribed to this view and wrote articles and gave many public lectures on the topic. But along with this forward focus, Vanderpant, with so many other Canadians of the time, completely dismissed the Indigenous peoples of the country, seeing Canada as a kind of terra nullius or unoccupied land ready to be exploited and developed however the settler culture wanted. Vanderpant’s photographs are rightly lauded today as an exceptional representation of an aspect of Canadian life that was largely viewed as unpalatable up to that point, but they also concealed, by omission, the importance of the founding communities of the nation.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

It is interesting to compare Vanderpant’s ideas about Canada, as represented in “Temples of Today,” with those of the German photographer Felix Man who visited Canada at almost the same time this photograph was taken. Man, considered to be a pioneer of photojournalism and of the photo essay format, travelled across Canada for six months in 1933, commissioned by the German picture magazine Berliner Illustrirte to “visit Canada and photograph all the most important things.” LAC acquired about 200 of his images in 1985 in order to document how Canada was perceived by a European during the interwar period. Like Vanderpant, Man was overwhelmed and inspired by the vastness of the country he visited. He visited almost every region, but was particularly taken with the prairies and the northern regions—going as far as Churchill, Manitoba, and Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories.

But in most other ways, Man’s view of Canada could not have been more different than Vanderpant’s. Both held what could be described as romantic views of Canada. Vanderpant romanticized a future, industrialized and urban Canada, while Man held a more typically European view of a Canada frozen in a romanticized past. He was heavily influenced by the stories of Indigenous heroes written by fellow German Karl May (who famously only visited North America after his books were published). His idealized fantasies of the “noble savage” remain popular in central and Eastern Europe to this day. Man’s photographs vividly depict this romantic image of Canada. While Vanderpant’s images focus on the development of Canada, Man, as photographic historian Joan Schwartz has noted, largely excluded urban Canada in his photographs. Instead, his camera captured such views as the unrelenting snow and ice around Churchill in winter, and the “Banff Indian Days,” a popular tourist attraction in which Indigenous peoples donned stereotypical costumes, erected wigwams, and put on displays of hunting and horsemanship for pay.

Woman on horseback holding a little girl to her side. The woman is wearing a plain dress with a patterned belt and a feathered headdress over her braided hair.

“Indian Woman with Child” by Felix Man, taken during “Banff Indian Days” in Banff, Alberta, 1933. (MIKAN 3333566)

His photograph of the Indigenous woman and child on horseback is an excellent example, with its grainy aesthetic, and the woman in an elaborate headdress (which in reality were only worn by women in exceptional circumstances) reaching back to embrace the small child. The “Madonna and child” symbolism presents all the qualities necessary to build a stereotypical and generalized narrative of 20th-century Indigenous peoples as still living their so-called traditional lives, and the images of the Banff “Indian Days” were very popular with the European press.

The exclusion of Indigenous peoples in John Vanderpant’s representations of an industrial and urban Canada, and the fixing of them into a mythical past by Felix Man, also tie into the works of urban Iroquoian photographer Jeff Thomas in this exhibition. Using toy figurines posed with the Parliament buildings in the first instance, and in front of a rail car emblazoned with the word “Canada” in the second, Thomas seeks to reinsert Indigenous peoples into both Canada’s history and present. Thomas’ photographs introduce critical concerns about the roles Indigenous people played in the building of the nation-state of Canada and in the building of the railroad. Using the figurines, he plays on the stereotypes which were perpetuated and disseminated by photographers like Man, but also with the omission of Indigenous peoples from the narrative of the past, present and future of Canada. Considering these two seemingly unconnected photographs from the 1930s together allows us to bring these two stereotypical views of Canada together, and to see how the knowledge of the immediate and broader contexts in which they were created can deepen our understanding of not only the photographs themselves, but of Canada’s past and present as well.

First Nations figure set in front of a train marked “Canada” with grain graffiti on its side.

Canada Day 2005, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada from The Delegate on Tour Series by Jeff Thomas, 2005 (MIKAN 3932014) ©Jeff Thomas

Indigenous figurine set across the river from Parliament Hill.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada, 2007 from The Delegates on Tour Series by Jeff Thomas. (MIKAN 3932081) ©Jeff Thomas

Biography

Jill Delaney is an archivist in the acquisition of photography of the Visual, Sound and Landscape section, Private Archives Branch. She holds a Master of Canadian Studies from Carleton University (1991) and a doctorate in Art and Architectural History and Theory from SUNY-Binghamton (1997). Jill joined LAC in 1998 as a photography archivist and has been working with the collections ever since, with the exception of an assignment in the architectural records section.

Guest Curator: Andrea Kunard

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


Entrance to Blacklead Island, Cumberland Gulf, Baffin Island, Northwest Territories (present-day Nunavut) by Albert Peter Low, 1903–1904.

Black-and-white panorama of a large iceberg close to a rocky island shot from a boat.

Entrance to Blacklead Island, Cumberland Gulf, Baffin Island, Northwest Territories (present-day Nunavut) by Albert Peter Low, 1903–1904. (MIKAN 3203732)

Canada claimed sovereignty of its Arctic territory in 1904: the law moved north and surveyors catalogued the land. This act reinforced old ideas on identity. It defined Canada, all over again, as a northern nation.


Tell us about yourself

When I first started doing historical research in photography during my master’s program at Carleton University, I practically lived at Library and Archives Canada. The collection is fantastic, and it was the most amazing experience for me to be looking at photographs taken over a 150 years ago. Since then I have continued to research historical photographs, as well as acting as curator for contemporary photography at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography and now the National Gallery of Canada. I have always been interested in exploration photography, or government uses of the medium. The Humphrey Lloyd Hime photographs are particularly interesting in that they are the first known paper photographs made of the North American interior. The camera was a tool for various interests, but it also was a way to encapsulate many preoccupations of the period, especially the shifts that occurred in religion because of scientific discoveries. Many so-called objective photographs made at this time also reflect spiritual beliefs and morality. As well, Western aesthetic values play a part in communicating ideals and the best photographers of the period, such as Alexander Henderson, are highly adept at manipulating tone, line, shape and texture to merge the sublimity of the landscape with the period’s fervent faith in scientific and technological progress.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

Although this photograph presents a barren and seemingly empty landscape, the area was anything but inactive. Albert Peter Low (1861–1942), a senior Geological Survey of Canada officer, took this photograph of the entrance to Blacklead Island during a Canadian government funded expedition in 1903–04. He published an account of his journey in his famous book, The Cruise of the Neptune. Historically, Blacklead Island was an important whaling station, but at the time of Low’s expedition, whale stocks had nearly all but vanished in the area. As well, whaling stations had radically changed Inuit lifestyle, hunting cycles, and economies. The purpose of Low’s expedition was to establish Canadian sovereignty in the north through proclamations and rule of law. Low’s photograph, however, reveals nothing of this political agenda. Rather he presents a peaceful view, taking advantage of the panorama’s extended format and classic elements of the sublime. The iceberg appears gargantuan and overwhelming, alluring in its whiteness. The island, in contrast, is dark and more detailed. The two subjects, ice and rock, appear held in opposition, suspended between a cloudless sky and a rippling, frigid sea.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition.

Sepia-toned image of prairie grass stretching to meet the sky with a skull and a bone in the foreground.

The Prairie Looking West by Humphrey Lloyd Hime, 1858 (MIKAN 3243322)

Humphrey Lloyd Hime’s The Prairie Facing West (1858) is one of most enigmatic images in the history of Canadian photography. It depicts an austere landscape in which a human skull and (human?) bone appear. The photograph was taken near the Red River settlement, now the city of Winnipeg. Hime was working for the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition sent by the government to assess the agricultural potential of the area, and its suitability for settlement. He depicts the land as empty, ostensibly awaiting human occupation. However, the presence of the skull is provocative. Most likely, Hime staged the photograph using the skull of an Aboriginal woman he had found earlier in an area of southern Manitoba. As he wrote in his diary on June 28, 1858, “…found a skull close to grave on prairie—it was all pulled about by wolves—kept the skull.…” This encounter informs the image in numerous ways. The photograph may represent Hime’s recreation of his experience, or be a way to incite drama into an otherwise nondescript landscape. The appearance of the skull is also tied to the fascination of 19th-century society with Indigenous methods of burial. However, as the caption does not state that the skull belonged to a native person, viewers might anxiously interpret the land as containing the possibility of their own death and hardship. At this point, the interior of the country was largely unknown, with many thinking it contained a wasteland of Biblical proportions.

Biography

A colour photograph of a woman wearing glasses looking directly at the viewerAndrea Kunard is an Associate Curator of Photographs at the National Gallery of Canada. She has presented several group and monographic exhibitions on contemporary photography including Shifting Sites (2000), Susan McEachern: Structures of Meaning (2004), Steeling the Gaze (2008), Scott McFarland: A Cultivated View (2009), Fred Herzog (2011), Clash: Conflict and Its Consequences (2012), and Michel Campeau: Icons of Obsolescence (2013). She is presently co-curating a major retrospective on Newfoundland-based artist Marlene Creates as well as a survey exhibition Photography in Canada: 1960–2000 for 2017. She has taught the history of photography, Canadian art and cultural theory at Carleton and Queen’s University. In addition, she co-edited The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press. She has lectured on photography throughout Canada, and written articles on contemporary and historical photography in a variety of publications including The Journal of Canadian Art History, the International Journal of Canadian Studies, Early Popular Visual Culture, Muse, BlackFlash, and ETC Montréal. She is currently working on a major web-based project on documentary photography that centres on the National Film Board Still Photography Division collection at the National Gallery and Library and Archives Canada.

Guest curator: Jeff Thomas

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


Canada Day 2005, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, by Jeff Thomas, 2005

First Nations figure set in front of a train marked “Canada” with grain graffiti on its side.

Canada Day 2005, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada from The Delegate on Tour Series by Jeff Thomas, 2005 (MIKAN 3932014) ©Jeff Thomas

For Iroquois artist Jeff Thomas, Canada has always excluded his people. He made this series in order to symbolically place them back in the national picture. Each photograph takes back a major symbol of Canadian nationhood.


Tell us about yourself

I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and I am an enrolled member of the Six Nations reserve near Brantford, Ontario. I am a self-taught photographer and curator. My career in photography began from a near-fatal car accident in 1979 that left me with a permanent disability from a spinal cord injury. I turned to my interest in photography to begin the process of rebuilding life. My career began with two objectives: to address the absences of contemporary and of historical Indigenous photographers in archival collections. My primary objective was to address the absence and invisibility of urban-based Iroquois like me.

In 1990, I was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when I discovered, during a research project at the Manitoba Museum, that LAC had a complete copy of Edward Curtis’s 20-volume series The North American Indian. Curtis played the role of antagonist in my early career, primarily because of his staged images of an Indigenous tribal life, which had vanished decades before. Very little was known about Curtis—wanting to know more, I moved to Ottawa in 1993 and began the next stage of my career.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

In 1999, my son Bear was moving to the West Coast, so I was losing my muse. Bear had started posing for me in 1984. Around the same time that Bear was leaving, I received a box in the mail from documentary filmmaker Ali Kazimi. Ali had made a documentary film about my work titled Shooting Indians: A Journey with Jeff Thomas. Ali introduces the film by holding up a plastic Indian and cowboy. And when I opened the box, I saw the plastic Indians and the cowboy, with a note from Ali saying, “You will find something interesting to do with them.”

Indians on Tour began in the summer of 2000 during a walk around the Parliament Hill area in Ottawa. I had a plastic toy Indian figure in my camera bag, and when I stopped to photograph a statue of an Indian hunter, I placed the toy Indian in front of the bronze hunter and photographed the two. What transpired when I saw the photograph was a new level of possibilities for me in addressing absences of Indigenous representation in the everyday world. From that point, I started taking the plastic figures with me wherever I travelled. I eventually added new Indian figures that I discovered in tourist shops, and to make posing them less reliant on a flat surface, I started making portable dioramas for the figures, mounted on a portable light stand.

Small light-brown First Nations figure set in front of Indian hunter statue. Tall office buildings and trees can be seen in the background.

War Dancer and Indian Hunter Statue by Jeff Thomas in Ottawa, 2000 © Jeff Thomas

In 2005, I was in Brandon, Manitoba, for an opening of my work, and since the next day was Canada Day, I drove around the city looking for an interesting site to pose the delegate. When I saw the grain car with “Canada” and some graffiti on its side, I knew I had found the site for my Canada Day image.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

A black-and-white photo of a Dakota First Nation woman wearing a striped dress under a long beaded breastplate. It is matched with a necklace, long earrings and braids.

Studio portrait of Dakota First Nation (Sioux) woman (MIKAN 3258922)

In 1994, LAC hired me to write new captions for photographs showing Indigenous people, with culturally insensitive words in the old captions. One image stands out from my project. I wrote a new caption for a photograph showing a full-length image of an Indigenous woman. She was probably a mother, wife, grandmother and elder for her community. The caption was “Sioux Squaw”; squaw is considered a very derogatory word. The caption I wrote was simply “Dakota Woman.”

An important point is that the original caption was not deleted, so researchers will see both captions in the database. The new caption inspired a researcher to try and identify the woman, and the new information he found was subsequently added to the database caption. It was amazing to see the impact that changing two words had on one photograph. I suspect that once more Indigenous people use the database, someone from her community will add her name to the caption.

Biography

A colour photograph of a lightly bearded man smiling at the camera.

Jeff Thomas credit Justin Wonnacott

Jeff Thomas is an urban-based Iroquois, self-taught photo-based artist, writer, public speaker and curator, living in Ottawa, Ontario. He has works in major collections in Canada, the United States and Europe. Jeff’s most recent solo shows were Mapping Iroquoia: Cold City Frieze, McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, Ontario; Resistance Is NOT Futile, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, Ontario; and The Dancing Grounds, Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Thomas has also been in many group shows, including l:ke – Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971–1989, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario; Land/Slide: Possible Futures, Markham, Ontario; SAKAHÀN, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; and UNMASKING: Arthur Renwick, Adrian Stimson, Jeff Thomas, Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France. In 1998, he was awarded the Canada Council for the Arts’ prestigious Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography. He was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Art in 2003. In 2008, he received the Karsh Award in photography.

Related resources

First World War photographs in private fonds at Library and Archives Canada

By Rebecca Murray

A.F. Duguid, an early Canadian military historian, noted as he researched the First World War in its aftermath, “It is remarkable how much of the most useful historical material is still held in private possession.” (Clio’s Warriors by Tim Cook, page 79)

The photographs of the Canadian War Records Office photographic collection (accession 1964-114) are illustrative of the life and work of soldiers during the First World War. As many of the photographs are digitized and available online, they are heavily used by researchers.

That said, many researchers come to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) wanting to see images of the conflict that aren’t part of the official government records. This is a great example of when our private holdings—archival documents donated to LAC by individuals or organizations—can serve as an excellent complement to government holdings by providing an alternative view of an historic event.

This blog post highlights three fonds within our holdings, but there are many more. Please note that the complete references are provided below (in italics) to allow researchers to easily order the material for consultation, as not all of the items are digitized.

W. L. Kidd collection, accession 1974-137

Extent: 405 photos

Content Description: Personnel and activities of No. 7 Canadian General Hospital, Etaples, France (KIDD, W. L. 1974-137 SC 0333); examples of various types of wounds suffered by Canadian soldiers during the First World War (KIDD, W.L. 1974-137 06221). (1916–1918)

Comments: Search using the keyword “1974-137” in Archives Search to see descriptions and digitized images for a portion of the collection.

A black and white photograph of a group of soldiers and nursing sisters in a tent.

“Nursing sisters attending to soldiers in the dressing tent at the No. 7 Canadian General Hospital” (1917). Credit: W.L. Kidd (MIKAN 3603386)

Margaret D. Cooke collection, accession 1989-248

Extent: 57 photos

Content Description: Canadian Army Medical Corps in England during the First World War, including 21st Battalion personnel; Saltwood Castle; soldiers at outdoor kitchen; Duchess of Connaught Red Cross Hospital at Cliveden, Taplon; No. 2 New Zealand Hospital at Walton-on-Thames; Moore Barrack, Shorncliffe, Kent; Mount Felix, Walton-on-Thames. War photographs: destroyed tank; trench; destroyed town (COOKE, MARGARET D. 1989-248 04147).

A black and white photograph of a woman in a nursing sister uniform with the cape, pin, hat and white gloves.

Nursing Sister Beatrice Baker, 1916 (MIKAN 3596850)

Anne E. Ross fonds, accessions 1982-174 and 1965-041

Extent: 1588 photographs

Content Description: Photographic material depicting […] activities and personnel of No. 3 Stationary Hospital, C.A.M.C., in Canada, England, and in the Mediterranean theatre of operations while based on the island of Lemmos, 1915–1917; photographs by E.R Owen of staff, patients, faculties, major events and visitors at the Duchess of Connaught’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Taplow, England, 1915–1916; photographs from the First World War (ROSS, ANNE E. 1982-174 05618, ROSS, ANNE E. 1965-041 05680A).

A black-and-white photograph of a group of four women sitting on deck chairs with blankets. Three of the sisters are wearing the dark overcoat while one is wearing a lighter coloured jacket. A soldier can be seen slightly in the middle of the group.

Nursing sisters sitting on deck of ship with a soldier (1916). Credit: Anne E. Ross (MIKAN 3195179)

If you’re interested in discovering these or other photographs held in private fonds at LAC, please contact us using our online form.


Rebecca Murray is a reference archivist in the Reference Services Division of Library and Archives Canada.

Guest Curator: Tania Passafiume

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month in 2017! Experts from LAC, from across Canada and from other countries provide additional information about the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, from June 5, 2017, to March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


Temples of Today by John Vanderpant, ca. 1934

Black-and-white photo of a grain elevator with tall, circular towers in front of a taller rectangular building.

“Temples of Today” by John Vanderpant, ca. 1934. (MIKAN 3784205)

Photographer John Vanderpant saw Canada’s grain elevators as temples. They were part of his utopian vision for the country, based on a faith in trade and industry. For him, industry would define the nation’s future.


Tell us about yourself

I knew I wanted to be a conservator since I was 13 years old. At this time, my uncle had married a wonderful woman named Janice. She was a fine art conservator, hence she treated paintings, works of art on paper, and photographs. I was very influenced by her, and it led me to work in her private lab as I was studying at university. It provided me with experience before I even started my graduate classes in conservation. When I graduated, there was no employment in Canada, and my aunt had closed her lab and was traveling that particular year. I ended up going to the George Eastman House on a whim. It was supposed to be just for three months. Instead I stayed there three years and three months! It was when I became passionate about photography, particularly historical processes. My hands were often black due to all the silver nitrate I was playing with! And now, I see my aunt’s name on a report or two, as she had actually interned here at LAC many years before me.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

LAC’s collection of photographs is really diverse. You can always find a variety of processes and images. For this exhibition, I favor Temples of Today by John Vanderpant. I am a photograph conservator, so often I look beyond the image, looking deeper at the materials and how the photograph was made, or if anything has been altered. Many times, not to be distracted by the image itself, I turn the photograph around, so that the image is upside down, making it less distracting, so that I can concentrate on the material and not the image before me. But for this item, all I had to do was lean down and look at the surface of the photograph in raking light. That is when light is falling across the surface and I am almost at eye level with the surface. It is at this point you can really “see” an object; all the handling dents and deformities are really pronounced. When you do that with this item you see cat paw prints! We actually think that the cat walked one way, turned around and walked back! The photograph was already mounted on the paper support when the cat had walked on it. This is noted as one of the prints lies on both the photograph and the support. Perhaps Vanderpant had a cat who would visit him in the studio? I really enjoy finding these hidden secrets. I did try to remove or at least reduce the paw prints, but they appear to be stuck within the emulsion. So I could not do much as for treatment, and the paw prints remain.

A photo on a table with a bright light raking over it reveals a cat’s paw prints.

Viewing Temples of Today under raking light reveals a cat’s paw prints. Photo taken by Tom Thompson.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

A photograph that I enjoy showing people is a daguerreotype from July 1858. The daguerreotype has captured the Molson Brewery in Montréal, after a fire. It is a half plate in good condition. The image is sombre as the fire has left nothing. In the centre of this emptiness stands a man with a seated female to the left with a small child, who moved as the image was taken and is blurry. It is a moving image, as you can imagine that the daguerreotypist had to be physically there, at this moment to document this period of time. A few years ago, this item was going on exhibition; therefore I was fortunate enough to be able to open the daguerreotype package (the original sealing tape had been previously removed), to examine the plate. Upon removal of the brass mat, I immediately noticed in the upper left corner, a finger mark. This was hidden behind the brass mat. This fingerprint could be from the daguerreotypist, who is, at this moment still unknown. It could have been accidently placed there as he or she was developing the plate or placing it into the daguerreotype package. For me it is a sign of the mysterious past—a bridge, a connector between these people in the image and to the person behind the camera who is not visible and us, the current viewer.

 The corner of a daguerreotype showing a fingerprint on the edge of the plate. The plate depicts a closeup of the Molson Brewery after a fire. A woman with a baby is sitting at the bottom edge.

A detail of a corner of a daguerreotype showing a fingerprint on the edge of the plate. Photo taken by Jennie Woodley. (MIKAN 3192967)

Black-and-white image of rubble in the foreground with a damaged building in the background. A woman with a baby sits in the middle to left of a standing man.¬

Full image of the Molson family brewery after the fire of 1858. (MIKAN 3192967)

On this theme of animals and photography, I would like to include the “Decadog,” as we call it at the Preservation Centre. This is a perfect example of an animal being an animal. It is a nitrate panorama negative of 7th Draft, “C” Battery, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA). These were the units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and the Royal Air Force who trained at various camps in Ontario; here it was in Kingston. It was taken between 1914 and 1918. The nitrate negative was discovered when my colleagues Carla Klück and Louise Perrault were scanning the nitrate panorama collection in 2011. At first glance this long negative, which is 200 mm high x 1060 mm wide, is another documented proof of military troops from the turn of the century. On closer examination, a dog appears in the foreground. But not just any dog—a dog with eleven legs! Viewers are always confused when they notice this unusual aspect. Someone has previously outlined in black ink on the negative (which appears white on the positive print), ten of the legs (hence the name Decadog), omitting the second last paw on the left. You may be asking—how did this dog exist in Kingston? Easy enough answer is that the photograph was taken by a panoramic camera also known as a Cirkut. The Cirkut is a rotating camera that would capture a panoramic scene by pivoting horizontally while a roll of film moved across the film plane. At just the right moment, the dog must have walked as the camera was rotating from left to right. Consequently, the slow capture could capture the slow movement of the dog walking across the plane of view. To prove that this Decadog is a “normal” four-legged friend, I have included an additional nitrate panorama from our collection. This time it is from the 8th Draft “C” Battery, RCHA, CEF, Petawawa Camp on June 1916. From his face markings, we think that this is the same dog in both nitrate panoramas.

Black-and-white panorama shot of two rows of uniformed soldiers between two wheeled cannons. The Decadog is in front of the group. Barracks can be seen in the background.

7th Draft, “C” Battery, RCHA, CEF group photo with the Decadog by Andrew Merrilees. (MIKAN 4474227)

Black-and-white panorama shot of three and a half rows of uniformed soldiers in front of trees and tents. A soldier in the centre of the front row holds a dog on his lap.

8th Draft, “C” Battery, RCHA, CEF Petawawa Camp with a dog in the centre by Andrew Merrilees. (MIKAN 4473482)

Biography

Colour photograph of a woman looking at the viewer.

Credit Tom Thompson

Tania Passafiume has been the Head Conservator of Photographic Materials for Library and Archives Canada since 2005. After graduating from Queen’s University with a Master’s in Art Conservation (specializing in photographs, works on paper and book conservation), she moved to Rochester, New York. It was in Rochester at the George Eastman House where she remained for over three years, first participating in the Certificate Program in Photographic Preservation and Archival Practice and then as a Fellow in the first cycle of the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation. For the following three years, Tania was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, in Photographic Conservation at the Art Institute of Chicago. Tania has also worked in the following institutions and private labs: Jana Conservation, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, National Archives of Canada, City of Vancouver Archives, and Canadian Centre for Architecture. With the Canadian Conservation Institute she has published “Silver Gelatin Paper Sample Sets,” which is based on her George Eastman House thesis. Also stemming from this was research on Hippolyte Bayard, a topic on which she is currently working with the Centre de recherché sur la conservation des collections (CRCC), Paris. More recently, she spearheaded a LAC project with the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Paris/Atelier de Restauration et de Conservation des Photographies de la Ville de Paris (ARCP) in a collaboration to create the first English-French visual glossary of photo conservation terms in enhanced eBook format called Lingua Franca: A Common Language for Conservators of Photographic Materials which will soon be available for free on iTunes.