There are a group of photography exhibits now showing at the Ryerson Image Centre.  Two of them showcase older photos of Canada.  The largest exhibit is ‘Faraway Nearby’ and it consists of photographs of Canada from the New York Times photo archive…   25,000 vintage photos of Canada taken over the past 100 years have been gifted to Ryerson by Chris Bratty in honour of his father Rudolph (Rudy), a property developer in the GTA.   ‘Faraway Nearby’ is a wonderful selection of them covering a wide cross section of subjects.

vintage black and white photo of people in bath suits standing on diving boards beside a lake

below: There is a section devoted to tourist type photos that you would find in the travel section of a newspaper.  Yes, that’s an RCMP officer standing beside the car, a convertible with California plates.  I’d say it was kitschy to have the RCMP guy there but even today the red uniform of the RCMP is iconic; they are featured on many postcards and souvenirs.   Tourists still take photos with them I’m sure.

photo in an exhibit of a group of tourists in a convertible car with California plates parked beside the road and overlooking a mountain lake. An RCMP officer stands beside the car.

below:  Oh dear, Highland dancers and Native Americans all dressed up.   Is that the Banff Springs Hotel?  The exhibit taken as a whole is a fascinating look at Canadian history; how far we’ve come in some respects and how we haven’t really changed in others.

vintage black and white photo of a highland dancer with a line of native Americans in traditional dress behind her. Some teepees in the background, also a hotel.

below:  Loggers clearing their way through a sea of timber that is being guided into a newsprint mill in Hull Quebec, about 1946.  Unknown photographer.  (Almost all the photos are by ‘unknown’).

vintage black and white photo of two shirtless men on legs with poles as the move logs and timber by river to a newsprint paper mill on the other shore.

Being a newspaper, a large number of the subjects were political such as this photo of Joe Clark, Prime Minister of Canada from June 1979 to March 1980, on a visit to Cameroon  in the summer of 1979.

black and white photo from 1979 of Joe Clark, then Prime Minister of Canada, riding in a motorcade with the President of Cameroon, in Cameroon.

below: Prime Minister Trudeau (the first one) meeting President Nixon, “Tricky Dick”, of the USA.  Love the sunglasses! (or is that just a trick of the lighting?).

vintage photo of Richard Nixon, President of the United States, greeting Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

below: While on the topic of the Trudeau’s, here’s Margaret with Fidel Castro.  Castro is holding Margaret’s youngest son Michel.  The photo was taken in Havana in 1976 when the Trudeau’s were in Cuba on a 4 day state visit.

vintage black and white photo of Margaret Trudeau and Fidel Castro. Castro is holding one of the Trudeau sons.

below: There are also some photos taken during various Royal visits.  Here are a group of men by Lake Nipigon in 1919.  The man holding the dead duck (3rd from the left) is Edward, Prince of Wales (b.1894 – d.1972).   He was 25 years old in this picture.   On 20 January 1936 he became King Edward VIII but he abdicated the throne in December of the same year after reigning for only 326 days.

a vintage black and white photo of a group of men in northern Ontario, by a lake, one is holding a duck that has been shot

below: A photo by an unknown photographer for the Canadian War Records Office and the American Press Association, Vimy, France, April 1917.  The description of the photo reads: “Giving Fritz some of his own pills.  Canadians firing a German 4.2 on the retreating Boche.  Some of the guns left behind by the retreating Germans were in excellent condition, and the Canadians at once  undertook to return some of the shells to their former owners in the most effective manner.”

vintage world war one photo

below: A slightly lighter look at war, this time WW2.  Photograph by Nat Turofsky (d. 1956) for Alexandra Studio.  Distributed by the Star Newspaper Service and the New York Times.  Location unknown. 1939.  Nat and his brother Lou were well known Toronto photographers in their day. Back in 2009, The Torontoist published an excellent story about them and the Alexandra Studio which they owned.

The description of the photo reads: “Shouldering guns instead of hockey sticks.  Member of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team, led by Bob Davidson, Goalie “Turk” Broda, and “Sweeney Shriner, marching into the trenches at a machine gun target range during a military training session.  The team is in constant training so that they will be ready for duty if called to the colors.”

vintage photo of men in Maple Leafs hockey sweaters walking through war trenches

***

The second, and smaller, exhibit is ‘The Notman Studio:  1858-1915’.  William Notman was a photographer based in Montreal who traveled across Canada documenting what he saw.   He was also a studio photographer who took hundreds of portraits.   This is a small sample of his work.

below:  ‘Ice Castle’ about 1857, Montreal Quebec, Albumen print.

old photo of a large ice castle

below: ‘Esquimalt Dry Dock’, 1887, Victoria B.C. Albumen print.   You’ll have to pardon the reflections in the pictures.  The glass in the frames acts like a mirror and although I have tried to minimize the amount of reflection, getting rid of it entirely was not always possible.

vintage photo, 1887 ship being built, wood, in Victoria B.C.

below: Standing outside his teepee with his rifle and his horse.

vintage photo of a native American man in traditional clothes holding a rifle and a horse and a lead. Standing outside a teepee

below: There were a series of Cariboo Hunting photos.  They were small and all focused on the two men.   Especially considering their age, they are in excellent condition and beautiful to look at.

vintage photo of two men hunting caribou. Resting with their rifles.

below: ‘Little Champlain Street’  1890, Quebec City.   I looked for photos of Toronto in the collection that was on display but there weren’t any.

vintage albumen print photo, 1890, Little Champlain street in Quebec City. row houses, kids in the street

below: There is an incredible amount of detail in the above picture so I cropped it quite a bit to highlight some of the details.   The shabby brick and plaster row houses, the solitary street light, the planks that form the narrow road, and the kids wearing hats as they keep an eye on the photographer.  Although it is Quebec City, I can imagine parts of Toronto looking quite similar at the time.

details of a vintage photo, street scene, kids, row houses,

In case you were wondering, albumen prints refers to a process whereby the photographic paper that is used to print the images from a negative was made using egg whites.  The main constituent of egg whites is the protein albumen.  It is sticky and forms a glossy finish when it dries.  The stickiness of the albumen is used to bind salt (sodium chloride, your basic table salt, or ammonium chloride) to the paper.  Once the paper dries, it is dipped into a solution of silver nitrate thereby making the paper sensitive to UV light.   This method was developed in 1847 and was the first commercially viable method of producing photographic paper.  It remained in use until the 20th century.

By the entrance to the Notman exhibit is this wonderful, and still relevant, quote attributed to William Notman: “To consider Photography a mere mechanical art, is a great mistake.  The too prevalent desire for cheapness, and the ease with which a little may be done in Photography, has induced many to embrace the profession lacking the necessary qualifications…”

Both exhibits continue until 10 Dec 2017.

Comments
  1. markdsegal says:

    Thanks very much for bringing this significant exhibition to our attention Mary.

    • Mary C says:

      The Ryerson Image Centre is a great gallery space if you’re interested in photography. Most of their exhibits are worth the time to visit but I really liked this one! Also, I noticed that ‘Toronto Life’ magazine did a feature on the New York Times part of the exhibit… but they removed more of the sepia tones from the photos than I did!

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