Friday, January 6, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Danny Schur

My favourite Foote photograph, even more than his iconic tipped streetcar shot from Bloody Saturday, is the famous “Down With Bolshevism” shot from the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

The shot was taken on the west side of City Hall, earlier in June, and depicts an anti-strike veterans' parade that culminated at the Gingerbread city hall.

For me, the shot epitomizes so many of the forces at work in Winnipeg society, not just in the First World War, but from the time of Riel.

The exuberance of the Victorian architecture, the Protestant thirst for order and good government (as represented by the British Empire and parliamentary system), virulent xenophobia (if not outright racism) mixed with a preponderance of militarism, a passionate, unruly veteran class (ultimately the wild card in the outcome of the strike) – all are encompassed here with but one click of Foote's documentary camera.

And whether by accident or design, the details of the photograph are exquisite: the mayor clasping his hands to address the crowd, the Union Jack shadowed such that it appears almost 3-D, the surging symmetry of the drain pipe, pole and vertical lines of the gingerbread City Hall – and all balanced by the hat-wearing crowd.

While certainly taken in the heat of the moment, only Foote's great artistic eye could have so composed a spontaneous shot.

- Danny Schur

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Danny Schur is a Winnipeg-based composer/producer/writer/director for stage, screen and radio. Known for his musical Strike! (set against the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike), Danny is working on a new musical about Louis Riel with writing partner Rick Chafe.

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