Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SNEAK PEEK: Foote cover!

Hey all, we're busily launching this spring's titles and working on next fall's titles, but I've got two pieces of Foote-related news to share: first, the cover, designed by Steven Rosenberg of Winnipeg's Doowah Design.

We've used a detail from one of Foote's most famous photos, entitled "1912-13 Copper Sheathing of the Roof of the Hotel Fort Garry" (Manitoba Archives, Foote 1535 Q554).

The book's design harkens to that of UMP's two other photo books, All Our Changes: Images from the Sixties Generation, Photographs by Gerry Kopelow (U of M Press, 2009) and The North End: Photographs by John Paskievich (U of M Press, 2007), also designed by Rosenberg.

We've also arrived at a book description, which I've cribbed from our fall 2012 catalogue. (All eighteen boxes of which arrived at UMP yesterday...)

"In an expanding and socially fractious early twentieth-century Winnipeg, Lewis Benjamin Foote (1873-1957) rose to become the city’s pre-eminent commercial photographer. Documenting everything from royal visits to deep poverty, from the building of the landmark Fort Garry Hotel to
the riots of the 1919 General Strike, Foote’s photographs have come to be iconic representations of early Winnipeg life. They have been used to illustrate everything from academic histories to posters for rock concerts; they have influenced the work of visual artists, writers, and musicians;
and they have represented Winnipeg to the world.

But in Imagining Winnipeg, historian Esyllt W. Jones takes us beyond the iconic to reveal the complex artist behind the lens and the conflicting ways in which his photographs have been used to give credence to diverse and sometimes irreconcilable views of Winnipeg’s past. Incorporating 150 stunning photographs from the more than 2,000 images in the Archives of Manitoba Foote Collection, Imagining Winnipeg challenges our understanding of visual history and the city we thought we knew."

Yay! Fun!

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Monday, April 16, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Bronwen Quarry

Foote 157 is not really my favourite. I don’t actually have one. Perhaps it is that I have seen the photographs too many times.

As an archivist at the Archives of Manitoba I have often helped clients in the Research Room with their own searches for the perfect photograph of an event or place. If they have not already heard of Foote, I will invariably direct them to (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I insist that they look at) the Foote photos. Without fail they become distracted by the other images, slowly browsing through the rest of the files. More often than not they leave as a newly converted Foote fan, cheerfully declaring or muttering distractedly that they’ll have to come back when they have more time.

Every time I open the drawer a new Foote photo speaks to me. So why pick this one rather than any of the other 2,500 in our holdings? This photograph happens to speak to me on both a professional and on a personal level. From an archival perspective, the significance of the Foote photographs lies not in the individual images (no matter how skilfully taken the photo or how important its contents) but rather in the body of records as a whole.

Foote 157 does not depict a historically significant event such as the strike or a well-known place or group of people. It is just one of many great shots representative of what Foote was most often doing which was taking photographs of the everyday. His body of records documents several decades of life in Winnipeg. Foote 157 really doesn’t stick out and so embodies what is great about the Foote collection – that so many people find something to relate to in his photographs. Even when just browsing, researchers often find something they recognize. Sometimes it is not obvious and it is only the description that tells the viewer what they are looking at.

Foote 157 depicts Fire Station #14 at the corner of Lipton and Westminster, a building I have passed by many times on walks through Wolseley. Although admittedly the focus of this photo is the firemen, the corner featured is the very spot I have walked by countless times and it gave me a thrill when I first recognized it. I love that building and I love that the Foote collection has something that I can so personally relate to. (And yes, it is a great shot of the firemen too!)

So perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Foote 157 is my favourite today, and I am certain when I go to slip it back in the drawer I will find another.

- Bronwen Quarry

* * *
Bronwen Quarry is an archivist with the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba. A large part of her job involves making the photographs in the holdings of the HBC Archives available to the public. Her MA thesis at the University of Manitoba was entitled “Photo-graph/Writing with Light: The Challenge to Archivists of Reading Photographs.”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Photo #8: Boxshall Family Portrait

This photo arrived via email from Cartwright, MB:

"Hello! I read about your book in in the Free Press and was sure I'd seen Foote on a family photo.

Started going through them and found this one (not the one I'd been thinking of) that says "Foote & James" on the embossed paper frame. This is a photo of my grandparents, George and Ruth Boxshall and children, in 1923.

George Edward Boxshall was born in Tunbridge Wells, England in 1885. In 1902 he came to Canada (at age 17) and worked for farmers in the Cartwright/Holmfield, Manitoba area. He was the only one of his family to make that trip. At the age of 21 he went back to England but decided to come back and make his home in Canada. He returned to the Cartwright area where he worked on farms until joining the Winnipeg Police in February 1910. In 1911 he was married to Ruth Cantlon, who he had met while working in Cartwright.

George was promoted to Patrol Sergeant on May 1, 1916 and then to full Sergeant on January 19, 1923. He was on the first motorcycle squad. (Incidentally, his photo is in the 2012 City of Winnipeg Archives calendar, with his police motorcycle.) He was in great demand as an entertainer at police balls and other functions, where he would do imitations, recitations, and songs (with wife Ruth accompanying on the piano). He sang a lot of English music-hall type songs.

They raised 8 children (5 others were stillborn or died as infants). George was forced to retired from the police force due to health reasons. He had 'sleeping sickness' in the late 1920s which weakened him. (I'm not sure, but this may have been polio.) He retired on May 1, 1931 with a police pension and the family decided that moving back to Cartwright would make the money stretch further. Their youngest child was just a year old then.

With George and Ruth Boxshall in the 1923 photo are children: Sylvia, George Jr., Jack on his father's knee, Enid (in front), Eileen, and Dorothea. This was before the arrival of Allan and Shirley.

My mother was Sylvia, the second-eldest (1916-2005). She and her sister Eileen married brothers and lived their lives in Cartwright after moving here when Mum was 15. They were the ones who looked after their parents, and ended up with a lot of the family photos. And then I looked after them...

While I am very interested in family history, other cousins are, too, and the photos are prized - no danger of them being unwanted! Thank goodness for the digital age which makes it so easy to copy and share."

- Vicki Wallace

Monday, April 9, 2012

Found Foote Photo #7: Girls on Bikes

Winnipeg's Fred Knight emailed this photo of a group of bike-riding girls on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature on Broadway in late January.

Now that we're (mostly) into cycling weather again, we thought it was prime time to share this photo...here's what Fred had to say about it:

"Now it is quite obvious that this is a somewhat posed picture I seem to recall a recollection by Gloria (my wife) that this gentleman stopped and asked if he could take their picture.

I don't know why they were at the Legislative grounds as no doubt these girls came from all over the city.

I only have knowledge of three girls (deceased) from the right # 2 Phyllis Hiley married Jim Armstrong (d), # 3 Gloria Chapman married Fred Knight, # 4 Marie Escaravage married William Roberts (d).

Phillys and Gloria were in the employment of the War-time Prices & Trade Board so stands to reason that this would befall on some or all of the others.

It sure is interesting to note the change in casual attire. Something has been lost over the years...

Take Care!"

- Fred Knight

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Katherena Vermette

Oh, Orlina, you have been loved, haven’t you?

I was drawn to this picture because I am so in love with old houses right now. I want one so bad! I am starting to look at them the way I once looked at good-looking men.

And she has a name to boot! How wonderful! We should all name our houses. She looks like an Orlina too. Something in the dark frames and striped awnings seems very Orlina-like!

Orlina looked so beautiful in 1915, I just had to see what she looked like today. 81 Luxton is also just a few blocks from where I grew up in the North End. I hadn’t been on that side of Main Street in nearly 20 years (yikes!), but I remembered the area fondly – the amazing “mansions” on Scotia Street, the creepy and magnificent Luxton School.

I have to confess though, as I drove around St John’s Park and cemetery, I felt myself bracing for Orlina’s possible deterioration. It is the North End after all. I love my old ‘hood, but of these once beautiful houses show the effects of age and abuse. I thought Orlina could have been mistreated, poorly kept, or worse of all fates – vinyl sided! I didn’t know what to expect. But, as I pulled up beside her, I was pleasantly surprised.

Oh Orlina, I thought, you have been loved, haven’t you?

Like a lovely elder, Orlina wears her age well. Her brick refinished, her stone banister in amazing shape, only her iron fence shows the slightest of bends.

This made me feel so happy, to know that she has been looked after. There are many like her, gorgeous old houses that have been loved and cherished. We don’t know their girlish names, but I bet somewhere in their woodwork they have one – a secret name that makes them feel pretty.

If I ever get one, I think I will call her Beth! (I hope she looks like a Beth...)

- Katherena Vermette

* * *
Katherena Vermette is a Metis writer of poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in several literary magazines and compilations, most recently Manitoapow: Stories from the Land of Water (Debwe Series). Vermette is a member of the Aboriginal Writers’ Collective of Manitoba, and currently completing her Master of Fine Arts (UBC). Her first collection of poetry is set for release in the fall of 2012 (The Muses’ Company).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Brett Lougheed

Winnipeg seems to be enjoying a sort of renaissance these days. Construction projects downtown spurred on by the return of the Winnipeg Jets promises a booming cultural centre in the heart of the city within a few years. It harkens one back to Winnipeg’s glory days of the 1920s.

This photograph taken by L.B. Foote on February 21, 1923, to me, perfectly illustrates the Winnipeg we are striving to become once again. Suspended 30 feet above the Winnipeg Free Press building on Carlton Street, Harry Houdini, arguably the biggest name in entertainment at the time, wriggled his way out of a straitjacket in front of what was reported to be four or five thousand awestruck onlookers. This publicity stunt was intended to generate interest for his week-long show at the Orpheum Theatre. Houdini’s opening act at the show was a young comedian named Jack Benny. It was not uncommon for performers of this calibre to make regular appearances in Winnipeg during this time.

Now let’s take a moment to break this down. Here was one of the more famous pop culture icons in the world at the time performing his most popular trick in the dead of winter in Winnipeg in front of 5,000 people to promote his upcoming show. His opening act was an up and coming comedian who would become the most popular variety program host in America a decade later. Because magicians and escape artists have admittedly declined in popularity over the years, it is hard to conceive of a comparable scenario these days. But it might look something like this: Lady Gaga, backed by a full stage show, performs for free in front of 20,000 Winnipeggers in -20 temperatures to promote her show at the MTS Centre, where the stand-up stylings of Conan O’Brien would be the opening act.

Kind of hard to imagine, isn’t it?

As an aside, the Winnipeg Free Press offered cash prizes to the three amateur photographers who best captured the performance on film. They would be hard pressed to top the work of Foote, who not only captured the performance, but the excitement of the crowd, and the energy of a city.

I think Winnipeg has a long way to go before we’re as cool as we once were. Thankfully we have the photos of L.B. Foote to use as a measure of Winnipeg’s vitality.

- Brett Lougheed

* * *
Brett Lougheed is Digital Curator/Archivist at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections. He is responsible for digitizing and managing the University’s archival material, including a few Foote photos. He is also a life-long Manitoban, a pop culture junkie, and the author of the Archives’ slightly warped photo blog, What the Fonds?