Monday, July 30, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #7: The Blurb!

In publishing, there's nothing like a good blurb.

They're not so much reviews as recommendations. So it matters who you have blurb something. The person blurbing is saying "You must read this." And if you're a fan of the blurber, that recommendation means something.

As such, we were thrilled when director Guy Maddin agreed to blurb Imagining Winnipeg.

"L.B. Foote's Winnipeg is a boomtown of staggering abundance and meanest privation. His city teems with a mad sense of community—everywhere people, people and more people, throngs of new citizens forever gathering, spilling over, lining up; everyone held rapt and almost intoxicated by grand ceremony, fevered ritual or political upheaval. So much giddy newness plopped down on top of the nations that came before and on the timeless, pristine, soon-to-be-bedevilled plains. Foote honours human, city and prairie alike with his peculiar and ennobling eye." — Guy Maddin, director of My Winnipeg.

Those of you familiar with UMP's books may have noticed that we published a book on Maddin's work, entitled Playing with Memories: Essays on Guy Maddin in 2009.

The collection was edited by David Church, a PhD student at Indiana University, and while it featured many of Maddin's contemporaries and collaborators, Maddin himself wasn't directly involved.

So it's nice to come full circle, first with a book on "the aesthetics and politics behind Maddin's work" and second with a book on the aesthetics and politics behind Foote's work, as blurbed by Maddin.

 I think it's also a great reminder of the influence Foote's images have had - and hopefully will continue to have - on generations of artists.

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Unknown men #6-15

Unknown man #13

One of the things I most appreciate about photography is the documentary sense of the everyday, the unexpected, and the unplanned it’s given us.

Posed photos and portraits give us a “frozen” image controlled by the artist (and often by the subject as well). But a photograph of a city street taken by a photographer who was literally ‘prowling’ looking for an interesting shot can give you an immediate sense of “ordinary” people in that place and time (think of the photos of John Paskievich, just to name one of many). My own images (perhaps largely fictional?) of cities like Paris or New York have been created by street photos of people going about their business largely unaware of the photographer.

L.B. Foote spent over 50 years taking pictures of Winnipeggers, but he took almost none of these kind of ‘random’ shots of street scenes. He was likely just too busy making a living, hustling from one commercial job to another. Most of his street shots are of a formal events like a parade, with a shot he had clearly thought through in advance, and was probably going to sell to newspapers or a wire service. While Foote is our great guide to the visual past of Winnipeg, he does so largely without spontaneous images of “everyday” life.

There is, however, a strange group of photos in the Manitoba Archives’ Foote Collection that comes close to this for me. They are a set of 14 nearly full-length portraits of unidentified men, taken outside probably taken around 1914. Each photo includes its own unique number on a chalkboard, often held by an arm coming from just off frame (probably the next person in line). Judging from the buildings in the background, this may be in the field between the old University of Manitoba Broadway campus and the Legislative Building, where Memorial Park now is.

We have no information about why Foote took these photographs or who these men are. The numbers suggest that he was taking these for a group portrait that he would later cut, edit, and re-assemble. Maybe this was a club? Several of the men seem to have medals or military ribbons in their lapels, so perhaps it was a soldier’s reunion.

These are certainly not spontaneous shots, although they are more or less on the street. In a strange way, though, they are a kind of ‘man in the street’ gallery, a grab bag of Winnipeg male citizenry, c. 1914. We have men of all ages, dressed in all manner of clothes, and with all sorts of expressions, from the grim to the frozen to the downright goofy (check out number 12 with his big grin and bowler hat). Although they are certainly dressed for some sort of occasion, this is definitely not the Board of Trade in tuxedos. It feels like these fourteen men have been yanked out of crowd, almost randomly, and told to stand still for a minute.

My favorite is number 13. Who in world is this fellow, standing at a defiant angle to the camera? With his impressive mustache, cocky look, and the jaunty tilt of his cap, if he’s not a man about town, he’s certainly someone who knows his way around a bustling city. While the other men stand stiffly, almost at attention, he seems like he’s just stopped for a minute (just enough to put his cigarette down), almost as if he’s still in motion. And to finish things off, instead of a medal in his lapel, he seems to be wearing a dandy’s boutonniere. This looks like someone who would be as much at place strolling down a metropolitan boulevard, a Parisian flaneur, as he seems to be posing for Foote’s camera.

- David Carr

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David Carr is the director of the University of Manitoba Press.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Found Foote Photo #12: Diamond Anniversary

"I’m enclosing an L.B. Foote family photo taken in September 1942.

The McCowan family arrived in Manitoba from Pertheshire, Scotland in 1921.

This one of the original photos given to family members on the occasion of the diamond (60th) wedding anniversary of William and Helen McCowan.

The small photo in the corner of their oldest son, who was in the air force during WWII. Their children are sitting beside them and one son is behind Helen. The rest of the people in the photo are sons-in-law and daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

My husband is the boy in front of William.

I met Mr. Foote in the latter part of his life. The McCowans became friends of his, as they lived at 406 Wardlaw Avenue and he lived on Gertrude Avenue. They both belonged to St. Augustine Church near the corner of River and Osborne Street.


Margaret McCowan"

Friday, July 20, 2012

Found Foote Photo #11: Sunday School in Elmwood

Back in January, June Sanderson brought in a photo of her father, Henry James Hunter.

He is one of the boys in this 1920s-era group photo. June didn’t know which one. She knew this was of a Sunday school in Elmwood, but didn’t know which church it was.

June didn’t see these photos until after her mother’s death in 1985…so she couldn’t ask which little boy was her father.

Henry James – Jim to his friends – was a salesman for 3M before the war. June said she heard that he sold the first roll of tape in Winnipeg.

He joined the air force in 1942 and was in training all over Canada. He went overseas in March of 1945, toward the end of WWII. June was born while her father was away, though she notes he was there for her christening.

Post-war, Jim was a foreman in the baggage department for CPR and lived at 689 Moncton Avenue in East Kildonan. He died in 1956 at the age of 45.

A few months after our meeting, June contacted me again. Though she’d initially been leaning towards John Black Memorial United on Henderson Highway, she was now quite certain it was Gordon-King Memorial United.

Located on on Cobourg Avenue in Elmwood, the church was named in honour of Rev. Dr. Charles W. Gordon (also known as writer Ralph Connor), and his father-in-law, John Mark King. King was the first principal of Manitoba College (now the University of Winnipeg).

This supposition was confirmed by a search of the website for Gordon-King Memorial, which contains images of their meeting hall, which looks very similar to the room in June’s photo.

Thanks to June for sharing her photo…and her mystery!

Can any readers identify any of the other people in the photo? If Jim wound up with one, it makes me wonder how many other copies are in people’s attics and spare rooms in a box of old photos…

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Further to Caitlyn Carson's Favourite Foote Photo

Last week, education student Caitlyn Carson wrote about a Foote photo entitled Mr. and Mrs. Andre Nault, Diamond Anniversary Party, St. Vital, Manitoba, 19 October 1910.

For those of you who might be interested, Foote also shot a group photo at that same event.

This photo will be included in Imagining Winnipeg. It will be the fourth photo.

The caption (I can't get captions off my brain...) for the photo is currently:

 "The diamond wedding anniversary party for André Nault, a cousin of Louis Riel and a member of Riel's Provisional Government, and his wife Anastasie, St. Vital, 1910. N2397."

Monday, July 16, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #5: Duotones!

Friesens in Altona, MB, prints the majority of UMP's books. Last week, they sent duotone tests for some of the images in Imagining Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote.

According to Wikipedia, a duotone is "a halftone reproduction of an image using the superimposition of one contrasting colour halftone (traditionally black) over another color halftone. This is most often used to bring out middle tones and highlights of an image."

For Imagining Winnipeg - like with John Paskievitch's The North End and Gerry Kopelow's All Our Changes - we'll be using "warm grey" along with black.

In Winnipeg Modern: Architecture 1945-1975, on the other hand, we opted for "cool grey."

The three sheets  you see on the floor of UMP's offices represent different amounts of each ink.

Steven Rosenberg of Doowah Design, who is the graphic designer for this project, selected a range of photographs for the test. He then took each of those photos and sent both the original as we received it from the Archives of Manitoba (and other sources) and a version that he'd processed in Photoshop.

Apparently, one of the issues with this book is that Foote used a variety of cameras over the course of the four decades he was photographing the city and its people. Which means that the images, though all black and white, are all a little bit different...

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Found Foote Photos #10: Foote's Neighbour

"This is my father, who is standing in our front yard at 494 Gertrude Avenue.

The house to the left is where the Footes lived. Their daughter Norma was brides-maid in my sister’s wedding party in April 1953.

My father, Martin Toth, was in the army reserve during WWII. This picture, I assume, was taken somewhere during WWII.

My father always kept a beautiful garden and many people would compliment him on his gardening talent.

If you look closely, you’ll see no. 492 above the door of the Footes’ front door.

Yours truly,

Barbara McDowall
Pinawa, MB

p.s. This photo was taken from an elevated position. What would he have used to do this? Just wondering…."

Monday, July 9, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Caitlyn Carson

Some suggest that Lewis Benjamin Foote was a commercial photographer and just that. Yes, a man has to make a living. But I largely disagree with this assertion. What the lens captured was Foote’s vision and perspective and this photograph is one example.

Modest and simple; not much else can be said about this particular Foote photograph. Yet, inexplicably, I was attracted to this image above all others. Perhaps it was the setting, rustic and outdoorsy. But as I thought about it more and more, my attention kept on being drawn to the faces of the individuals in the picture. I found myself wondering; “What is it about this man and woman that Foote captures in such an endearing manner?”

Mr. and Mrs. Andre Nault, Diamond Anniversary Party, St. Vital, Manitoba, 19 October 1910” reads the caption. So our man and woman were husband and wife! Perhaps the positioning already suggested that, but evidence-to-support is always a good thing when it comes to history. This piece of information, provided by the caption, may suggest an answer for the endearing quality of this Foote photograph; a husband and wife, having spent many years together, celebrating the accumulation of ___ years of accomplishment. Makes sense, such accomplishment is generally respected and revered. But wait…how many years exactly is a diamond anniversary?

Thanks to Queen Victoria and her Diamond Jubilee, this question wasn’t easily answered. Pre-1897 a diamond anniversary would have been 75 years. However, when Queen Victoria reached 60 years of accession to the throne, she decided to term the monumental achievement her Diamond Jubilee. Ergo, some discretion would exist in the classification of a diamond anniversary circa that time period. Since Mr. and Mrs. Nault’s anniversary was only 13 years later, it is hard to discern exactly how many years they were celebrating. Neither 60 nor 75 years seems farfetched. To support this, a clipping titled “Wedding Anniversaries” from The Brandon Daily Sun dated December 10, 1909 lists “Seventy-fifth year – Diamond.” (There is no listing for a sixtieth year.)

Yes, we are on a bit of a side track. However, 60 and 75 years prior, although overlapping, can produce very different histories depending. In aims to end this chase, I typed the caption of this photograph into the Google search engine. A returned search reads, “NAULT, ANDRÉ, buffalo hunter, farmer, and captain of the Métis.”

Hmm. Next time I’ll just start with the names! The returned search, quoted above, is from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. It continues by detailing Nault’s participation in the Métis community, although he himself was of French-Canadian descent. Key in Métis activism since his late teens, Nault participated as a leader in the Métis Resistance of 1869-1870, and actually commanded the firing squad that executed Thomas Scott. Of course, this was done under the guidance of his first cousin, Louis Riel. For one year, Nault was imprisoned on account of Scott’s murder, but was eventually acquitted.

Perhaps there were some visual clues to André’s significance in L. B. Foote’s photograph. Across the background of the photograph, we see horizontal lines dominate the page...except for behind Mr. Nault. There, we see vertical lines positioned across the background façade, against the grain, if you will. Furthermore, the angle from which Foote took the photograph seems to accentuate the tools to the left of the photograph. Lanterns, materials, an old shovel and metal machinery seat compose this part of the photograph. It is interesting that both Foote and/or his customers chose not to exclude this area from the photograph. To me it suggests an industrious character, proud of hard work, perseverance, and overcoming hardship. Is this symbolism possibly representative of André Nault’s accomplishments in the Métis community, farm life on River Lot 12 or his relationship with his wife?

With the help of Google Translate (everything was in French,) I discovered some information about André Nault’s wife, Anastasie. Daughter of an Acadian fur trader, Joseph Landry, she was one of twelve children; her mother was Geneviève Lalonde. It is interesting to note that Anastasie along with five of her siblings married into the same two families, the Nault and Bruneau families (both prominent Métis and French-Canadian families).

Back to a question posed earlier. How many years were Mr. and Mrs. Nault celebrating? Sixty years, as it turns out. André Nault and Anastasie Landry were married January 11, 1850. (Though the celebration in the photograph took place nine months after their actual 60th anniversary....)

Knowing how long they’d been married doesn’t contribute much to our understanding of these two people now. But these pieces of information are a starting point for analysis. We now know that these two people were part of the crucial activism that led to the founding of the province of Manitoba.

What was life like during that time for them? In this photograph, André Nault’s facial expression is steadfast, while Anastasie Nault’s is pensive. Which might suggest something of their personalities and relationship, shaped by sixty years of marriage, fourteen children and one rebellion.

I believe that Foote recognized the character of his customers. His interpretation and portrayal of their personalities and relationship not only provides us with information about the subjects, but it exposes Foote himself. A photographer captures intangibles but his perception of these qualities is largely subjective. Accentuating certain aspects of a frame is not only artistic, it’s his job.

Once his lens met his eye, Foote opened a gateway to Winnipeg’s local history…as he saw it.

- Caitlyn Carson

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Caitlyn Carson is pursuing a Bachelor of Education at the University of Manitoba, with a major in history. She looks forward to sharing Winnipeg's heritage (including Foote's photography!) with her students.