Wednesday, October 24, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #13: Esyllt at the Library

Erica Ball, Reader Services Librarian at the Millennium Library, introduces Esyllt W. Jones.

Esyllt W. Jones, author of Imagining Winnipeg, lectures on Foote's photography.
Esyllt W. Jones, author of Imagining Winnipeg, lectures on Foote's photography.

Esyllt W. Jones, author of Imagining Winnipeg, lectures on Foote's photography.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Precarious Foote-ings

"It was really a pleasure to attend the Imagining Winnipeg launch a few weeks ago at McNally's!

One of my surprise takeaways from the book launch was a new appreciation for the variety of perspectives from which Foote's body of work can be viewed, analysed and interpreted – from such overarching quandaries as what Esyllt Jones dubs the "mystery of his intent," to personal connections to memories and histories, through to John Paskievich's unveiling of Foote's evolution to the "fortuitous and dynamic arrangement of triangles" (in the photo of the young Queen Elizabeth).

As a collector of historic images, let me add to this mix – with yet another line of inquiry. Beyond the images themselves, I am often intrigued by attempting to imagine where, in taking a particular photo, the photographer might have positioned themselves. I don't think it readily occurs to many of us, but early photographers were often quite the aerialists. From the photos in Imagining Winnipeg, here are a few examples:

Page 1 – Looking out over a skating rink on the Red River.
Where was Foote when he took this picture? How was he able to take this photo from such a high elevation? My guess is he was atop the large wooden toboggan slide that was constructed every year next to this ice rink. In the image, can you see those smoke stacks in the distance? I have another photo postcard image, by an earlier photographer, that I believe was actually taken from atop one of those chimneys.

Page 2 – Overview of the construction of the new Legislative Buildings.
This picture was most likely taken from the top of the bell tower of the old Broadway Methodist Church (since burned and dismantled) on the South East corner of Broadway & Kennedy.

Page 58 – Peace Day celebration at Portage & Main. This one was likely taken from a second storey window of the building that stood on the SW corner of Portage & Main (current site of the Trizec Building).

Page 70 – Veterans’ march at City Hall.
This one is particularly intriguing. The shot is taken looking up the portion of Market Street that used to exist on the West side of Main Street – land now occupied by the current City Hall. Foote took this shot from the East side of Main. The side of the building that shows on the right of the photo was the south wall of a building that once stood at the North East corner of Main & Market. It was four stories high and, from images I’ve seen of it, there were no balconies or fire escapes evident on that building's south side. My best guess is that Foote took this west-looking shot from a high (4th storey?) south-facing window.

Well, by now you get the picture (no pun intended). I'm just pointing out that L.B. Foote, like other photographers of his day, didn't always keep both feet firmly planted on the ground."

- Rob McInnes, Postcard Accumulator and Purveyor

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Another beautiful little postcard from Rob McInnes! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FF event #2

Photos courtesy Trevor Hagan.

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Winnipeg Free Press director of photography and multimedia Mike Aporius and photographer Mike Deal, speaking at the Favourite Foote event on October 10.

After urging everyone to take photographs, Mike Aporius stepped back and took a photo of the audience.

FF event #1

Wednesday night was the Favourite Footes event at the Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe.

Photos courtesy Mike Deal
Focusing on photographers and filmmakers, the event featured Erna Buffie, Colin Corneau, Bob Lower, Ian McCausland, and John Paskievich.

The nice thing about the WFP News Cafe was that it had three large TV screens mounted throughout the cafe.

We were able to show the slideshow of images from the book on the screens, which was lovely...and also confusing.

I hosted, and in those intervals when I wasn't on stage, I watched both the audience and the presenters. And I would often catch members of the audience staring intently across the room instead of watching the stage. And I would have to remind myself that they were looking at one of the TV screens, not necessarily the one on stage.

It was very interesting to hear the blog posts out loud, to hear the reverence that these image-makers had for Foote.

Another interesting aspect to the evening was how respectful the photographers were towards John Paskievich. They brought their copies of The North End to be signed - or bought copies at the event - and then posted pictures of his signature to Facebook and Twitter.

Interestingly, of the six images discussed at the event, only two were used in the book.

The first and best explanation is that there were roughly 2,500 photos in the Foote Collection at the Manitoba Archives and the book only had room for 150, so photos had to more than earn their keep to be included.

The second reason was that two of the photos, both of royal visits, ultimately couldn't be verified as being shot by Foote.

The final reason is that one of the photos was from the Manitoba Archives collection of coroner's photographs owned by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. As we've noted elsewhere on this blog, Foote worked photographing crime scenes, but A) UMP would have needed to get special permission to use these photos, unlike the ones in the Foote Collection and B) they depict dead bodies.

These are not cartoonish scenes, sterilized for the viewer. They are photographs of dead people, people that you or I might be related to. Some of them are bloody, but most of them are just sad...

All that said, it was lovely to bring together one of Foote's communities for an evening to celebrate this legacy. (One of his communities, you say? What are the others? Well, historians, for one. Architects, possibly. Writers. Anyone interested in vintage photographs.)

Thanks to everyone that consented to speak at the event. Thanks to the Winnipeg Free Press for sending Director of photography and multimedia Mike Aporius as well as Photographer Mike Deal to tell the audience about the Foote images in their archive.

Finally, thanks to everyone who came out and shared the evening with us!

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Monday, October 8, 2012

Footepaths, part 2: Take me home, Mr Foote

To archivists, the lost Foote photos present a paradox. The L.B. Foote fonds – fonds being the term archivists use to denote a collection of archival documents – is held by the Archives of Manitoba. The Foote fonds was acquired from L.B. Foote’s heirs after the death of the man himself. These records were acquired because of the importance of L.B. Foote in the history of the province. But, as I suggested in an earlier post, it is what is missing from the fonds – the lost Foote photos – that demonstrate the importance of the fonds.

In preserving records, archivists are careful to note down their provenance. It is the provenance, or origin, of a record that connects it to a larger group of records. Archivists preserve provenance through archival description, the text that describes the records held by the archives. Traditional archival provenance, however, preserves only one view of provenance: that of the material creator of the records. The provenance of the Foote fonds, for example, might state that the records came to the Archives of Manitoba from Foote's studio via his heirs.

But should Foote be considered the sole creator of these photos? It is true that his eye framed the photographs and his shop produced the prints, that it is his name in his writing that appears in the corners of the photos. But it was the city of Winnipeg that gave Foote the architectural and social subjects for his photos. Foote's photographs of landmark buildings and era-defining historical events, like his photos of the famous, the not-so-famous and candid photos of everyday life, were taken as opportunity afforded. It took the entire city of Winnipeg to create the Foote photographs. In this sense, we are all heirs of Foote, and we are all bequeathing our Foote photographs to the archives.

My friend Tom Nesmith, who also teaches archival studies at the University of Manitoba, pioneered this notion and calls it societal provenance. Archives do not describe the societal provenance of their records. To find that, you must go to Flickr.

The Foote photos found on Flickr have not been posted by archivists, but by Winnipeg citizens concerned with the history of their city. Most of the Foote photos on Flickr are scans of photos held by the Archives of Manitoba. Once posted, some acquire layers of comments and description, as people debate exact locations and compare the city that was with the city that is.

The photo selected for this blogpost is a simple photo of Foote's residence. But follow the link to the Flickr page and read the comments, detailing a conversation spread over eight months that identifies the location and a later, more famous neighbour (Marshall McLuhan!), while disparaging the subsequent development of the site ("the house is gone, now a wading pool next to the school. blah. sucks.").

What is the provenance of this photo? By one light its provenance is the Foote fonds, held by the Archives of Manitoba. But seen “In_The_Right_Light” (which just happens to be the Flickr commenter’s tag) the provenance of the photo is the city itself, the city that provided the material context in which this house, built in this style with these materials, was built on that particular piece of land. And then torn down. And then developed into a park with a wading pool.

It took L.B. Foote's eye to frame this photo, his shop to print it. It took the Archives of Manitoba to preserve this photo for future generations. It took an industrious Flickr user to post it onto the social network. It took other Flickr users to recognize the location and research the history of the site. It took Flickr to provide the virtual space in which all of these forces could come together to express the photo's societal provenance.

- Greg Bak

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Greg Bak is assistant professor of History at University of Manitoba, teaching in the Master’s Program in Archival Studies. Previous to July, 2011 he worked as a digital archivist and manager at Library and Archives Canada. His research interests include Aboriginal archives, digital recordkeeping, digital culture and the use of digital archives as tools for social justice.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #12: Launch pictures!

The crowd at the McNally Robinson launch of Imagining Winnipeg, September 26.

UMP Director David Carr introduces Esyllt W. Jones.
Author Esyllt W. Jones.
The crowd at the McNally Robinson launch of Imagining Winnipeg, September 26.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Found Foote #14: Winnipeg Press Club

As I've noted elsewhere on this blog, during the process of putting together this book, we were contacted by many individuals and organizations, all eager to share images/resources.

Of course, during the hubbub, one or two of these communiques were, ahem, missed.

Like this obit marking Foote's death in 1957, sent back in January by Wendy Hart, VP – Admin & Communications for the Winnipeg Press Club.

Here's what Wendy had to say:

"Attached is a short Lewis Foote obit that appeared in the Winnipeg Press Club’s annual Beer and Skits program from 1958 (April 26/58). It appears to be a more or less a condensed version of the obit from the Tribune (which was probably written by a press club member), but perhaps it is useful to have one from a different source.

As mentioned in the piece, Foote was a charter member of the Winnipeg Press Club.

The WPC was established in 1887, while Foote was still living down east. 'Charter member' in this case is in reference to the year 1922, when a group of approximately 25 newspapermen (including Foote) signed on as charter members and for the first time drafted a formal constitution for the Winnipeg Press Club.

His fellow members in 1922 included such colourful figures as John W. Dafoe, George Ham, Hay Stead, A. V. Thomas, Jack Sifton (son of Sir Clifford), A. E. Coo, Frank 'Never Break' Turner and Nate Zimmerman."

Our thanks/apologies (cough) to the Wendy and the Winnipeg Press Club!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Favourite Footes at the WFP News Café

Please join UMP at an event focused on Winnipeg’s photographers and filmmakers!

When: Wednesday, October 10, 7:00 pm
Where: Winnipeg Free Press News Café (237 McDermot Avenue)
Cost: FREE

Favourite Footes features Erna Buffie, Colin Corneau, Bob Lower, Ian McCausland, and John Paskievich talking about their favourite Foote photos, accompanied by a slideshow of images from Imagining Winnipeg: History Through the Photographs of L.B. Foote.

The Winnipeg Free Press is also sending photo editor Mike Aporius and photographer Mike Deal to share photos from the WFP’s archives.

Light refreshments will be served.

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About Imagining Winnipeg
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 turmoil 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.

About L.B. Foote
Born in Newfoundland, Lewis Benjamin Foote arrived in Winnipeg in 1902, where he bought a house on Gertrude Avenue and began a career as a professional photographer. For more than 50 years, Foote’s photographs chronicled the development of the city. He was an active photographer until 1947 and died ten years later.