Friday, May 18, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Shawna Dempsey

I think I remember the night the Leland Hotel burned down.

Or at least the morning after.

But all of the fires, all of the buildings lost, run together in my mind.

In Winnipeg things vanish so quickly.

A building is demolished and then it is hard to remember exactly what it looked like.

Its edges, in memory, are blurry.

Still, we persist in naming locations by their ghost-names. "Where shall we meet?" Perhaps at William and King, which will always be "Where the Leland was" or Higgins and Main, "Where the Savoy was" or across from the CPR, "Where the Royal Alex was."

It is nice to be reminded these places actually existed through photos such as this one, rather than being mere figments of a collective dream.

- Shawna Dempsey

* * *
Shawna Dempsey is a performance artist, curator, and Co-Director of Mentoring Artists for Women's Art.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Adele Perry

I find Foote’s photographs both very familiar and very strange. They are familiar in large part because of how frequently they have been used in the histories of Canada that I teach and study. The one of the young women pumping gas during the Winnipeg General Strike, trying not to laugh. The one of the poor people sitting on a bed in front of drying laundry in their north-end home. These are just some of the Foote images that historians have chosen to illustrate their books and lectures. For good reason: Foote’s images are vivid and compelling.

What is unfamiliar to me about Foote’s photographs is the city that he represents. I have lived in Winnipeg for over a decade, and in many ways, the Winnipeg I live in and the one photographed by Foote are often so different as to be regularly unrecognizable. Foote’s Winnipeg is startlingly white. Its feminists appear in black-face. Indigenous people appear rarely and in highly ritualized and stereotypical sorts of ways. There are lots of British flags and a fair number of kilts. The city in Foote’s photographs is very formal. Even when people are overturning streetcars in protest they are well-turned out, the men in ties, the women in handsome interwar suits, and everyone in hats. Sometimes I recognize the buildings or the street-corners in Foote’s photos, but my moments of unfamiliarity – where is that? – are more frequent. Winnipeg has been torn down, fallen apart, weathered by the ice and the grit and the floods, and been both rebuilt and not in ways that mean that the city in the 1920s cannot always be easily connected with the city of the present.

But amongst all this unfamiliarity there is this: the metal fare-box on the streetcar photographed by Foote in 1929. The streetcar itself is gleaming and prosperous. It signals a time and a place where public transit was valued and resourced. Winnipeg’s current public transit system looks very different and means something very different. Decades of decisions have resourced the private car and the kinds of roads and buildings that go with them. Everything in Winnipeg Begins in a Car, quipped one writer, and he was not far off. Efforts to imagine a Winnipeg again organized around public transit, bicycles and walking are happening but this is not an easy task.

But if Foote’s 1929 streetcar is unfamiliar, its fare-box is not. Winnipeg buses still use those exact fare boxes, their metal now softly worn. These fare-boxes are slated to be replaced in 2013, but for at least another year, they can stand as a reminder of the connection between Foote’s Winnipeg and mine. Winnipeg is full of things like this, odd curious objects and institutions that have survived when so much has changed. Much of what is depicted in Foote’s photographs I would be happy to consign to the past: its homogeneity, its embrace of imperial symbols and politics, its easy racism. But some of Foote’s city I would like to reinvent. I have to admit that I would be thrilled if those handsome women’s suits came back into fashion. I would keep the radicalism and protest that Foote so importantly documented. I would be happy to see a return of those streetcars, or at least the commitment to a life not dependent on the private car that they represent. Foote’s photographs prompt us to think about the connections between the past and the present, and where both might figure in the future we want to see.

 - Adele Perry

* * *
Adele Perry teaches at the University of Manitoba, where she is Canada Research Chair in Western Canadian Social History (Tier II). She contributed an essay to UMP's Finding a Way to the Heart: Feminist Writings on Aboriginal and Women's History in Canada, released this spring, and will co-edit Place and Replace: Essays on Western Canada, due out in February 2013.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gone Swimming!

On the end of March, Dale Barbour wrote a post about one of Foote’s many photos of the beaches and resorts north of Winnipeg on Lake Manitoba. Dale talked about a shot of Winnipeg Beach from 1914.

It was a crowded scene, with people in old-fashioned bathing suits filling the beach and spilling out into the water. Despite what must have been a very hot day, looking out at us from a corner of the photo is an older man dressed in a dark, three-piece suit. Dale speculated that this might be L.B. Foote himself, sneaking into the frame.

That photo is from 1912 when Foote was under forty – certainly not a sedate, elderly gent who stands back from all the action.

To prove my theory, I thought I’d share a photo of what Foote actually looked like in a bathing suit. Taken circa 1915, a few years after Dale's beach photo, it features Foote at one of Winnipeg’s newer public baths, swimming and splashing around with his wife and two sons and some other family or friends. He is clearly a vigorous and lively fellow – not to mention someone who seems to enjoy the water.

Foote was a tall, lanky fellow with a crooked grin. In the bulky suits that men of all classes seemed to wear in those days, he could have been mistaken for someone who spent his life behind a desk. But he must have actually been an incredibly active and physical man. You can see it a bit in this swimming photo, but his energy and daring is implied throughout many of his photos well until the end of the1920s. Over and over again, he is finding some high perch to take his shots from. I imagine that often he would just clamor up ladder (probably rickety) that might be handy or balance himself on an angle off the nearest available roof. One of my favorites is the photo on the cover of Imagining Winnipeg, taken from the top of the very slanted roof of the Fort Gary Hotel. Foote is up there somehow with the workers on the hotel’s new copper roof, 14 stories off the ground, with his bulky camera. And then a few years later he somehow follows the surging crowds of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike from spot to spot, again finding a high vantage whenever he can to get a better look.

Despite the thousands of photos he left, we really know so little about Foote or who he was. But the physical energy and the youthful daring that went into so many of his photos – plus that mischievous but shy smile – give us a hint.

- David Carr

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Hey all, Cheryl Miki, UMP's Sales & Marketing Supervisor, attended the spring sales conference in Toronto this past week.

At this event, she meets with UMP's sales reps - the lovely folk at ampersand inc - and lets them know about next season's books, so they can pass along the information to bookstores.

Cheryl creates information kits about each book as well as UMP's Fall and Winter 2012 catalogue specifically for this event, but she also sometimes creates ARCs.

ARCs, for those of you not in the book business, are Advance Reading Copies.

If they're intended for reviewers, they'll be an exact replica of the finished book but with a slightly less fancy cover.

If they're intended for booksellers, as UMP's are, they include a sample chapter and/or the book's introduction with the cover as it appears in the catalogue.

Our Foote ARC had to include some photos, though of course they're nowhere near as beautiful in the ARC as they will be in the finished book.

It also includes Esyllt Jones' introduction to the book accompanied by some of the photos she discusses in her essay.

I wanted to share these pics a) because it's another step closer to holding the book in my hands and b) because ARCs are so...adorable.

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Friday, May 4, 2012

Found Foote Photos #9: terminology

So why did a bunch of gentlemen involved in the construction trade call themselves The Mechanic’s Club?

Joanna Effler has an answer for that too:

"It is speculated by the grandson-in-law (Barry Effler) of Vernon Ferris Bolton that in the particular time frame that The Mechanic’s Club would have come into existence, automobiles were still quite new and not quite so commonly seen as now.

In today’s world, when your car or vehicle is broken or in need of maintenance, you take it to your local mechanic for service. There were no mechanics as we know them now back then. But when a builder was to put a lien on a property they were working on, it was called a mechanic’s lien. The term mechanic was originally used when referring to the construction industry."

Found Foote #9: The Mechanic's Club

Winnipeg's Johanna Effler and her mother, M. Marie McGrath (nee Bolton), compiled this article about their relative, which includes several Foote photos, including this one, damaged in the 1950s flood.

Johanna was kind enough to share it with us:

"The Mechanic’s Club was a group of eight gentlemen who worked together in the construction industry. They jointly owned a cabin at the end of North Cross Lake, in Cross Lakes, Manitoba, which was situated on parkland leased from the Province of Manitoba.

The gentlemen in the accompanying picture are:

Alonzo Simpson, a builder;

Alec McLennan, an engineer and foreman who worked for Bolton Construction and a close Bolton family friend;

Mr. Clarke
, builder – electrician;

R. E. (Ed) Wright, President, Principle, and Owner of Wright Painting and Decorating, and the shortest member of The Mechanic’s Club;

Vernon Ferris Bolton
, Principle, President and Owner of Bolton Construction (also known as Grandpa);

Keith Hopwood, the youngest member of The Mechanic’s Club and the only one who actually did do repair work on cars and trucks, owned his own garage and dealership.

The gentlemen were some of the members who had chosen to go on the annual post-construction season, two-week hunting trip, which took place towards the end of November each year. The one room cabin, or more correctly, the one-room hunting lodge, was known at that time as the Mechanic’s Club.

The Mechanic’s Club cabin was located at the end of North Cross Lake in Manitoba.

To get to it spring through fall, you had to take the train to Caddy Lake and then take a small boat or canoe for the remaining approximately eight to ten mile long trip over two of the chain lakes. The boat trip took one through two train tunnels, the first a Canadian Pacific Rail tunnel at the north end of Caddy Lake leading into South Cross Lake, and the second a Canadian National Railways tunnel located at the north end of South Cross Lake, at a point where it narrows down to about river width, and leads into North Cross Lake. Both tunnels were blasted out of solid rock. In late summer and fall the tunnels had such reduced water flow, that Marie McGrath (nee Bolton) remembers having to get out of the boat, and in bare feet, in the small trickle of water that remained, help to push the boat over the rocks and through the tunnels. In spring the water can be so high, that you had to crouch down in your boat to avoid hitting the roof of the tunnel. In the wintertime, the hunters would take the train and then make the long cold journey, hiking to the cabin, through the snow and over the ice of Nason Lake. It may sound like getting to the cabin was a hardship and as if the conditions were much too harsh to ever be enjoyable, but Vernon Bolton absolutely loved the cabin and the companionship of the other members, and made the journey to it as often as he could.

Only Alonzo Simpson and Vernon Bolton brought their families up to the cabin for little vacations or respites in the spring, summer and/or fall. They were also the ones who took care of most of the furnishing of the cabin and the cabin as well, as they used it the most. When both families happened to be there at the same time, they would hang a blanket up between the four beds – separating then into roomettes of two and two, males on one side and females on the other, to allow for some privacy for the family members.

When the members of The Mechanic’s Club went to the cabin on their hunting trips, they always set times for which they would return to the cabin from their hunting forays. This was simply a matter of security for the members. When a member was overdue, those members already at the cabin, would go outside and fire their guns up into the air to let the missing member or members know where they and the cabin were. The missing member or members were then able to follow the sound of the guns back to the cabin. Conversely, if a member found himself lost or at least puzzled as to his location in relation to the cabin, he would simply fire his gun into the air, and wait for replying volley of gunfire from those already at or near the cabin. Again, he would then just follow the sound back to the cabin, his fellow hunters and friends. Despite the remote location, The Mechanic’s Club never lost a member."

* * *

If you're wondering what the Foote connection was, Johanna explains it like this:

"As I recall, my mother explained that Mr. Foote met my grandfather and his friends when my grandfather’s construction company won the contract to basically start the building of a large portion of Thompson, Manitoba. Foote was the photographer who took the pictures. They all became friends and on at least one occasion, possibly more, he accompanied them on their annual fall hunt."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Ken Gigliotti

Lewis Benjamin Foote’s photographs are a time capsule of early Winnipeg. They are quiet, strong photos, like silent movies.

These are pictures taken at a time of great change, they are reflections of the hopes and aspirations of a new century. His photographs are significant not because of what the photographer imposes on the subjects but rather the photographer seeing clearly the greatness in the everyday people, places, and events he was present to photograph.

L.B. Foote brings expert technical execution of the very difficult task of photography. There wasn't anything easy about being a photographer in years of the early 1900s. The cameras, the process, and archiving, everything was hard, but the times were also hard.

Foote brought simplicity, order and clarity. The medium was restrictive and bulky, but his pictures are full of interest. There is nothing haphazard, almost every picture is intentional, almost mathematical.

These were optimistic years of building, creating and expanding. He defined the times and place he live in. He created living, breathing representations of the greatness of his time.

Of course, pictures can set the scene, they can tell others where you have been, and what you have seen, they can map tragedy, record greatness, chronicle failure, they can record details of time, place, personality, and changes that might other wise be lost.

Pictures tell stories, reveal character, happiness, joy, ambivalence, sadness. They verify, and quantify, justice or injustice, they can tear down or build up.

A single picture can say a thousand words or next to none at all, it is the photographer’s choice. Pictures reveal passion, THEIRS and Yours.

Pictures look into soul, it is believed they steal spirit, they can expose evil or show the very best our culture has to offer.

Pictures are personal, they are about SOMETHING, they are about SOMEONE, they are about yourself. Pictures are the connection between your brain, your eye, your shutter, and your commitment to the world around you.

We are saying I NOTICED THIS! Lewis Benjamin Foote's pictures are a testament to his time.

His pictures last, they say something about a time that would be otherwise lost.

Pictures start with a subject, but they also have background and foreground. Clothing and hairstyles and automobiles that can be dated. In time the importance of the subject will diminish and the background and foreground will gain in importance.

- Ken Gigliotti

* * *
Ken Gigliotti started at the Winnipeg Free Press as a staff photographer in 1979. He has won numerous awards for his work, including Canadian Press Photographer of the Year (2001), the Western Canadian News Photographers Association News Picture of the Year Award (1997) and three Canadian Press Pictures of the Month. Ken started his career shooting pictures for his high school yearbook in Thunder Bay. He studied photography for two years at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Toronto and worked at the Chronicle Journal in Thunder Bay as a staff photographer before joining the Free Press. Ken has contributed to several book projects, including the Free Press’ A Red Sea Rising: The Flood of the Century and The Way We Live in Manitoba, The Winnipeg Jets: a Celebration of Hockey in Winnipeg and the A Day In the Life of Canada project in 1984. Ken has worked with Canadian Press photo teams at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, and covered six Grey Cups. He is married to Sherri and has two grown children, son Jade and daughter Joelle.