Tuesday, 29 January 2013

William Notman take my hand.....

The Bounce, Montreal Snowshoe Club.  William Notman. 1886.
Thanks to the Mc Cord Museum Collection. http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/en/
You know those images that you can't shake.  They linger in your mind, long after the experience has passed.  It's no coincidence that Montreal photographer, William Notman was born in essentially the year of the birth of photography in France, in 1826.  Notman left Scotland in the 1850's and established the largest photography studio in North America.
And he basically created his own version of photoshop, by creating composite photos.  He would photograph people individually, and then cut and paste their images onto pastoral backdrops...it was this technique that allowed him to unite groups of 450 people or more, and this invention of creation proved to be very much in demand.  When families were separated, could not travel vast differences easily, or without incredible expense, Notman had created a way that they could, at the very least be "photographed' together, with his technique.
In 1860, Notman was named photographer to the Queen....his elaborate backdrops and set design were works of art in themselves: sheepskin standing in for snow, coarse salt as snowflakes.  He created other worlds, indoors in the studio, for the comfort of his sitters.
His work is tremendously inspiring to me, and informs much of my romanticised version of Canada.  I'm floored by how strong so many of his images are, and I think they would've been a bit of an idealised, romanticised version of how he viewed Canada at the time.  Immigrating to Canada, with the support of his wealthy Scottish family, Canada must've seemed a very vast, wild and romantic place.  When Notman arrived, 11 years before confederation, in 1856...I wonder if he dared to dream that he would document the building of the Canadian Pacific railway that would unite a whole country.....that would unite us all.






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