John Ough, 1967. Photo: National Gallery of Canada / Courtesy
An absurdly long and short story about Canada
National Gallery of Canada’s (NGC) latest virtual exhibition, Photo Stories Canada, has been decades along the way. A photo story is an artistic medium that combines photographs and text to tell a story. History, in this case, is the nation of Canada: its history, ideals, and identity throughout its very existence as a nation.
The new exhibition uses publications from the early 1950s to the 1970s from newspapers and magazines both in Canada and internationally. While the majority of these photo stories are in English, there are also a few photo stories that Francophones can enjoy. The virtual exhibit allows its online audience to explore at any pace, as visitors can choose which topic, year or place interests them. Presenting the exhibition in this way prevents it from becoming overwhelming as there are over 800 photo stories.
Visitors can browse the wide variety of topics through the photo stories and transport them from the industrial stories of Toronto and Vancouver, all the way to the remote environments of the Canadian Arctic.
In addition to informing its visitors about the nation’s historic sites and environments, the exhibition provides insight into the groundbreaking advances in science, technology and sports that took the world by storm. Photo Stories Canada provides an abundant resource for people of all ages to learn about the nation in an accessible and digestible way.
Along with this research, the virtual exhibition retains certain motives for maintaining its coherence while still providing a learning experience. Each of the displayed images is in grayscale. During the 1950s to 1970s, color printing was a costly process. Instead of coloring the photographs, the designers and photographers intended to keep the photographs in their grayscale state, not just to preserve their authenticity and connection to the historical development they represent. The exhibition quotes famous Canadian photographer Ted Grant for this reasoning: “If you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls, but if you photograph them in color, you photograph their clothes.”
With the new exhibition, the National Gallery offers a fresh, objective view of the nation of Canada. It creates an atmosphere of pride in our nation’s achievements without feeling too harsh, and offers our nation’s more contemporary history that can be easily ignored in the classroom. Not only is the artistry in the photo stories captivating to witness, but it also provides an intriguing, intriguing research tool.
If you want to explore the virtual exhibition, you can do so here.