The National Film Board is known of course for its moving image archives; documentaries, film, animation, but the institute has an extensive archive of photography. The Robert McLaughlin Gallery is currently presenting The Other NFB: The National Film Board of Canada’s Still Photography Division 1941-1971. The Still Photography department of the NFB was tasked with producing an “official” view of Canada. The resulting collection therefore is curated by bureaucrats and delivers not so much images of Canada but an image. This is the Canada as a creation, perhaps even as an art.
Its an interesting construct worth exploring, which the RMG will on Mar 19 2016 at an all day symposium with Carleton University Art professor Carol Payne, Deana Sumanac-Johnson, CBC arts reporter and photojournalist/author Ted Grant aka The Father of Canadian photojournalism, who has over 280,000 images in the National Archives of Canada. RMG curator Sonya Jones and Vanessa Fleet, curator at York University will also be presenting. The day begins at 10 a.m. with a tour and discussion by Payne.
The fact that such an archive exists bears testament to the lengths governments will go to to define the nation, to frame the narrative and to ensure that their message, is the one that gathers traction with the populace. Canada has always seen itself as something of a mosaic. It is not a melting pot like America. Each element of Canadian society has its own space and place in Canada. All these spaces can be imaged and the images curated into a whole. But it is only as we zoom out that we see the big picture, zoom out further from these spaces into space itself and we see Canada has much more multi-dimesional a concept than any bureaucrat could imagine. But it is noteworthy that there was a time when bureaucrats saw the populace as a means to their own end, as a resource, as somewhat less than human even. Its a past that bears further scrutiny.