Originally written for and published by Centretown News
An upcoming exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada will showcase four decades of Canadian photography from coast to coast. It’s only fitting that it will be displayed in the heart of Canada’s capital.
Photography in Canada: 1960-2000, a celebration of this country’s diverse photographic history, opens on April 7. It will include more than 100 works by 71 different photographers.
“It was a chance to take advantage of a situation where I could show the work of Canadian photographers at the gallery,” said Andrea Kunard, curator of the exhibit.
It was born out of a series of exhibits that the gallery has done over the years, Kunard said. British and German photography were themes in the past, and now it’s Canada’s time to shine.
Ottawa is the perfect place for an exhibit like this, according to Olivia Johnston, a photography history instructor at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa.
“Ottawa is an important city in the history of photography,” Johnston said, “Malak and Yousuf Karsh famously spent much of their lives here.”
The Karsh brothers were successful photographers throughout the 20th century, and Johnston said the famous portrait photographer Yousuf had a tremendous impact on photographic practice the world over.
Among the photographers shown are Jin-me Yoon, who is currently a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and Edward Burtynsky.
Choosing who and what to display was a “painful process” for Kunard.
“I consider it a small exhibition,” she said. “There’s really not enough space to show as many as I would like.”
Those in the Ottawa photography scene are anticipating the opening of the exhibit despite Kunard’s hesitancy.
“I’m sure that the National Gallery’s exhibition, as it covers a really crucial time in photographic history, will be fascinating,” Johnston said.
Photographers, both amateur and professional, see the exhibit as an important way of celebrating the history of Canada.
“It fits into the context of the 150 years,” Luce Lebart, the director of the Canadian Photography Institute, said.
Kunard agrees, despite the anniversary not being the original intention of the exhibit.
“It suits the spirit of the year, and I think it hopefully people will enjoy it in that context,” Kunard said.
However, those familiar with Canada’s history hope to see Indigenous and minority voices represented in this celebration of Canadian photography.
“Especially given that the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary is for many Canadians a reminder of our shameful colonial past,” Johnston said.
Kunard did said that the exhibit is meant to host many different points of view.
“What I’ve tried to do in this show is demonstrate that there’s not a unified voice of photography, but that there’s many voices,” Kunard said, “There are so many small histories here in terms of the country.”
It’s unknown if those small histories will focus on Indigenous backgrounds, but Jin-Me Yoon’s work does focus on her experience as a South Korean-Canadian.
The exhibit opens April 7, and will be on display in the National Gallery until Sept. 17. The Gallery is at 380 Sussex Drive.