In 1965, Ralph Greenhill's Early Photography in Canada was published, and since then scholarly interest in the topic has widened to include many people and institutions and a number of books and articles have been published. However there are still many areas which remain to be explored and one of these is that of the development of photography in the Maritimes. More specifically, an investigation could be made of the history of early photography in Halifax, Nova Scotia in order to provide a starting-point for a wider study into this region's development.
Photography's role in present-day life is pervasive, and most people take it for granted. Yet less than one hundred and fifty years ago photography had not even been invented. Only in 1839 was the announcement made that a mechanical process had been invented to capture images permanently on paper or metal surfaces by means of the action of the sun. In the Halifax Colonial Pearl, a literary and scientific magazine published by John S. Thompson, news of the new invention appeared in the May 10, 1839, issue. From this article, entitled "The New Art of Sun-Painting" (which had first appeared in Canada in the April 15, Quebec Gazette), Haligonians learned of the simultaneous development of two processes: Jacques-Louis Mandé Daguerre's process of capturing images on metal, dubbed "daguerreotyping," which had been announced in Paris on January 7th, but whose methods were not yet revealed; and William Henry Fox Talbot's process of photography on paper, developed independently and announced before the Royal Society in London on February 1st. Further news of the revolutionary inventions appeared in the May 31 issue of the Pearl, with the reprinting of a story from a London paper describing the preparation of Talbot's photogenic paper and its application for botanical purposes. One week later the following was published …
The new buildings of Trinity College, Toronto, begun in 1923, were the product of an approach to architecture usually termed "associationism." It was both a motivating force behind, and a justification for, the English Gothic Revival of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Associationism, in essence, recognizes the importance of preconceived or ingrained notions about the appearance of a particular type of building. It occurs to a certain extent, of course, in any historicist architecture, but it is in the Gothic Revival that it achieved its greatest importance as a generator of form. In the context of the nineteenth century, associationism involved a composite mental image of existing buildings in the case of both architect and client; the latter case is of particular relevance to Trinity College.
The sensuously painted faithful depiction of natural objects has traditionally been held in high regard by western society. In recent years many art historians have shown a marked renewal of interest in its nineteenth-century manifestations, that have come to be popularly labelled "academic." That century's art as a whole is due for a reappraisal and academic art may yet be accorded equal validity with the work of those more experimental painters we now value so highly.
The ideals of drawing and finish that governed academic painting were those to which the London, Ontario painter, Paul Peel (1860–1892) whole-heartedly subscribed. Behind his work lay a profound knowledge of anatomy, acute powers of observation, and patiently developed skills acquired through serious study under Thomas Eakins in Philadelphia, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Benjamin Constant in Paris. Nevertheless, Peel was not bound to a rigidly limited style and technique, the bane of more than one adacemic painter. Continuous development throughout his brief career can be observed: a distinct transition from the meticulous, lucid style of The Spinner 1881, to a looser, atmospheric handling, as in the 1892 Self-Portrait After the Bath is closest in treatment to this latter picture, exhibiting generally moderate contrasts and soft-edged forms.
In 1912 when John Vanderpant immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands, photography was going through a period of redefinition with respect to its eligibility as an art form. In New York Alfred Steiglitz had already succeeded in gaining strong credibility for the medium as a mode of visual expression valid on theoretical, philosophical and aesthetic levels. This seemingly impossible feat had been accomplished not by Steiglitz' heavy handed propagandising for the medium but by his unequivocal positioning of it within the mainstream of early twentieth-century American art.
Although there was no-one quite like Steiglitz in Canada and nothing remotely resembling the New York photographic scene, an awareness of changing attitudes toward the photographic image certainly did exist. The Toronto Camera Club was sufficiently well aware of the thrust of this new direction to have included several works by Steiglitz in the 1897 Annual Exhibition. A successful showing for Steiglitz, indeed he carried off six awards. He received Bronzes for enlargements and marine; Silvers for architecture, interiors and genre; Gold for "best general."