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Ryerson Image Centre’s new trove of press photos tells a story of Canada in the 20th century

Photos from New York Times contributors donated to university in time for Canada’s sesquicentennial.


A collection of 25,000 images of Canadian personalities, places and events, as seen through the lens of New York Times contributors throughout much of the 20th century, has found a new home at the Ryerson Image Centre.

Paul Roth, gallery director of the RIC, persuaded collector Chris Bratty to donate the images to the photojournalism centre at Ryerson University last year, in time for Canada’s sesquicentennial. “It’s a fascinating collection because you start to understand the different ways Canada has been covered [over the years],” says Mr. Roth.

Though he estimates it might be another year before the complete set of images becomes accessible to students and scholars, “We’re already receiving research requests,” Mr. Roth says.

Scroll through six photos from the collection. Story continues below.

1. Federal  Newsphotos  of  Canada,  Untitled  [Peace  protesters  at  Easter  Parade,  Toronto,  Ontario],  March  29,  1959,  gelatin  silver  print. Photo courtesy of the  Rudolph  P.  Bratty  Family  Collection,  Ryerson  Image Centre.

2. Unknown  photographer  for  the  Alexandra  Studio.  Distributed  by  the  Star  Newspaper  Service  and  Times  Wide  World,  Untitled [Members  of  the  Toronto  Maple  Leaf  hockey  team  in  the  trenches  during  a  military  training  session],  1939, gelatin  silver print. Photo courtesy of the  Rudolph  P.  Bratty  Family  Collection,  Ryerson  Image  Centre.

3. Unknown  photographer  for  Chesterfield  &  Maclaren,  Untitled [Members  of  snow-­shoeing  club initiating  a  new  member  by  means  of the  "Montreal  Bounce," Montreal, Quebec],  ca.  1924,  gelatin  silver  print. Photo courtesy of the Rudolph  P.  Bratty  Family  Collection,  Ryerson  Image  Centre.

4. Photographer  unknown,  Untitled  ["Trudeaumania",  Toronto, Ontario],1968,  gelatin  silver  print.  Photo courtesy of the  Rudolph  P.  Bratty  Family Collection,  Ryerson  Image  Centre.

5. Canadian  Pacific  Railway,  Untitled  [Swimming  pool  at  Banff  Springs  Hotel,  Alberta],  September  1928,  gelatin  silver  print. Photo courtesy of the Rudolph P.  Bratty  Family  Collection, Ryerson  Image  Centre.

6. Unknown  photographer  for The  Associated  Press,  Untitled [Princess  Elizabeth  and  the  Duke  of Edinburgh  receiving  a  gift  from  Chief Little  Dog  (Kainai Nation)  and  his  wife Antoinette  Heavy  Shield  (Siksika Nation)  before  the  Stampede,  Calgary, Alberta],  October  19, 1951. Photo courtesy of the Rudolph  P.  Bratty  Family  Collection, Ryerson  Image  Centre.

But members of the public can catch an early glimpse of the collection: portraits of Canadian personalities such as Margaret Atwood and David Suzuki are currently displayed on an RIC facade in downtown Toronto. And on September 13, Denise Birkhofer, RIC curator, and Gerald McMaster, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture and Curatorial Practice at OCAD University, will launch The Faraway Nearby, an exhibition highlighting 150 stories told through the collection.

The images reveal recurring themes in the relationship between Canada and the U.S. For instance, says Mr. Roth, “The whole question of immigration across the border… [is] not entirely new.” The collection, he notes, includes images of American draft dodgers making their way to Canada during the Vietnam War.

Also striking, Mr. Roth says, is how heavily the Times has covered the works and lives of prominent Canadians – often without much emphasizing their nationality. “That’s what I took away from it – just how much of what Canadians accomplish in the world is quiet, and not noted as specifically Canadian,” he says.

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