Canada in Kodachrome: Imaging Pleasure and Leisure
In the 1950s and 1960s, Canada experienced rapid modernization largely due to postwar reconstruction. The government, eager to increase tourism, promoted the country’s natural beauty to Canadians and international audiences. The National Film Board of Canada, Still Photography Division supported postwar optimism by amassing a vast archive of images, which it distributed nationally and internationally in popular magazines and government publications. As propaganda, the photographs focused on a limited demographic, and presented the country as a vision of affluence and harmony.
Many of these images were taken by Chris Lund, who worked for the division from 1942 to 1982. A self-taught photographer, Lund was a member of the Professional Photographers of Canada, and winner of its highest awards. His practice of using a medium-format camera for assignments meant forgoing spontaneity in favour of staging shots. He strove for excellence in composition and negative quality. “A good photograph,” he stated, “is an accumulation of experience, attention to detail, and a careful, workman-like coverage of the situation’s best profile.” Lund crisscrossed the country on photo shoots, supplying various government departments with images of a bountiful and beautiful land, using Kodachrome film for many of his photographs.
Even today, Lund’s images maintain their Kodachrome glow, imparting a sense of nostalgia along with the promise of pleasure and leisure. This installation of enlarged images is derived from a selection of Lund’s photographs that are inhabited by camera-wielding tourists in the midst of their desire to create their own images. They hold particular resonance inside Toronto’s subway system, which was initially constructed as part of the city’s postwar efforts — its first line was opened in 1954, and St. Patrick’s station was completed in 1963. The highly constructed, iconic character of Lund’s photographs continue to hold sway in an age of digital photography, where “nostalgia” filters are now used in an attempt to reproduce this particular aesthetic quality. The self-reflexivity of these scenes also speaks to the millions of present-day smartphone users who compose and capture their own performances for the camera.
Presented in partnership with the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada and Library and Archives Canada
Designed by Ellen Treciokas
Supported by PATTISON Outdoor Advertising