Ryerson Image Centre unveils Canada’s past via fascinating photos from The New York Times

The Ryerson Image Centre.
The Ryerson Image Centre at night at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto.
Members of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team in the trenches during a WW II military training exercise circa 1939.
Members of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team in the trenches during a WW II military training exercise circa 1939.

This fall, the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) at Ryerson University will explore a century of Canada’s remarkable history through poignant and memorable photographs from The New York Times Photo Archives. The Centre is located at 33 Gould Street in downtown Toronto, admission is free and there’ll be free exhibition tours daily at 2:30 pm. Titled The Faraway Nearby, the exhibition examines how our country has been understood and discussed in relation to its closest geographical, political and cultural neighbour, the United States of America. To mark Canada 150, the exhibition will kick off with a party open to the public, on Wednesday, September 13, from 6 pm to 8 pm. The photographs will remain on view until December 10, 2017.

Trudeaumania in Toronto circa 1968.
“Trudeaumania” in Toronto circa 1968.

The Faraway Nearby showcases more than 200 images from the RIC’s newest collection, a cache of nearly 25,000 press photographs chronicling Canadian news. Acquired from The New York Times by real estate entrepreneur Chris Bratty in 2008, this extraordinary donation of Canadian images (named the Rudolph P. Bratty Family Collection) “represents a generous act of cultural repatriation.” Taking an expansive view of the many stories that have shaped the Canadian experience, the exhibition highlights images of major political events and conflicts, iconic landscapes across the nation, sports heroes, candid reporting on the lives of diverse communities, and portraits of notable Canadians. A photo book of the same name has been published in conjunction with the exhibition by Black Dog Publishing. The book will be available from all major retailers as well as the Black Dog Publishing website at www.blackdogonline.com. The Faraway Nearby is organized by Denise Birkhofer, RIC Collections Curator & Research Centre Manager, along with influential curator, author and educator Gerald McMaster, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture & Curatorial Practice at OCAD University.

Denise Birkhofer.

“The issues raised by these photographs of historical Canadian moments – such as political celebrity, war-time propaganda, and international diplomacy – remain extremely relevant today not just for Canada, but for all people beyond its borders,” said Birkhofer. “As I reflect on the many meanings of Canada’s 150th birthday, I’m continually reminded that we’re living in the age of truth and reconciliation,” adds McMaster. “I believe this means that we can, at last, honestly discuss and debate the history, merits, and future of this country, as well as recognize and embrace all the groups who have so often been cast into its social, cultural, and economic shadows.”

Co-presented will be The Notman Studio: 1858–1915, which surveys the diverse production of William Notman’s bustling network of photography studios. Through extraordinary portraiture, landscapes and genre scenes, The Notman Studio portrayed the young Dominion of Canada as energetic and sublimely beautiful. Also presented will be Zacharias Kunnuk: Dog Team. This new commission for the RIC’s Salah J. Bachir New Media Wall, features Inuk artist Zacharias Kunuk capturing a traditional way of being from a distinctly contemporary perspective.

The Faraway Nearby is generously supported by TD Bank Group and the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund (OCAF), and by media sponsor Toronto Star. All exhibitions will be accompanied by free public programming, including artist and curator walk-throughs, special talks and more. A full schedule of events is now available at www.ryerson.ca/ric/lectures/uplectures.



Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.