Sunday, December 5, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
While I was home for Thanksgiving back in October, I visited the 100 Years of Girl Guides exhibit at the Richmond Hill Heritage Centre. The exhibit was created by the dedicated women of the Richvale Trefoil Guild (think Girl Guides for adults), which included many of my former leaders. Having been a Brownie, Guide, Pathfinder and Ranger in the Richvale District many of the photographs in the exhibit were of me and my friends. Once at the exhibit with my mother and grandmother in tow, we were greeted by Joan Lund, my former Guide and Pathfinder Leader and Guider Extrodinaire!
The exhibit included uniforms, badge scarfs and other artifacts from past and present. Mostly, though, there were dozens and dozens of photographs on display. Bright colour photographs were interspersed with black and white snapshots from Joan's mother's days as a Guide. When reading of McAllister’s shock in viewing her family photographs at the Powell Street Festival a few weeks later I was reminded of this experience. There I was growing up on the walls of a museum. It was a bit surreal.
While my mother and grandmother tried to spot as many photos of my sister and I as they could, I reminisced with Joan. This photograph, taken early one morning at spring camp in Pathfinders, is one of my favorites. A group of us had decided sleeping in canvas covered platform tents wasn’t “roughing it” enough. We laid out some tarps and slept under the stars in just our sleeping bags. Just before dawn we woke up and took the chairs we had made ourselves the previous day and lugged them to the top of the hill near the campsite to watch the sunrise. As I recounted this memory to Joan, she shared a different version of the story with me, one where she awoke to find five of her campers missing, finally finding us as we are in the photograph. I reminded her that she had then brought us up some hot chocolate. We were soon joined by Andrea (second from the left), her sister Jacqueline and their mother Joan and we continued to share stories. Prompted by the images, the memories came flowing back. The exhibit acted as an album of sorts, providing, as Langford puts it, a “pictorial aide de memoire to recitation – to the telling of stories.”
Looking at these images, I am reminded of an improv game we played as Pathfinders called “Freeze Frame.” Two people would begin to act out a scene; one of the girls watching would then call out “Freeze!” The performers would then stop, their actions frozen. The girl who called out would replace one of the performers, duplicating her pose, and would then start a completely new scene from the same positions. One frozen image has the potential for multiple meanings. The same is true for this photograph. What would this photograph mean to a casual visitor to the Richmond Hill Heritage Centre? Not necessarily the scene I laid out above. Perhaps she could see that these are five girls, chairs lined up in a row, watching the sun come up. Not much more. They could be at a cottage, watching a sunset in the backyard. “Voices must be heard for memories to be preserved, for the album to fulfill its function,” says Langford. At 100 Years of Girl Guides I witnessed the orality of the photograph in action.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Not everything was documented. The photo did not capture the thuggish evil looking bee behind the calendar which was hidden from view most of the time. Now the hidden bee is lost forever.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
These photographs first appeared in the Department of Indian Affairs 1904 Annual Report. The denoted message remains the same over the last century: a juxtaposition of two photos. One with an Aboriginal boy in “authentic” traditional dress and another with the same boy in western clothing. The connotation of the images, however, has changed. What was once seen as a 'desirable outcome' is now understood as an act of violence.
Throughout my months of research I have become exasperated by the constant presence of this image. My response to the, in my opinion, overuse of the pictures resonates with Sontag. I belive that some of pictures power to evoke an emotional response has been lost by its ubiquitous presence. On the other hand, however, the proliferation of this image shows that this horrific past is being confronted by academics, governments, and individuals. These images of Thomas Moore have become iconic and serve as powerful reminder of the traumatic experience of residential schools. While the initial impact of these photos are lost for me, they have gained deeper meaning as a metaphor for horrific history they represents and the work that has been done to confront this traumatic past.