The Photographic Historical Society of Canada

After Notman: Rephotographing Montreal
Andrzej Maciejewski
Program date: March 17, 2010

Andrzej Maciejewski has worked as an artist and commercial photographer for more than 20 years with exhibitions in Canada and his native Poland. He has published books of his photography: “After Notman”, and “Toronto Parks” and his work has appeared in numerous magazines and can be found in collections of the Metro Toronto Parks Department, the McCord Museum, the Virtual Museum of Canada and Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, as well as in private collections. He lives in Yarker, a little village in Ontario near Kingston with his family. In Yarker, he runs his photographic studio, “Klotzek Studio” and the “Out in the Sticks Cultural Centre” which has an art gallery. He intends to do another rephotography project, called The Link - about the City of Kingston, the Rideau Canal and Ottawa.

Tonight’s program, comparing photographs taken from identical spots over a century apart (and ideally at the same time of day and season), is called rephotography. This process was introduced by Mark Klett in the 1977  Rephotographic Survey project. It was based on some 120 sites of government survey photographs from the American West taken in the 1870s. Klett and his team rephotographed the same locations a century later from the same precise location. The old and new photographs were published in a book titled “Second View, The Rephotographic Survey Project”. Along with the photographs, Klett wrote an article on the methodology he used and the problems he encountered. 

For his first project, Andrzej chose the city of Montreal using the well documented 19th century pool of Notman photographs. It took him a long time and much research to select suitable photographs, locate the exact spot to set up his tripod, and determine the proper season, time of day, and quality of light. Using calculations to compare each Notman photograph with a Polaroid test shot, he was able to determine almost to the inch the correct camera position. He notes that for an artist, the down side of a rephotography project is that he has little say in the image. He must follow the decisions of the original  photographer (position, view, exposure) whether he agrees with them or not. He cannot add his own views.

The choice of Montreal and Notman was well founded. Notman arrived in Montreal in the mid 1800s and quickly became very successful. While best known for his portraits, he also did landscapes and city views. Fortunately McGill’s McCord Museum houses about 500,000 of the Notman Studio’s photographs - mostly with the glass plate negatives. The photographs are of a consistent good quality and well documented. However; one cannot tell if a photograph was taken by Notman or another photographer in his studio. Andrzej noted It would be almost impossible to do a similar project in Toronto as 19th century photographs of the city where taken by  a great many photographers and studios using a variety of different cameras, lenses, settings, etc. 

Tonight’s presentation was based on Andrzej’s 2003 book, “After Notman” (now out of print) His “After Notman” project began in 1998/9 and took about three years to complete. A Canada Council grant helped open doors for him at places like McGill’s McCord Museum. At the  McCord, Andrzej worked closely with Nora Hague, well known for her considerable knowledge of Notman’s work. 

Andrzej’s project predated the powerful computers of today and involved many long hours or research and darkroom work. Only a few of the many Notman prints he selected were suitable for rephotography - some views were blocked by new construction or old buildings were torn down - both those photographed and those serving as a platform for Notman’s camera. Andrzej was allowed access to almost every building and roof for his project in Montreal’s characteristic delightfully casual approach. Once a photograph was deemed suitable for rephotographing, Andrzej took a 4x5 polaroid shot with his Sinar camera. A series of reference points were marked on the original print and the polaroid. If the ratios matched, he took a second version on film at the correct time of day. If not, he recalculated the position and took another test polaroid and repeated the analysis. The negative was projected on the old photograph and carefully scaled and cropped so at least three reference landmarks - like chimneys, roof peaks, and towers lined up, then the negative was printed.

Readers of the book must compare the old and new photographs by eye to see the changes. For tonight’s presentation, Andrzej used the magic of the computer to show an animated gif which slowly faded back and forth between the two images.

For each pair of images he identified the location and any difficulties he had rephotographing it. For example, the old Montreal Stock Exchange is now the Centaur Theatre and It took many visits to find out that the place where Notman's photograph was taken, is now a movie theatre (a wall of windows in the old Exchange was bricked in on the inside leaving the old stock exchange facade outside).

Andrzej credited Nora Hague for her help pinpointing many of the locations since Notman did not include such details in his notes. Nor did his records show more than the year for most of the photographs (some showed snow or trees, hinting at the season). For almost all the rephotographs, Andrzej used shadows from objects in each original photograph to judge the time of day and time of year when it was taken.

The photographs Andrzej took along with the matching Notman photographs are available for viewing on the McCord website in a virtual museum section called “Urban Life through Two Lenses”. The photographs are augmented by sound tracks, historical notes, and secondary photographs by Notman. And this summer  an exhibit of 25 prints will be displayed along the main road entering the McGill University  grounds through the Roddick Gate off Sherbrooke Street.

You can view many of the images on Andrzej’s Klotzek Studio site ( Click the “Works” menu item and choose “After Notman” to see 24 of the images. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger view. Hover over each thumbnail or larger view to see the Notman version of a century earlier. For me, the photographs brought back fond memories of the almost twenty years I spent in Montreal during the late fifties through the early seventies. It is a charming city. 

Redpath Museum at McGill by Maciejewsky
Redpath Museum
St Catherine looking
east at Stanley
Toronto Parks
Toronto Parks

Andrzej's newest book is "Toronto Parks" with 49 sepia toned photographs of the city parks. The text by Sue Lebrecht describes the history and atmosphere of the selected 27 parks while Teresa Mrozicka provides some carefully drawn maps with points of interest identified. Copies are available directly from Andrzej.

The thumbnail photos show recent photographs by Andrzej, mouse over will change the thumbnail to the old photographs by Notman Studios. Click the thumbnail to see a larger view of the Notman Studio photograph. Click the caption to see a larger view of the Andrzej Maciejewski photograph.

This page was designed in Dreamweaver CS4 on an iMac running OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Unless otherwise noted, images on this page were recorded off the screen with a Sony F828 digital still camera and subsequently adjusted in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom V2.6 and Photoshop CS4. Presentation images are ©2010 by Andrzej Maciejewski and may not be used without his permission. The Notman Studio photographs are courtesy of the McCord. Please contact the McCord if you would like copies or more information about Notman Studios. Contents and all other images are ©2010 by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada and may be used freely provided the source is clearly indicated. Copies of photographs displayed during this presentation may not be used without the copyright holder's permission. Contact PHSC at if you would like more information on the items discussed on this page.

Bob Carter

Page ©2010 by The Photographic Historical Society of Canada - Webmaster: Bob Carter