The Photographic Historical Society of Canada

Photographic Sleuthing: Archival Stories and Academic Tales
or "Travels with Fred" - Joan Schwartz
Program date: January 21, 2009

Dr Joan Schwartz
Dr Joan Schwartz

First meeting
An Epiphany

Christ's Hospital
Christ's Hospital

F&CO Library
Foreign & CW Oiffice

City Blocks, City Spaces
City Blocks...

Not paved over
Not Paved Over

digging for information
Data Mining

Dally Grave - plinth and markers
Grave and Markers

Fred Dally monument stone
Dally Monument

 

Dr. Joan Schwartz, Associate Professor in the Department of Art at Queen’s University, entertained us royally for our January meeting. Dr. Schwartz dedicated her talk to her late uncle (and PHSC member) Syd Sobel who introduced her to photography (Syd liked cameras and Joan likes images). She was guest editor of the international quarterly journal History of Photography for its Summer 1996 issue on Canadian Photography.

Joan’s talk, sub-titled “Travels with Fred,” encompassed her involvement with historical images from her first look at one of Fred Dally’s images in Victoria, BC to her discovery of his grave in England. Along the way she introduced us to the art of “sleuthing” photographic history, the virtue of techniques that open the door for serendipitous discoveries, and the many ways to look at and “read” photographs. I hope her students at Queen’s realize how fortunate they are to attend her lectures.

Her "epiphany" was triggered by "Cariboo Road" an albumen print that she saw at the Victoria BC archives one "dark and stormy" February afternoon in 1974 while searching for an MA thesis subject. Smitten by an album of Dally photographs, she wrote her MA thesis on early landscape photography in British Columbia, from which she published her first article in Archivaria 5 in the Winter of 1977-78. Pursuing her interest in Dally’s work, she found an early view of Fort Street, Victoria, where he had his studio, at the Toronto Reference library. Later, she found an uncropped print of the same street scene at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. The added area included the sign for Dally's studio. In 1870, Dally left Victoria for San Francisco, then travelled overland on the newly completed railway to Philadelphia, where he attended dental college before returning to his native England as a dental surgeon.

In the fall of 1979, Joan was able to visit England on a Canada Council Explorations grant to research Dally’s early years. She discovered that his father died when he was a child and his mother arranged for him to go to school at Christ's Hospital, a "quite remarkable" charity school for orphans and the poor. At the Public Record Office in Kew, she tried to locate an album of his British Columbia views made for the Colonial Office, but only found a note indicating that the album was “missing”; however, having just done research in the holdings at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office library where she saw an album of BC views, Joan realized that the album she had just seen was the “missing” Colonial Office album. Joan advised the PRO (now the National Archives) that the Dally album was in the F&CO library, but never heard back - until 2008 when, to her surprise and delight, she was informed that the album had been conserved and put on display. During her research at the F&CO, she also found a series of 1858 views at Red River by Humphrey Lloyd Hime as well as the previously thought lost 1856 Toronto views and panorama created by Armstrong, Beere, and Hime for the City of Toronto as part of its efforts to be named the capital of Canada.

Dr Schwartz clearly differentiates between search and research, noting that the down side of keyword searching using digital tools is the elimination of the serendipitous chance to discover interesting information incidental to the original topic- like flipping the pages of an old newspaper and spotting an intriguing article. She demonstrated how in-depth knowledge from research arms an historian to recognize what others miss. One example was her acquisition of the earliest panorama of Toronto taken in 1856 by Armstrong, Beere, and Hime. As noted, she first saw what she thought was the only surviving copy of this panorama in 1979. The F&CO prints were featured in Lilly Koltun’s 1980 exhibition, "City Blocks, City Spaces" at the then Public Archives of Canada. In 1992, Dr Schwartz received by fax a single page from a Sotheby’s auction catalogue listing “a five part panorama of Toronto in 1856.” With her research knowledge, she recognized that the five images, shown on the catalogue page, were part of a 13 print panorama. This knowledge led to a successful bid for the five images plus four other single prints, without revealing her interest to other bidders, followed by successful negotiations for the private purchase of the rest of the images at a reasonable price with the assistance of a grant from the Minister of Heritage.

Fred ultimately landed Joan her present job at Queen’s University where she teaches courses in the History of Photography in the Department of Art and is also cross-appointed to the Department of Geography. She uses her experiences and knowledge of archives to create assignments for her students which require true research, not simply searching the web. The students submit their research materials, instead of an essay that can be easily purchased. A copy of their research findings goes to an archive so other researchers may benefit. This approach gives her students a sense of accomplishment as well. Her classes include a section on Layered Looking for the first-year introductory art history survey, third-year lecture courses on Canadian Photography 1839-1939 and on Photography and Society, a fourth-year seminar on Critical Writing on Photography, and a graduate seminar on Photographic Meaning.

During her talk, Joan touched on the essence of each class, giving her audience new insights and ways to look at the photograph and its role in society. She introduced the concept of Layered Looking with the Rene Magritte painting "the Human Condition" which shows a painting on an easel. The painting merges into the view from a window. In expanding on the notion of “layered looking,” she noted that we need to see both the visual image and the physical object conveying that image. Joan dwelt on the fact that a photograph is a product of the technology of the time - urging the viewer to consider what was and wasn’t photographed in terms of what was technically possible and socially acceptable. She is wary of the move to “virtual galleries” online where, too often, original photographs with great detail and subtle colour are reduced to cropped, muddy gray-scale images; viewers are then unable to enjoy those elements that add to their ability to recognize and differentiate the many historical processes. Her overview of the other classes she teaches were equally detailed and thought provoking.

In mid 2008, things came together for her and Fred. The album which Dally had presented to Queen Victoria in 1884 was finally found in England. She was alerted to the discovery in an email dated 22 April, 2008. The album had been stored by accident “under curatorial care of the library rather than the photograph collection” and listed as a donation by F Dally of work by an unknown photographer! Almost 35 years to the day, her relationship with Fred went from “an archive in Victoria to Queen Victoria’s Archive”. And an article on his work was published that summer in the July-August issue of Canadian Geographic. The author, Monique Roy-Sole, wrote the story, based on the research of Dr Schwartz, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the creation of the mainland Colony of British Columbia (separate from the Colony of Vancouver Island which had been created in 1849).

As a postscript and fitting end to her story, Joan returned to her October 1979 research trip to England. Included in that trip was a visit to Wolverhampton where Fred had lived during the last part of his life, dying there on July 20th, 1914. She learned that he was buried in the local cemetery. His grave was in an area somewhat in disrepair, with no visible markers to guide her. Fortunately, a cemetery worker offered to help, mentioning that some plots had been paved over to provide access to the grounds. He tracked down the probable location of Fred’s plot, beside a paved path. No sign of a marker. Undeterred, the worker took a shovel out of his car and began digging, soon unearthing the curbstone markers at the head and foot of the grave. But no monument stone. More digging. At last, there, buried under its plinth, they found the monument stone for Frederick Dally.

Dr. Schwartz finished her presentation by saying that, at long last, she is now completing her book on Frederick Dally, and that in her research, she has literally left “no stone unturned”!

note on the images:
Dr Joan Schwartz - ©2009 Robert Lansdale
An Epiphany - Cariboo Road by Frederick Dally / Library and Archives Canada / C-008077 Copyright expired
Christ's Hospital - Wikipedia / In the public domain as its term of copyright has expired
Foreign & CW Office - Wikipedia / This illustration of the "Foreign and India Offices" was published by the Illustrated London News in 1866. Those two departments occupied this end of the building (the western or park side) while the Home and Colonial Offices occupied the eastern or Whitehall side. The whole edifice is now used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This image is in the public domain. Copyright has expired
City Blocks... - Cover of the Public Archives of Canada catalogue "City Blocks, City Spaces". Scan by Webmaster.
Not Paved Over - ©Joan Schwartz
Data Mining - ©Joan Schwartz
Grave and Markers - ©Joan Schwartz
Dally Monument - ©Joan Schwartz


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 taken with a Sony F828 digital still camera and subsequently adjusted in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom V2.2 and Photoshop CS4. Presentation images are ©2009 by Dr Joan Schwartz and may not be used without her permission. All other images are ©2009 as noted above. Contents are ©2009 by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada and may be used freely provided the source is clearly indicated. Contact PHSC at info@phsc.ca if you would like more information on the items discussed on this page.

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