Finding Canada in the NYT Archive


Dr Denise Birkhofer RIC

Toronto. Dr Denise Birkhofer of the Ryerson Image Centre spoke on Finding Canada in the New York Times Archive at our January 17th meeting augmenting her recently ended exhibition  at the RIC called “The Faraway Nearby” which uses selected photographs from the Rudolph P. Bratty  Family Collection donation of some 25,000 photographs from the New York Times Photo Archive related to Canada. The exhibition itself was featured in a September 18, 2017 post on our website.

A  few years ago, people visited the NYT press morgue and pulled any files with a reference to Canada. Denise’s talk began with a four minute video highlighting the NYT press morgue titled “Inside The Lively Morgue”. She discussed examples of entries in the NYT press morgue and which date to as early as the First World War (the Archives had very few colour photos).

Gerald McMaster and Dr Birkhofer curated the exhibition. They chose to group the prints as they would appear in a newspaper: National News, International News (some interesting overlaps), Arts & Culture, Peoples of Canada, Travel, Business and Sports. They decided to retain the NY Times retouching lines, cut lines, and red litho separation of elements in many pictures (hand retouching was used to cleanup a print for newspaper use).

The Travel part of the exhibition promoted tourists and tourism. A print of the Dionne Quints had ruby litho to isolate the doctor and baby quints, and two typed cut-lines on yellow “post-it notes” show how the print was used in a NYT article.

One c1930 print from the Newfoundland-Labrador Film Company showing Arctic ice floes and seal hunters was taken by Frank Kirby. It was used on the cover of the exhibition’s companion book. The print was originally reproduced in a photo montage within the NYT’s photogravure section. An earlier advertisement for the exhibition showed the Canadian women skaters who went to the Olympics at Lake Placid NY. The retouching marks proved to be the most interesting since one Canadian skater was cropped out for the NYT’s article. The Sports photos wrapped up the talk and for the next twenty minutes Dr Birkhofer entertained her audience with a spirited Q&A session. And editor Bob Lansdale recorded a portrait of our gracious January speaker.


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