A Documentary Impulse’ Now Open: 1970s Photography of Prince Edward Island Life
New photography exhibition on display until May 2019 at the CCAG
A new exhibition has opened at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (CCAG) that explores the everyday P.E.I. way of life through extensive documentary photography circa the 1970s. A Documentary Impulse: 1970s Photography of Prince Edward Island Life is on display until May 19, 2019.
In the 1970s, as P.E.I. was undergoing rapid change, many Islanders began to be concerned about losing their “Island way of life.” It is not a coincidence that around this time many institutions, such as P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation and others, were created to preserve evidence from the past, and to conserve the historic architecture and heritage of the province. Individuals and interest groups were concerned about the effects that tourism, advertising, urban development, and industrialization would have on the peaceful pastoral landscape. Members of the Island agriculture industry and energy sectors held both modernist and anti-modernist ideals and against this setting the back-to-the-land movement demonstrated a renewed interest in renewable energy and a traditional farming lifestyle.
Photographers were commissioned to document everyday life, and were sourced from a critical mass of artists doing documentary projects on P.E.I. at that time. The 1970s remain a peak moment for 35mm photography on the Island. In the 1950s there were amateur photography clubs and commercial photographers. By 1975, many significant photographers were active on the Island, including acclaimed transplanted New Yorker George Zimbel, English documentarian Lawrence McLagan, and former Canadian Photographer of the Year (1966) Lionel Stevenson.
This new exhibition revisits an important 1978 exhibition from the CCAG, Document of Our Times – Prince Edward Island, 1977, which showed a selection of documentary work commissioned as part of a Canada Works project sponsored by the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation. The idea was that photographers would document, “Life on Prince Edward Island” from May 15 to December 31, 1977. Over 250 rolls of film were shot by Lawrence McLagan, Lionel Stevenson, and Jake Werner, and the 2019 exhibition, A Documentary Impulse, will feature a selection of over 70 images from that project.
Alongside these pictures will be a selection of documentary images by some of the more prominent photographers active in P.E.I. at that time, including Zimbel, Wayne Barrett, and Richard Furlong.
For Study: 19th Century Art History
January 9 Conservator Jill McRae will discuss the cleaning and restoring of the Ron Bloore White on White mural.
A brief Q & A will follow each ArtTalk
The Documentary Impulse: 1970s Photography of Prince Edward Island Life
Inspired by the newly built Confederation Centre of the Arts, Canadian painter Ronald Bloore offered to create a custom mural to adorn its walls in the early months of 1965. The piece, White on White, was finished and installed by Bloore during the summer of 1967. Eleven Masonite panels that match the shape of the sandstone blocks that make up the structure of the Centre were installed directly under a skylight in the main concourse, a public thoroughfare that is still used as such today. The varying tones of white, coupled with the changing outside light, created a mural that Bloore felt would “always be alive and moving.”
After 36 years, the wear and tear of being on public display, coupled with the need for repairs in the concourse saw the Bloore mural removed and placed into storage in April 2003. Now, after several years of planning, the conservation treatment of this sculptural painting will take place in full view of the public as part of the fall exhibition programming. Elizabeth Jablonski, a paintings conservator from Nova Scotia, will head the treatment process with assistance from Confederation Centre Art Gallery’s conservation technician, Jill McRae. Upon completion of treatment, the site-specific piece will be reinstalled in the main concourse to once again interact with the architecture and light, “reflecting something of the outside in to the interior.”