About Calgary People & Places

The contemporary photography in this book originally was intended to be the basis of an exhibition portfolio and eventual sale as photographic prints. As the work progressed, however, I saw the opportunity to broaden the initial goal by joining the prints with a creative essay and incorporating the combination into a book with a set of unique viewpoints of Calgary.

The book is designed to be of interest to long time residents, to newcomers and non-residents. There is no attempt to tell all about Calgary, but hopefully enough is told and shown to demonstrate that, here is a city of colourful history, impressive presence and a worthy host to the XV Olympic Winter Games in 1988.

My paternal grandfather, a tailor, came to Calgary in the early part of this century. My father was born here in 1908 and I was born here in 1930. My wife, Joyce, and I have raised a family of five children in Calgary. During my lifetime, the city has grown from a population of 80,000 to its current level of 600,000(1983). These are the personal roots that influence my attitude towards this city.

My virtual life-long interest in photography was never properly conditioned to the possibilities of the black and white print, until recent year when I was stimulated by Harry Thomson, a Calgary photographer who had studied under Ansel Adams. Inspiration was added to stimulation when, through the efforts of Harry Thomson, I had the opportunity to spend a short, but effective period, with the master American landscape photographer, Paul Caponigro.

The rural Alberta community of Rosebud was the subject of my first thematic portfolio. It was exhibited in 1982 at the Nickle Arts Museum at the University of Calgary. It wasn’t until I was nearing the completion of the Rosebud portfolio that I felt emotionally prepared to photographically approach the subject of Calgary.

Virtually every one of my photographs was taken by a view camera. This is a large camera that must be supported by a heavy tripod, and that produces a negative that is 5″ by 7″ in size. To focus the camera you must put a dark cloth over your head and the back of the camera. You see the image upside down and backwards. It seems like a lot of trouble compared to the hand-held snapshooter, but hopefully you will agree that the images reflect the unique quality of such a process.

In choosing people of distinction I have made a point of seeking diversity, especially within the fields of arts, science and sports. While my chosen subjects are not the only distinctive residents, they are people who have clearly achieved excellence here, or have brought it with them from other places.

In choosing places, I have sought diversity of the old, the new and the unusual viewpoint to give you, the reader, new insights on Calgary’s physical character.

There will be many whose immediate reaction is, “the pictures are nice but wouldn’t they be better in colour?” This reaction is to be expected when people are daily exposed to advertising that works to convince that colour is a must in photographs. One realizes, however, that this is not necessarily so. The goal in this book is to illuminate some aspect of the person’s character in a manner that is comfortable for both the subject and the photographer.

Likewise, the goal of the cityscape is to discover aspects of the city’s physical character that are illuminated by the interplay of light and shadow on the faces of the city’s structures.

The character of black and white, or monochromatic photographs, lends itself to permanence not only in a physical sense but in its emotional values which hopefully you will grow to appreciate in time, if not at once.

Finally, my sincere appreciation must be known to those who have contributed towards the achievement of a distinctive book in all aspects. The enthusiasm, support and competence of NELSON VIGNEAULT in the execution of graphic design and the supervision of the graphic production was crucial in a book seeking excellence in black and white photography and its reproduction by Canadian craftsmen. The participation of Alberta author, FRED STENSON, was also essential in the need to provide a literary complement to the visual art.

In summary, a team comprised of an Alberta photographer, author and designer has combined to produce a book with a set of unique viewpoints of the city that will host the XV Olympic Winter Games in 1988.

– Harry Palmer

Back to Portfolio