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The photography collection

Images are a significant component of architectural culture. Those that make up this part of our collection permit an exploration of the complexity of the photographic representation of architecture, the city, and the management of the landscape, and its intentions and uses in different contexts. The collection includes isolated images and groups—albums, portfolios—that can be compared with other archival documents such as drawings, prints, and texts. Videos and large-scale digital photographs have also entered the collection in recent years.

Begun in 1974, before the formal establishment of the CCA, the collection now consists of some 60,000 images dating from the invention of the medium, in 1839, to today. Among these images are series commissioned by the CCA to offer unique readings by selected artists of places and buildings that are often part of larger research or exhibition programs.

The collection is very strong in works from the early decades of the medium, including a unique collection of daguerreotypes, and with key holdings by leading photographers active in United Kingdom, France, Greece, Italy, Middle East, and Asia during the 19th century. One of the priorities has been to establish holdings by major figures—such as Roger Fenton, Thomas Keith, Edouard Baldus, Robert Macpherson and Felice Beato. Several outstanding groups of works include large-scale commissioned documentation projects on urban redevelopment, civil engineering projects, development of railways, and construction sites, as well as mass-produced topographical albums and views.

Experimental photography and avant-garde movements of the 20th century offer considerable potential for research. Among the photographs of projects, models, and built works by various modern international architects and agencies, J.J.P. Oud, Gunnar Asplund, Mart Stam, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Albert Kahn, Carlo Scarpa, and Tadao Ando are the most fully represented.

The collection of contemporary photographs pays particular attention to photographic creation that adopts a discerning attitude towards architecture. Significant corpora have been assembled on the work of Lee Friedlander, Bern and Hilla Becher, Richard Pare, Geoffrey James, Robert Burley, and Guido Guidi, and showing their long-term engagement with the built environment.

The CCA has also initiated numerous photographic commissions to support creative contemporary photography and thematic investigations that combine critical thinking and architecture. These photographic projects include Court House: A Photographic Document (1974-76), The Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans (works by Catherine Wagner, 1984), Viewing Olmsted: Photographs by Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander and Geoffrey James (1996), the Tangent series (works by Alain Paiement, Dieter Appelt, Victor Burgin, Naoya Hatakeyama, 2002-07), The 60s: Montréal Thinks Big (works by Olivo Barbieri, 2004-05) and more recently the photographic mission Casablanca Chandigarh: A Report on Modernization (works by Takashi Homma and Yto Barrada, 2013).

Chronological overview

Daguerreotypes

Daguerreotypes were the first permanent images achieved by the use of photographic equipment. Due to the specific nature of that medium, each daguerreotype image was unique: there were no duplicates. From the very beginnings of photography, the earliest daguerreotypes, now lost, were reproduced in the form of prints and lithographs and circulated in book form. The collection has copies of some of these important works (such as Excursions Daguérriennes by N.­P. Lerebours, 1841-42), which first made possible the widespread dissemination of images of monuments and sites from around the world.

Due to their great clarity, daguerreotypes were used mainly for portraiture. The CCA daguerreotypes collection is unique in the number and quality of works devoted to architectural subjects (72 items). Among these exceptional examples are views of Athens and of the Propylaea by the Baron Gros (1852) and a remarkable series of views of Paris dating from the 1840s by Victor Chevalier, Breton Frères, Alphonse Poitevin, and Charles Nègre, among others. An American daguerreotype by Samuel Bemis of the King’s Chapel cemetery in Boston, dating from 1840-41, also figures among these very fine works. The collection includes other notable daguerreotypes produced elsewhere in the United States and also in Brazil, Great Britain, France, Germany, Egypt, and Italy.

From 1840 to 1860

Works from the nineteenth century constitute the largest component of the collection, which includes major items from the first four decades of the medium’s history. These formative years, during which the traditions and conventions of photography were established and its applications diversified, are marked by immense creativity. The United Kingdom, France, Egypt, and Italy are the best documented regions in this important exploratory period.

United Kingdom

William Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the negative-positive process that is the basis of all modern photography and an innovator who influenced an entire generation of photographers, is represented in the collection by 46 items. Especially notable is one of the rare copies of Sun Pictures in Scotland, published in 1845 with 23 original photographs. The British material also contains important views of Scotland from the early 1840s by Hill and Adamson, as well as one of the richest public collections of the works of Roger Fenton (75 items), dealing mainly with the abbeys and cathedrals of Great Britain in the late 1850s. The collection also includes unpublished work by scholarly amateurs that displays a great sensitivity in its approach: for instance, photographs by Alfred Capel-Cure (who produced an album of 232 views of architecture and landscapes in England, Scotland, Wales, and France around 1850), Robert Cheney, and Thomas Keith. With a rare album of a hundred prints concentrating primarily on the architectural heritage of Edinburgh and neighbouring towns c. 1854-57 (and including a few photographs by his contemporaries John Forbes White and William Walker), this acquisition of 1993 established the CCA as the one of the most important depositories of Keith’s work outside Scotland.

France

Édouard Baldus, who took part in a number of photographic surveys commissioned by government and private agencies, is the best represented photographer of this period, with a corpus of some 800 images from all the significant genres of his work: architecture, large-scale works, and landscape. Other masters of his generation who were chosen by the Commission des Monuments historiques de France to participate in the first survey in 1851, are also represented, among them Gustave Le Gray, with a group of 18 photographs, and Henri Le Secq, with two albums of photolithographs covering the cathedrals of Chartres and Rheims (negatives dating from the 1850s). Bisson frères, renowned for their large-format architectural views, are represented by 105 photographs and 3 albums, including a portfolio documenting the restoration work on Notre-Dame de Paris by Viollet-le-Duc published in 1853; Charles Nègre by 46 photographs, 2 portfolios, and an album, mainly of architecture in the South of France and Paris and its surroundings; and Charles Marville, a photographer for several architects and whose work is connected with the major transformation and development of the French capital, by 92 photographs and an album.

Greece

From the birth of photography, severl photographers took on the task of capturing in the new medium the lure of ancient civilizations at sites permeated with history. Among them were British photographer George Bridges who left an unpublished work on Athens (66 photographs that are among the earliest known of the city) after an ambitious tour of the Mediterranean from 1846 to 1852; the CCA owns the copy that was used for the layout. Also in the collection are works on ancient Greece by D. Constantin (an album and 30 photographs produced in the 1860s), Petros Moraites (3 albums, including one containing 187 photographs made in collaboration with Pascal Sébah), James Robertson (1 album), and William James Stillman (33 photographs). A photographic print by Jean Walther dating from the early 1850s also figures in this group.

Italy

The work of Robert Macpherson, concentrating mainly on Rome’s classical monuments, ancient ruins, and topographical views (about 200 items), has been collected with the same purpose as that of Fenton and Baldus: with the intent to establish a large corpus that would permit an in-depth study of the photographer’s approach. The Italian material on Rome is very rich and offers many points of comparison between different photographers (such as Count Frédéric A. Flachéron, Eugène Constant, Pompeo Bondini, Altobelli and Molins, Tommaso Cuccioni, and Adolphe Braun). The collection also contains a photographic survey of the villas and gardens in the region of Rome by Eugenio Chauffourier. Venice is well represented, with various interpretations by Italian and foreign photographers (including Domenico Bresolin, Antonio Perini, Carlo Ponti, Carlo Naya, Léon Gérard, Bisson frères, August Lorent, and John Thomson). In addition, the collection has major works attributed to Giacomo Caneva on Pompeii, by Calvert Jones, who took panoramas of Naples around 1846, by the Alinari bothers (a luxurious album on Florence, Siena, and Pisa from early in their career, c. 1855), and by Giacomo Rossetti (an album dating from 1860 on Santa Maria dei Miracoli church and the Brescia town hall).

Spain


The dominant figure in this area of the collection is Charles Clifford, a photographer in the service of Queen Isabella II, well represented by 33 photographs and 3 albums on cities and civil and religious architecture. The collection also contains photographs from the 1840s and early 1850s by Claudius Galen Wheelhouse, Louis-Alphonse Davanne, Charles Soulier, and A. Clouzard, as well as albums by Bisson frères (on the Arabic ornamentation of the Alhambra, c. 1853), by Gustave de Beaucorps (on monumental architecture in Spain), by Eugène Sevaistre (Souvenirs Stéréoscopiques, c. 1860), and by Pedro Martines de Hebert (on Salamanca in 1862). Juan Laurent is well represented with 30 individual prints and four albums covering the period 1860-80.

The Middle East

The Middle East was an important area of activity in an era when the great archaeologist-photographers travelled it in search of images of ancient monuments and architectural sites. A number of these expedition and travel albums figure in the collection, among them a major series by Louis De Clercq (6 albums on the Orient totalling 222 photographs, 1859-60) and a copy of Égypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie, by Maxime du Camp (containing 125 high-quality photographs), a work of 1852 that is considered the earliest French publication to be illustrated with photographs. As well, there are major individual prints by Félix Teynard, John Beasley Greene, Auguste Salzmann, Francis Frith, and Félix Bonfils.

Asia

Another strong point in the collection - less well known but of equal fascination - consists of views mostly taken by photographers in the service of the British army at height of the Empire’s economic and military power. This material consists primarily of some 1,500 works made to inventory archaeological monuments recommended for preservation, photographs that complemented the usual plans and drawings produced for this purpose. The albums Architecture at Beejapoor and Architecture in Dharwar and Mysore (negatives produced between 1855 and 1857), comprising some 178 photographs by Thomas Biggs, Dr. W.H. Pigou, Major Loch, and Dr. A.L.B. Neill, as well as The Pagoda of Hallibeed by Richard Oakeley (1859), are among the oldest, most beautiful examples. Also notable is the acquisition of an album of 48 remarkable prints, Photographies de l’Inde Anglaise, taken around 1849-1850 by the Baron Alexis de Lagrange, one of the first photographers to document the sites and monuments of India. The collection also includes important material (negatives and prints) taken by John Murray in Agra and an exceptional series of 45 prints, 6 large-format albums, and a rare panorama of 21 photographs, all of which were taken in the middle of the 1850s by Linnaeus Tripe, who documented the archaeological sites of Burma and the Indian state of Madras. The second strength of the Asian collection lies in the area of the photographic documentation of military campaigns, represented chiefly by the work of Felice Beato. With his partner James Robertson, based in Constantinople (and whose work is represented in a corpus of some 50 photographs), Beato photographed Malta, Palestine, Greece, and the disasters of the Crimean War in 1855 at Sebastopol, an event which is also documented in this collection in works by French photographers Durand-Brager and Lassimonne. Beato likewise covered the mutiny of Lucknow in 1858 (in an exceptional album of which the CCA owns a unique annotated copy) and the Second Opium War in China in 1860, maintaining a career in Japan during the same period. The collection includes some 60 photographs and 5 albums by this major artist who was one of the first to transmit an image of unfamiliar cultures and peoples to Europeans.

North America

American works of this period include the portfolio Cités et Ruines Américaines by the French photographer Désiré Charnay (published in 1862 with a text by Viollet-le-Duc), one of the first photographic interpretations of an archaeological site in Mexico. Most of the North American material in this period covers indigenous architecture and celebrates territorial expansion and urban development in a rational, direct manner: for instance, a sequence of 30 photographs by Lewis Emory Walker covering the expansion of the Treasury Building in Washington between 1857 and 1867, and an album with 33 views of San Francisco made by George Fardon in 1856, considered to be the first publication with photographs in the United States. There is also a section of works produced by official photographers of the Civil War, such as George Barnard, who followed in the tracks of General Sherman and published his photographs in 1866.

From 1870 to 1910

By this period the foundations of photography had been established and the pioneer era was past; most of the early photographers who had worked independently had by now abandoned the medium, which was largely taken over by commercial studios. Certain trends can be discerned, among them a new interest in depicting the fate of cities and urban decay, and also a tendency to prefer national and social topics over the monumental ones favoured earlier. In this respect, the most important works in the collection are those made by Thomas Annan for the municipal authorities of Glasgow, who commissioned Annan to document the unsanitary areas of the city that were slated for demolition in the movement to create to better housing. These views, produced from 1866 and published in various forms over the years (the CCA collection is one of the broadest) form a powerful visual commentary that goes far beyond simple reportage. In Germany, Georg Koppman was also engaged by city commissioners to produce a detailed documentation of Hamburg; the CCA possesses 165 prints from this project dating mainly from the 1880s. Adolphe Terris was commissioned in 1862-1863 to produce a series on the redevelopment of Marseilles, which documented the old city and the old streets which would soon disappear. The collection includes several other examples of these large-scale urban-planning and redevelopment projects.

Another favourite subject of this period is the documentation of civil engineering projects that introduced new structural methods and construction techniques. Bridges especially were widely covered. The CCA has one of the most complete collections (including photographs, albums, reports, manuscripts, drawings, and prints) related to the building of the Firth of Forth Bridge in Scotland, a steel railway bridge opened to the public in 1890 and one of the most audacious and spectacular technical and industrial achievements of the era. The potential of photography was also magnificently exploited with the development of the railways, which underwent phenomenal expansion especially under the Second Empire in France. Among the very first and most beautiful of the photographic inventories devoted to the new rail lines are two major albums by Baldus (Chemins de fer du Nord: Ligne de Paris à Boulogne and Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée, published in 1855 and 1861 respectively). Other photographers taking a creative approach to the subject were Auguste-Hippolyte Collard, Alphonse Terpereau (who worked closely with the firm of Gustave Eiffel), and J. Duclos (active in the 1870s). Also in the collection is a significant five-volume set entitled Travaux publics de la France (1883), devoted to the history of major public works projects in France.

One of the most important studios of the period to specialize in the photographic documentation of construction sites was that of Delmaet and Durandelle, represented in a large group of works on the Paris Opera House by Charles Garnier (114 photographs covering the sculptures and ornamentation of the building) and also on the Eiffel Tower in 1888 and the Sacré-Coeur basilica. On this Montmartre project, 165 photographs produced between 1879 and 1890 were included in a remarkable and unique working album (probably compiled by Hubert Rohaut de Fleury); a number of the prints still carry the traces of changes made in preparation for engraving. The CCA also possesses an abundant array of photographic works that were reproduced as engravings or by photomechanical processes in a variety of publications from all periods.

The end of the century also saw the massive production of souvenir albums and illustrated works for tourists, of which the CCA has acquired a large number. Many commercial studios (such as Francis Frith and Co. and Valentine and Sons in Great Britain, A. Braun in France, and the firms of C. Naya, G. Sommer, and Alinari in Italy) produced and published large-scale topographical views of major monuments and public buildings, churches, bridges, boulevards, public spaces, and street scenes.

In America, the development of photography paralleled the conquest and exploration of the West, and pursued a monumental new vision that reflected the heroic and fantastic aspects of nature. One of the greatest representatives of this generation was Carleton Watkins, who specialized in the photography of powerful and evocative sites and landscapes. In addition to a series of 118 proofs, the collection also holds two magnificent albums containing 60 large-format prints documenting the Thurlow Lodge estate at Menlo Park, California, a commission Watkins executed between 1872 and 1874. Other photographers represented from this period are Timothy O’Sullivan, a member of several geological expeditions beginning in 1867, Eadweard Muybridge (by whom the CCA has an exceptional 360-degree panorama of the city of San Francisco, consisting of 13 large-format prints produced in 1878), as well as works by William Henry Jackson, John Hillers, Edward S. Curtis, and William Rau, who in work for the rail companies in the 1890s produced high-quality photographs to promote the new routes.

Also to be noted are the photographs and albums collected by architects during these years, for example a group of 6 albums with over 1,000 photographs gathered by architect-historian John Johnson c. 1875, 2 albums compiled by Edward Backhouse in 1877, and a collection of 111 photographs assembled by William Butterfield at the end of the nineteenth century - all material enabling the study of the tastes, influences, and values of these earlier figures in relation to their architectural thinking.
The collection also numbers some 4,000 anonymous photographs (most of them from the late nineteenth century), which for the most part demonstrate the national usages of architectural photography in various countries.

From 1910 to 1945

Photography moved into the twentieth century with the photographic essays that were produced by turn-of-the-century pictorialists (represented in the collection by the works of Karl Struss, Drahomir Joseph Ruszicka, and Clara Sipprel, among others), which effected a major historical break that conclusively disrupted past conceptions of photography.

Two figures of importance in this period were Frederick Evans and Eugène Atget. Evans left a major body of work chiefly devoted to the interiors and architectural details of cathedrals in Great Britain and France, including an interesting album of 95 photographs taken around 1902 in the chapter house of York Minster and a collection of 704 magic lanterns on glass. In his work on the documentation of Paris and its surroundings, Atget was a photographer who while carrying forward a nineteenth-century genre at the same time emerged as one of the most significant figures of French modernism. He is represented in the collection by 80 photographs depicting architecture, parks, and gardens.

Experimental photography and avant-garde movements make up a large portion of the collection, which includes a major corpus of works from the golden age of photography in Germany, 1920 to 1940. Those represented by significant groups of work are László Moholy-Nagy, Albert Renger-Patzsch (whose work covered churches, industrial buildings, and the contemporary urban fabric), and Werner Mantz (who worked for architects first in Cologne and then in the Netherlands, producing views of industrial and commercial structures and contemporary urban complexes). A set of portfolios by August Sander covers pre-war Cologne and the city after its destruction by Allied bombardment. A selection of photographs by various artists illustrates the architecture, principles, and productions of the Bauhaus, and a major series by Lucia Moholy made in 1926 covers the buildings of Walter Gropius in Dessau. The dominant figures in the U.S.S.R. are represented in the collection by Aleksandr Rodchenko and El Lissitzky. Of note is the recent acquisition of an important corpus of 2000 photographs on the Russian avant garde of which 500 document the work by students of the Vkhutemas. Great Britain in this period is represented by a single important photographer, Bill Brandt, and Eastern Europe by Josef Sudek (in a body of 33 works covering the whole of his career) and Jaromir Funke.

This was an important era in the United States, as well, where the centre of the American School was New York City, soon to have an influence on Europe. The collection contains works by some of the outstanding photographers who were now involved in the interpretation of the new modernist architecture and experimenting with novel approaches: Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Charles Sheeler, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Paul Strand (Wall Street, 1915), and Walker Evans (a corpus of 50 photographs including a noteworthy group revealing his formalist experimentation at the start of his career in New York in 1928). The most voluminous holdings are photographs by Berenice Abbott (over 200 views depicting the iconic architecture of New York, primarily in the 1930s) and Samuel Gottscho (290 works), who photographed the city in the same years for New York building contractors, presenting it as a centre of commercial and industrial activity.

Another important area of the collection from this period is composed of photographs of projects, models, sites, and works of the major architects of the early twentieth century, many of which were reproduced in the principal architectural periodicals of the period. The main groups contain photographs of works by Tadao Ando, Gunnar Asplund, Welton Becket & Associates, Hendrik Petrus Berlage, Le Corbusier (by Lucien Hervé), Josef Hoffmann, Albert Kahn, Hans Heinz Luttgen, Rob Mallet-Stevens, Adolf and Hannes Meyer, Robert Michel, Carlo Mollino, J.J.P. Oud, Gerrit Rietveld, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Mart Stam (by Ilse Bing), and Frank Lloyd Wright (by Henry Fuerhmann). There is also a section on the work of Russian architects (Friedman and Glushchenko, Melnikov, Ginsburg, Vesnin) and a unique album documenting a cooperative by Fufayev in Moscow (1928), as well as photographs dealing with Tatlin. Also noteworthy is a sequence of photographs made on a trip to the U.S.S.R. by a group of French and Belgian architects in 1932, who under the direction of Charles Dédoyard studied the most recent architectural and urban developments. The vernacular and modernist architecture of Mexico (1935-36) is represented by the work of American photographer Esther Born, an artist to discover.

From 1945 to the Present

The collection of contemporary photographs is continually growing. The principal American artists whose work is represented in significant numbers are Aaron Siskind (works from 1941 and later) and John Clarence Laughlin (one of his first major projects recording the architecture of New Orleans, published in 1948). The 1970s are well represented by the work of Robert Adams, Harry Callahan, Garry Winogrand, and Laura Volkerding. The photographs of Lee Friedlander, one of today’s most influential photographers, have been collected over a number of years and include a selection of major and significant works relating to architecture. Among these figure a series of images from Suburban House (1974-78) and a portfolio of 52 proofs in 2 volumes entitled Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (1975-77), a powerful visual contemplation of an urban garden.

Also featured are typological series of industrial structures made by the German photographers Bernhard and Hilla Becher and major works by Yasuhiro Ishimoto, for whom we have two interpretations of the Katsura palace in Japan (from 1953 and from 1981-83). The collection also contains works by Gordon Matta-Clark, such as Office Baroque and A W-Hole House. In addition, the CCA recently became the depository of the exceptional archival fund of this American architect and artist. Bethanien, (1984), a series devoted to the built environment, now counts among the works of German artist Dieter Appelt in the collection. The CCA has acquired a collection of works by contemporary Italian photographers, including Luigi Ghirri, Guido Guidi, Olivo Barbieri, Gabriele Basilico, and Walter Niedermayer. Among the other contemporary photographers whose work has been added to the collection are Harold Allen, Lewis Baltz, Robert Bourdeau, Marilyn Bridges, Melvin Charney, William Clift, Linda Connor, Jed Devine, Jim Dow, William Eggleston, John Gossage, Fausty and Rose, Thomas Florschuetz, Frank Gohlke, Emmet Gowin, Jan Groover, John Guttmann, Geoffrey James, Tadashi Kawamata, Nicholas Nixon, Tod Papageorge, Richard Pare, Charles Pratt, Irving Penn, Richard Ross, Thomas Ruff, Steven Shore and Larry Sultan, Joel Sternfeld, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Larry Sultan, and Judith Turner.

One of the areas of contemporary photography that have been best developed by the CCA is the photographic commissions that it has initiated as a means of supporting both present-day photography and the interpretation of architecture. Each commission has involved the collaboration of an architectural historian, who provided the architectural and historical context, and one or more photographers who were responsible for interpreting the subject. Among the commissions carried out are “Grey-Stone Buildings of Montréal” (1971-74) by Phyllis Lambert and Richard Pare; “Court House” (1974-76), under the direction of Richard Pare, for which 24 photographers were assigned the task of recording 1,054 court houses in the United States; “The Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans” (1984) by Catherine Wagner; “Terra Cotta” (1981-91), a study by Bob Thall of the terra cotta facades of Chicago buildings; “An Industrial Landscape Observed: The Lachine Canal” in Montréal (1985-86), by Clara Gutsche and David Miller; and “University of Montréal” (1989) and “Power and Planning: Industrial Towns in Québec” (Arvida, Shawinigan and Témiscaming, 1994-95) by Gabor Szilasi. A major commission over a seven-year period from 1989 to 1995 made it possible to collect a corpus of close to 1,000 photographs by Lee Friedlander, Geoffrey James, and Robert Burley, who interpreted the contemporary reality of the American parks and gardens developed and planned a century ago by Frederick Law Olmsted. The most recent commission involves an ensemble of photographic sequences by Guido Guidi (1995-1998) which explores various fundamental aspects of the architecture of Carlo Scarpa. In 1999-2000, Guidi and Richard Pare interpreted the architecture of Mies van der Rohe in America, by means of their unique visual approach. In recent years, Pare frequently travelled to Russia, where he produced a body of work on the soviet avant-garde architecture. In 1999, the CCA commissioned Jeff Wall to create a photographic work on the Dominus Winery, a realization of Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The collection’s current project, Tangente, is a series of exhibitions organized until 2005 that invites artists such as: Dieter Appelt, Victor Burgin, Naoya Hatakeyama and Alain Paiement to create new work (photographic, digital or video) in response to a corpus of photographs selected from the collection. These commissions constitute a growing commitment to contemporary photographic research in the CCA photographs collection.

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