Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's in a Picture? Looking at Sir John

We find in this, picture, Sir John A Macdonald, an aging leader.  He has the rumpled look of his age.  His jacket is loose, wrinkled and suggestive of homespun. He looks like he just stood from behind his desk, and hadn't taken the time to tighten his vest. His posture is somewhat slumped and he holds what appears to be a pair of spectacles as if he is about to make a point in conversation.

When I look at his face I see a benign, paternal appearance - suitable for a man who has been called the Father of the Canadian Federation.

Its said that pictures are worth a thousand words.  Think of that famous picture taken by Josef Karsh, of Winston Churchill.  Karsh set his camera up, looked through the lens, stepped to one side, then reached out and snatched Churchill's cigar out of his hand.  The British Bulldog leaned forward in his chair and glared.  Karsh snapped and one of the most famous pictures of Churchill became history.

But what has this unknown photographer told us about Sir John?  To answer that I suggest that you take a look at the street names found in the centre of Ontario towns and cities.  Macdonald's name is noticeably absent. And if that isn't enough, take a walk through Gananoque Cemetery, in Kingston and you will find a pretty ordinary grave. You won't find Macdonald resting beneath a ton of marble and a heavy statue.  All of which suggests that Canadians weren't fully aware at the time of the importance that Macdonald played in birthing our newly formed country.

I found this portrait on the Government of Canada's site, 'The Canadian Heritage Information Network'.  They in turn accredit the national archives as its source. Please click here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. It is great to learn more about the photographs and art we so often just glance at without taking the time to analyze more deeply. I especially like the part about cranky Churchill!

    Rebekah Hebbert
    Managing Editor


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