Chaudière Falls 1870

Chaudière Falls 1870

William Notman, Chaudière Falls, Ottawa, 1870
Silver salts on glass, wet collodion process, 20 x 25 cm
McCord Museum

Scenic views were a mainstay of nineteenth-century photography. While some studios specialized in regional coverage, Notman’s sought an encyclopedic range. As their catalogue grew, so too did their renown at home and abroad. Travellers collected scenic views as souvenirs. This image follows the picturesque conventions used in landscape painting. The image is segmented into roughly three progressive sections. The photographer—and now the viewer—is positioned on a flat rock in the foreground, elevated above the next section of dark crumbling shale.

 

This graphically appealing jumble cuts a diagonal line through the frame and helps to create visual interest and depth. The tiny figure fishing in the centre of the image adds to the visual interest and gives a sense of scale that sets off the almost prehistoric enormity of the rock. All of this is set against an ethereally light backdrop of the wide falls, specific details muted by distance and mist. The same scene could well have been the subject of a commissioned topographical view; the geographic and geological material is carefully represented.

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