By Beth Greenhorn, Library and Archives Canada
The Canadian North has fascinated and inspired generations of photographers from the South since the latter half of the 19th century. Drawn by the austere beauty of the Arctic and the people from this region, they captured images that provide a visual legacy and a link to the past.
Navy personnel and topographers on Arctic expeditions were among the first photographers to document the people and the landscape of the Northwest Territories, or what is now Nunavut. An early example in the collections of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a photograph by Thomas Mitchell, who was a member of the 1875-1876 Arctic expedition to the Baffin Island (Qikiqtaaluk) region. Geraldine Moodie's photographs from a 1904-1905 Hudson Bay expedition are among the few images from the North, in the collection, taken by a woman during this period. Other examples of late 19th- and early 20th-century Arctic photographs include works by Walter Livingstone-Learmonth and Albert Peter Low, as well images in the collections of Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier and Rudolph Martin Anderson.
These photographs are examples of some of the earlier photographs depicting Inuit in the LAC collections.
Studio portrait of an unidentified woman, probably from the Eastern Arctic, who came south on a New Bedford whaler, and was possibly on a "tour" when photographed
New York, New York, 1860
Group of unidentified Inuit and Reverend Peck (back row centre)
Pangnirtung (Pangnirtuuq), September 5, 1903
Unidentified family travelling overland during summertime at Hudson Bay
Chesterfield Inlet (Igluligaarjuk), 1912 or 1916
The photographs scanned for Project Naming come from both public and private collections, and range from the early 1900s to the 1970s. A number of these images were taken by federal government personnel during annual Arctic expeditions. Others were taken by professional photographers, who were hired to record the life and culture of the Inuit -- a race that was believed to be rapidly disappearing.