THE WORLD OF WILLIAM NOTMAN
Hall, Roger with Gordon Dodds and Stanley Triggs
Reviewed by Brenda Reed
Reviewed by Brenda Reed
Volume 22 Number 2
Roger Hall and Gordon Dodds have published books together twice before, and that may explain why the text in The World of William Notman is so well crafted. The writing style does not shift from chapter to chapter as the history of William Notman and his photographic company is told.
Stanley Triggs is the former curator of the Notman Photographic Archives at McGill's McCord Museum, and the author of two previous books on Notman. The collaboration of this Notman expert with Hall and Dodds has led to a lavish coffee-table book (3lcm x 23.5cm) that will impress everyone who leafs through it.
A brief history of the Notman firm is followed by 162 pages of beautifully reproduced photographs from the late nineteenth century. In 1856, thirty-year-old William Notman left Scotland hastily, in the midst of a financial scandal that proved ruinous for his family's cloth business. By late 1856 Notman had opened a portrait studio in Montreal, where, "[w]ithin a relatively short time, he had photographed many of the stalwarts that composed Montreal's elite." From this small studio; Notman's company grew to include studios in the northeastern United States and Toronto, Ottawa, Saint John and Halifax. After William Notman died in 1891, the firm was continued by his sons, but by 1935 the studios had all been closed or sold. According to the authors, four hundred thousand images from Notman's archives are today housed in the McCord Museum in Montreal.
The photographs include both famous and unknown people, Canadian cities and landscapes, and notable buildings and bridges. School photographs from several lvy League universities are also included, as are views of university towns. The authors note that "by choice of camera position, together with adjusting the play of light, [Notman] rendered his subjects, whether they were individuals, landscapes, or eng ineering structures, as monumental and heroic . " It is certainly true that every photograph in this collection is remarkable.
The layout of both the text and the photographs is exceptional, and the dull finish on the creamy pages enhances the reproductions. An index provides easy access to both the text and the photographs. Libraries with a strong collection in Canadian history or photography will want to consider this item for purchase, but I hesitate to recommend unconditionally such an expensive book, despite its excellence.
Brenda Reed is the librarian at Bishop's College School in Lennoxville, Quebec
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