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  • Laura Jones

FIVE remarkable WOMEN in Canadian photo history

Women in Canadian photo history

Women’s contributions in history have often been dismissed. In terms of Canadian photographic history, these omissions have provided us with a somewhat one-sided vision of our country’s history. With the digitization of collections in archives across the country and the creation of easily searchable online resources, the work of female photographers has slowly but surely been unearthed and shared. It’s about time that these female photographers were acknowledged and credited.

Hannah Maynard

Born in England, Hannah Hatherly married Richard Maynard at 18 and moved to Bowmanville, Ontario. While Richard traveled around Canada as a prospector, Hannah learned photography. When the family moved to Victoria, British Columbia, she set up her own business as, “Mrs. R. Maynard, Photographic Artist and Dealer in All Kinds of Photographic Materials.”

By 1880, Victoria’s growing tourist trade enabled Maynard to move into a larger studio and hire an apprentice. In 1897, she became Victoria’s official police photographer. Anyone arrested was taken to her studio for a mug shot.

Besides operating a successful business and raising five children, Maynard experimented with her medium in a way that was not only creatively ahead of her time, but technically superior to the work of her contemporaries. Her signature works include photomontages, multiple exposures, and photosculptures.

Her multiple exposures and montage images were revolutionary. She used various techniques to create new kinds of images. Her photomontages sometimes involved thousands of images. Maynard created The Gems of British Columbia series annually between 1881 and 1895. She made the final image into a New Year’s greeting card, sending it to all the mothers of the children she had photographed in the preceding year. She carefully cut out each portrait, pasted them together, and re-photographed the result on glass.

To make a photosculpture, Maynard covered her subject with white powder and black cloth, took a picture, and then superimposed it onto an image of a papier mâché bust or figure.

Maynard used mirrors and partial glass negative exposures to create unique narratives about herself and surreal tributes to the deceased.