A look at some of the most iconic images in Canadian history. This year is a milestone in Canada’s history. Celebrating 150 years of Confederation, Canadians are looking to the past as they ponder the future. While we imagine what’s to come, we’re also conjuring up collective memories, often through photographs of remarkable people and events in our history. When the first photographic process, the daguerreotype, was introduced worldwide in 1839, it became known as “the mirror with a memory” — and until the invention of digital cameras and modern editing techniques in the late 20th century, photos were widely considered to be objective visual records. In fact, these “mirrors” we look into were created by photographers who isolated their subjects and presented them to us in an effort to communicate what they believed to be true. Viewers then analyzed — as they do today — the resultant photos, filtered through their own histories and biases. The meaning of any photograph exists somewhere between the subject, the photographer, and the viewer. Thinking about Canada’s sesquicentennial, a number of images came to mind, and we are grateful to the photographers who made them for providing us with these windows onto our past.
Title: A huge Canadian flag is passed along a crowd that came to Montreal in support of Canadian unity, Oct. 27, 1995
Three days after this photograph was taken, Quebeckers voted to remain a part of Canada. The decision was really to carry on compromising — an important attribute of many successful relationships. (Image credit: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
Title: Maungwudaus, also known as George Henry (c. 1805–after 1877) [c. 1846] George Henry
(Maungwudaus) was an exotic figure to the European audiences his troupe performed dances and exhibitions for between 1845 and 1848, after which the group toured Canada and the U.S.
Terrapin Tower, overlooking Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, ON, c. 1870
Niagara Falls has always been a popular tourist destination, even as surrounding attractions come and go. (Image credit: Alexander Henderson/McCord Museum, Montreal.)
Title: Silhouette of man running along a road. Terry Fox, Ontario, July 13, 1980
One of Canada’s greatest heroes, Terry Fox set an example that continues to inspire millions of people around the world. His determination and spirit are evident in this silhouette, taken in the early morning as he resumed his Marathon of Hope. (Image credit: Peter Martin.)
Title: Signing of the Constitution, April 17, 1982 Canada’s relationship with the British monarchy is all about tradition.
Here, Pierre Trudeau, near the end of his career, looks on as Elizabeth II signs the Constitution. (Image credit: Ron Poling/The Canadian Press.)