The National Gallery of Canada’s photography collection is one of the world’s most comprehensive holdings of photographs and related materials. It represents the entire history of the medium, revealing and reinterpreting the most important stories of our past, present and future.
In 2015, a generous donation from Scotiabank supported and enhanced collecting and outreach activities. The Scotiabank Photography Program at the National Gallery of Canada embraces digital content creation, education, exhibitions, and the New Generation Photography Award, which recognizes outstanding work in photographic and lens-based arts by Canadians 35 and under.
The Gallery has been actively collecting photographs since 1967, thanks to the prescience of then-Director Jean Sutherland Boggs and Curator of Photographs James Borcoman, who recognized photography’s growing importance to art history.
Now encompassing more than 50,000 photographs and 146,000 negatives, the collection contains significant holdings by some of photography’s key practitioners, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Charles Nègre, P.H. Emerson, Hill and Adamson, Frederick H. Evans, Josef Sudek, Walker Evans, Lisette Model, Leon Levinstein, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Lynne Cohen, Arnaud Maggs and Mark Ruwedel. Also represented is a fine collection of European and American daguerreotypes, and rare 19th-century war photographs.
The Gallery’s photography collection also comprises the complete holdings of the former Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (CMCP), spanning nearly sixty years, from the early 1950s to 2009. Originating in the National Film Board of Canada’s Still Photography Division, the CMCP collection features some of the best documentary and art photography ever produced by Canadian artists and photographers. It also includes an extensive collection of negatives and transparencies generated during government assignments documenting a critical period in the country’s history, from the 1960s to the mid-1980s.
As well, the Gallery’s photography holdings include photographs associated with photojournalism, such as the Photo League and 19th-century images of conflict from the Crimean War, the 1860 China War, the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. Recent donations of major collections of news photographs related to the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War have enhanced the collection’s representation of 20th-century conflict. This expansion of photojournalism, as well as images of a vernacular nature, encourages interdisciplinary research and scholarship into the intellectual history of the photographic image.
The National Gallery of Canada's photography collection is widely respected, as are its groundbreaking exhibitions and stellar publications, including Beauty of Another Order: Photography in Science, Oscar G. Rejlander: Artist Photographer and Photography in Canada, 1960-2000.
Senior Curator of Photographs
Andrea Kunard curates exhibitions on Canadian photography for the National Gallery of Canada and the former Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. In addition to exhibitions associated with the above-listed publications, she has worked on solo and group shows reflecting a wide range of artists and ideas, including the National Gallery Biennales (It Is What It Is. Recent Acquisitions of New Canadian Art (2010), Builders: Canadian Biennial (2012), Shine a Light (2014), 2017 Canadian Biennial), Artists, Architects & Artisans: Canadian Art 1890–1918 (2013) and The Disappearance of Darkness: Photography at the End of the Analog Era (Princeton Architectural Press: Ryerson Image Centre, 2013).
She has also collaborated with Sophie Hackett (Art Gallery of Ontario) and Urs Stahel (La Fondazione MAST, Bologna) on Anthropocene (2018), which showcased the photographs of Ed Burtynsky and the films of Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier. Other collaborations include work with Terry Graff (Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton) on Jaret Belliveau: Dominion Street (2014), and with Susan Gibson Garvey (former director of the Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax) on Marlene Creates — Places, Paths, and Pauses (2017). Kunard has taught the history of photography, Canadian art and cultural theory at Carleton University and Queen’s University, and has lectured on photography across Canada.
In addition, she was co-editor of The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada (McGill Queen’s U.P. 2008) with Professor Carol Payne, and has written articles on contemporary and historical photography in The Journal of Canadian Art History, the International Journal of Canadian Studies, and Early Popular Visual Culture. In 2017, she launched a major web-based project in association with Library and Archives Canada: Photostories Canada, featuring photographic essays from the National Film Board of Canada, Still Photography Division collection.
Curator of Photographs
Lori Pauli has organized several exhibitions, including major monographs on the work of Canadian photographers, such as Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky (2003), Utopia/Dystopia: The Photographs of Geoffrey James (2008), and Domestic Symphonies: The Photographs of Margaret Watkins in 2012.
She has also organized thematic exhibitions, including Acting the Part: Photography as Theater (2006), and 19th-Century British Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada (2011). In addition, she organized the first major retrospective exhibition on the life and work of the Swedish-British photographer, Oscar Gustave Rejlander (2018), presented both at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
She has published essays on the work of photographers Paul-Émile Miot, André Kertesz, Stella Simon, Edward Weston, Diane Arbus and Gary Schneider. Other publications include essays for catalogues produced by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Kunsthalle in Vienna, the Street Level Gallery in Glasgow, and the Mois de la Photo in Montréal. She has also contributed articles on photography to the journals History of Photography, Studies in Photography and Ransom Notes, along with several entries for the Encyclopedias of Nineteenth Century and Twentieth Century Photography.
She was invited to be one of the authors for the Association of Art Museum Curators’ Standards and Guidelines Professional Practices for Art Museum Curators. In addition, she has been a guest lecturer at the University of Ottawa, where she taught the history of photography. She has also been invited to speak on various topics in photography in Canada and internationally.
Explore the art of photography from the medium’s earliest days to cutting-edge contemporary techniques, through fascinating stories inspired by works in the national photography collection.
Take a closer look at a selection of historical photography from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. Use the zoom feature to explore details not easily seen by the naked eye, and activate hotspots to learn more.
The Photograph as Object, 1843–1969: Photographs from the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada by James Borcoman (pamphlet, 1969). View the digital flipbook.
Charles Nègre by James Borcoman (catalogue, 1976)
Fact and Fiction: Canadian Painting and Photography 1860–1900 by Ann Thomas (McCord Museum, 1979)
Eikoh Hosoe: Killed by Roses by Ann Thomas (NGC Journal, 1983)
Eugène Atget, 1857–1927 by James Borcoman (catalogue, 1984)
Contemporary Canadian Photography from the Collection of the National Film Board by Martha Langford (catalogue, 1984)
Intimate Images: 129 daguerreotypes 1841–1857: The Phyllis Lambert Gift by James Borcoman (catalogue, 1988)
Lisette Model by Ann Thomas (catalogue, 1990)
Beau: A Reflection on the Nature of Beauty in Photography by Martha Langford (catalogue, 1992)
Women Photographed – Photographs by and of Women from the National Gallery of Canada by Lori Pauli (no publication, 1992)
Magicians of Light: Photographs from the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada by James Borcoman (catalogue, 1993)
Vintage Weston by Lori Pauli (pamphlet, 1996)
Beauty of Another Order: Photography in Science by Ann Thomas, ed. (catalogue, 1997)
A Passion for Life: The Photographs of André Kertesz by Lori Pauli (pamphlet, 1998)
A Canadian Document by Martha Hanna, Pierre Dessureault, and Carol Payne (catalogue, 1999)
Reflections on the Artist — Self Portraits by Artists by Lori Pauli (no publication, 1999)
Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups: The Photographs of Diane Arbus by Lori Pauli (pamphlet, 2000)
Shifting Sites by Andrea Kunard (pamphlet, 2000)
No Man's Land: The Photography of Lynne Cohen by Ann Thomas (catalogue, 2001)
Pierre Boogaerts: Reality, Vision, Image by Pierre Dessureault (catalogue, 2001)
Confluence: Contemporary Canadian Photography by Martha Hanna (catalogue, 2003)
Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky by Lori Pauli (catalogue, 2003)
Susan McEachern: Structures of Meaning by Andrea Kunard (catalogue, 2004)
Michael Semak by Andrea Kunard (catalogue, 2005)
Acting the Part: Photography as Theatre by Lori Pauli (catalogue, 2006)
Modernist Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada by Ann Thomas (catalogue, 2007)
Utopia/Dystopia: Geoffrey James by Lori Pauli (catalogue, 2008)
Steeling the Gaze: Portraits by Aboriginal Artists by Andrea Kunard, in collaboration with Steve Loft (pamphlet, 2008)
Scott McFarland: A Cultivated View by Andrea Kunard (catalogue, 2009)
19th-Century French Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada by James Borcoman (catalogue, 2010)
Without a Camera: Photograms from the National Gallery of Canada by Lori Pauli (no publication, 2010)
Angela Grauerholz: The Inexhaustible Image by Martha Hanna (catalogue, 2010)
19th-century British Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada by Lori Pauli, with an essay by John McElhone (catalogue, 2011)
American Photographs 1900–1950 from the National Gallery of Canada by Ann Thomas (catalogue, 2011)
Fred Herzog: Street Photography by Andrea Kunard (pamphlet, 2011)
Global Nature by Andrea Kunard (pamphlet, 2011)
The Study of Hands by Lori Pauli (no publication, 2011)
Margaret Watkins: Domestic Symphonies by Lori Pauli (catalogue, 2012)
Clash: Conflict and Its Consequences by Andrea Kunard (pamphlet, 2012)
Don McCullin (Ann Thomas, accompanying catalogue; author Katherine Stauble, 2013)
Paul-Emile Miot — Photographs from the Library and Archives of Canada by Lori Pauli (no publication, 2013)
Michel Campeau: Icons of Obsolescence by Andrea Kunard (pamphlet, 2013)
The Great War: The Persuasive Power of Photography by Ann Thomas (catalogue, 2014)
The Intimate World of Josef Sudek by Ann Thomas, Vladmir Birgus and Ian Jeffrey (catalogue, 2016)
Photography in Canada, 1960-2000 by Andrea Kunard (catalogue, 2017)
Oscar G. Rejlander: Artist Photographer by Lori Pauli (catalogue, 2018)
The Extended Moment: Fifty Years of Collecting Photographs at the National Gallery of Canada by Ann Thomas and John McElhone (catalogue, 2018
I Confess by Moyra Davey, Andrea Kunard and Dalie Giroux (catalogue, 2020)
The virtual exhibition which tells us fascinating stories about Canada