The Patina of Age: Working Photographs of The Globe and Mail


Unidentified Photographer, Dave John Bryant and son in Toronto for peace demonstration, 1961, gelatin silver print with grease pencil and retouching, 23.0 x 17.5 cm. Gift of The Globe and Mail Newspaper to the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada

Before newspapers entered the digital age, photographs were printed, marked up, and altered entirely by hand.

Newsrooms used grease pencil to mark crop lines, applied paint to highlight black and white tones, and scribbled captions on the back of prints. At The Globe and Mail, each of their images was carefully archived, resulting in an enormous collection of over 700,000 photographs and one million negatives.

This year, The Globe and Mail will move from its current location on Front Street in Toronto to a new building on King Street. As part of this process, they will be deaccessioning their enormous photography collection, digitizing the prints to preserve them as a working archive.

With the help of the Archive of Modern Conflict, a carefully selected collection of between 15,000 and 20,000 original prints are being donated to the Canadian Photography Institute at the National Gallery of Canada.


Unidentified Photographer, Paper rolls in The Globe and Mail press room, 1956, gelatin silver print with grease pencil and retouching, 25.4 x 20.5 cm. Gift of The Globe and Mail Newspaper to the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada

“The collection is historically important,” said Adrian Norris, Creative Director of The Globe and Mail, in an interview with NGC Magazine. “It’s a large physical collection for us to move and rehouse, so we’re pleased that the photographs will have a great home at the National Gallery of Canada.”

To celebrate the transfer, The Globe and Mail, National Gallery of Canada, and Archive of Modern Conflict worked together to organize an exhibition of 175 images, currently on view at The Old Press Hall on Wellington Street — an industrial space in which the newspaper operated years ago, currently slated for demolition.

Cutline: The Photography Archives of The Globe and Mail — curated by Roger Hargreaves, Jill Offenbeck, and Stefanie Petrilli — is one of 175 exhibitions being presented as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto. 

“It’s mind boggling how much content there is,” says Bonnie Rubenstein, Artistic Director of the Festival, who is fascinated by the extent of the archives. “The collection encompasses a huge span of years, and the idea of delving into something like that and coming up with a cohesive, accessible exhibition is overwhelming. But the curators have accomplished this with great mastery.”


John Maiola, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau donned cleats for a kickoff that travelled less than 10 yards, 1968, gelatin silver print, 23.5 x 17.9 cm. Gift of The Globe and Mail Newspaper to the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery’s Ellen Treciokas worked as a designer for the exhibition. For her, the biggest concern was determining how the Press Hall — with its rough, crumbling walls — could be used in an effective and aesthetically pleasing way.

“The industrial space is the complete antithesis of what we would normally consider an ideal gallery space,” says Treciokas. “The challenges were endless in many ways, but the space created a context for the photographs to be displayed in their original home.” 

The size of the venue also meant reconciling the scale of small 5x7” photographs within a vast industrial space. “Our response,” says Treciokas, “was to use video projections while also displaying the photos en masse.” This included building partition walls down the centre of the room, where the photographs could be mounted onto magnetic boards in glass cases. “We didn’t want them to be displayed as high art,” she says, explaining her decision to forego traditional frames. “We wanted them to look like working photographs, which is what they are. They have the patina of age on them.”


Unidentified Photographer, Along the new Highway 807, which runs from Smooth Rock Falls to Fraserdale, Ontario, there's not a sign of human habitation apart from one empty lumber camp, c. 1966, gelatin silver print with grease pencil, 23.4 x 17.5 cm. Gift of The Globe and Mail Newspaper to the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada

One image by an unidentified photographer, for example, shows a car driving down Ontario’s Highway 807 in 1966. Grease-pencil marks indicate where the photo would have been cropped for print, re-positioning the vehicle in the bottom-left corner of the image.

Likewise, a 1958 photo by Peter Clark shows a woman wearing a long, fur scarf. Similar crop lines are drawn to eliminate empty space on both sides of her body.

The images in the exhibition not only reveal the process by which they were prepared for print, but also shine a light on the subjects of interest to the newspaper at that particular point in time. “The photographs hold a mirror up to The Globe and Mail in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s,” says Norris.

“They have this bold quality about them,” adds Treciokas. “They tell a story quickly and encapsulate it. They’re these curious, interesting, experimental objects.” 


Peter Clark, A new fashion in fur, Bradleys introduce the long fur scarf, this one in silver fox, 1958, gelatin silver print with grease pencil and retouching, 24.7 x 18.1 cm. Gift of The Globe and Mail Newspaper to the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada

The exhibition is meant to educate visitors on the way photojournalism operated at the newspaper during this period, while also paying tribute to the space that originally housed the prints.

“The old Globe and Mail building is an amazing, massive, cavernous printing space,” said Darcy Kileen, Executive Director of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, in an interview with NGC Magazine. “The exhibition will allow us to visit this tremendous space before it is demolished.”

The collection, which will soon be housed at the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, seeks to preserve the images for future generations. “The photographs will be looked after, and people will be able to enjoy them and learn from them for years to come,” says Norris.

Organized by the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, The Globe and Mail, and the Archive of Modern Conflict, Cutline: The Photography Archives of The Globe and Mail is presented as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. It is on view at the Old Press Hall from April 30 to June 26, 2016. Exhibition access is from the back at 425 Wellington Street West, Toronto. Free admission. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Cutline will also be on view at the National Gallery of Canada from October 28, 2016 until February 12, 2017. 

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