Friday, January 13, 2012

lifetime goal: achieved

Normally, that title would be absolute hyperbole.  I say things like that all the time in jest, but this time around, I actually achieved one of my lifetime goals, and I can't tell you how entirely excited I am about this fact!  But before I get to the actual discovery, let me give you a bit of background.

You may or may not know/remember that I was an art history major for two years, and even though I didn't go through my degree to the very end (I decided to pursue writing instead), I would say I was fairly passionate about it.  In fact, I had aspirations of becoming a professor -- that's right folks, I had every intention of devoting the next ten or more years to education, wherever that may have taken me.  And so when I was considering which topic I might like to explore for a masters degree (and eventually my PhD), I was going back and forth between two topics: Flemish painting (think Vermeer, the artist who created my absolute favourite painting Girl with a Pearl Earring) and early Canadian photography.  I'd always loved Vermeer, but it was an amazing documentary on the "Queen's Photographer" William Notman that began to sway me toward Canadian photography.  His work was different from a lot of photographers at the time, and some of it very complex.   If you're interested in taking a look at his photographs, check out Museum McCord's virtual exhibit about him.

In any case, I was obsessed.  I had print-outs of his work hanging on my wall.  I wrote possibly my best university essay about his influence on the world's perception of Canada.  And I honestly never though I would care that much about anything even remotely Canadian, because while I love living here, our history is not the most fascinating.  Because I was totally hung up about this photographer, I decided that someday, I would find a William Notman photograph, and make it my own.  I'd only ever seen a couple in person (strangely, it was a gentleman exhibiting early Canadian photographs at the mall), but they weren't for sale.  So I could only admire them through a glass case, and then have to walk away.

But for the past two years I have looked through probably hundreds of old photographs at various antique stores with no luck at all.  I was tempted to ask the store owners if they would keep an eye out for any Notmans, but then I thought they probably get so many old photographs that they don't even care about the studio anymore. happened.  Yesterday, while out antiquing with my best friend (and maid of honour!), I found it.  Buried in among a stash of photographs, I drew it out, and I stopped breathing as I stared at the studio name at the bottom of the portrait.  It was all very dramatic, I can assure you.  What made it even more amazing to me, was that the photograph was from his Boston Studio -- not even Ottawa or Montreal.  It was one lonely photograph taken in a different country that somehow made it's way to that antique store, and into my hands.  And thus my lifetime goal was accomplished for the price of three dollars.

Funnily enough, I had just told Mary that it would be just my luck that when I found a Notman, it would be of a creepy baby or something.  But no!  Instead I got myself a sharp-dressed older gentleman with a kind face.  On the back of the photo is written the man's name Geo W. Pousland, and what I believe is his year of birth (1814) and death (1894).  I did a bit of research, and the span of  years of the man's life (and the approximate age he is in the portrait) put him in the right time for Notman's Boston studio, as well as the actual name of the studio (Notman Photographic Company).  So I'm absolutely ecstatic that I own an authentic William Notman photograph!  I might just have to pop over to the university to show the professor who made us watch that documentary!


  1. Congrats! I wish I was half as passionate about a thing as you are!

  2. Thank you, Rupertt! :) I'm sure you'll find something if you haven't already!