Contemporary Canadian Photography: From the Collection of the National Film Board


176 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-88830-264-9





Edited by The National Film Board of Canada, Still Photography Division
Reviewed by David Mattison

David Mattison is a librarian with the B.C. Provincial Archives and
Records Services Library.


In many ways Martha Langford’s introductory essay on the inner workings of the Still Photography Division of the National Film Board of Canada is as exciting and provocative as the photographs she and her collaborators have selected. The foreword by Hugh MacLennan seems tortured and his connection with the NFB is tenuous (an entire summer in the 1940s). His comments on the photographs do little more than summarize the contents of a few images.

Black-and-white and colour photographs in next to flawless reproductions are intermixed; Langford explains that the selection process was surely subjective — what she calls “our favourites,” felt to be the best of the more than 150,000 images available from the 1960s to the present. The presentation is described as “loosely chronological, with this final arrangement a subjective one for comparison and the pleasure of the eye.” No attempt seems to have been made to relate images with NFB exhibition and publication trends. Captions are minimal, with more detailed information appearing at the end of the book. An index by photographer is provided; obviously, not every major photographer who has worked for the NFB is represented. The text is bilingual, but the sans serif gothic typeface seems a monotonous choice for an otherwise outstanding survey of a unique federal institution. The photographs demonstrate that the NFB has indeed been a major force in contemporary Canadian photography and the book is therefore highly recommended.


“Contemporary Canadian Photography: From the Collection of the National Film Board,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,