Wayne Barrett, Eldridge Cousins, Campbellton, c. 1976

Documentary Impulse

1970s Photography of PEI Life at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery

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A new exhibition, A Documentary Impulse: 1972 Photography of Prince Edward Island Life,  opened in February at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (CCAG).

In the 1970s, as PEI was undergoing rapid change, many Islanders began to be concerned about losing their “Island way of life.” It is not a coincidence that around this time many institutions, such as PEI. Museum and Heritage Foundation and others, were created to preserve evidence from the past, and to conserve the historic architecture and heritage of the province. Individuals and interest groups were concerned about the effects that tourism, advertising, urban development, and industrialization would have on the peaceful pastoral landscape. Members of the Island agriculture industry and energy sectors held both modernist and anti-modernist ideals and against this setting the back-to-the-land movement demonstrated a renewed interest in renewable energy and a traditional farming lifestyle.

Photographers were commissioned to document everyday life, and were sourced from a critical mass of artists doing documentary projects on PEI at that time. The 1970s remain a peak moment for 35mm photography on the Island. In the 1950s there were amateur photography clubs and commercial photographers. By 1975, many significant photographers were active on the Island, including acclaimed transplanted New Yorker George Zimbel, English documentarian Lawrence McLagan, and former Canadian Photographer of the Year (1966) Lionel Stevenson.

On view to May 21.

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