Make it New(s): Photographic Modernism and the Representation of Contemporaneity in The Canadian Magazine

Saturday 23 October 2010

Between 1893 and 1939, The Canadian Magazine provided Canadian readers with a picture of the country’s transformation into a modern industrialized nation. In the 1920s and 1930s photography progressively invaded the editorial space and became a vital tool for the representation of Canadian modernity. Within the magazine, photographs were soon inseparable from the periodical’s overt attempt to depict the contemporaneity of Canada – an attempt fuelled by a desire to assert the country’s cultural independence from its increasingly domineering neighbour, the United States. Yet paradoxically, many of the photographs used to illustrate Canada’s contemporaneity were documents of either past or “timeless” events. In this essay I argue that The Canadian Magazine nonetheless succeeded in depicting contemporaneity through the application of a specific visual language: photographic modernism. I propose that within the context of early twentieth-century illustrated magazines, news photography was not required to literally represent the new but could “make it new” by exploiting avant-garde stylistic strategies. Through an investigation of photographs published in The Canadian Magazine, I show how the visual language of photographic modernism was used to “imagine” a view of Canada as a culturally and politically mature country, and as such a valuable member of the international community of modern nations.

To cite this document:
Tousignant, Zoë. 2010. “Make it New(s): Photographic Modernism and the Representation of Contemporaneity in The Canadian Magazine”. Within Imaginaires du présent: Photographie, politique et poétique de l'actualité. Symposium hosted by Figura, Centre de recherche sur le texte et l'imaginaire. Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, 23 octobre 2010. Document vidéo et audio. Available online: l’Observatoire de l’imaginaire contemporain. <>. Accessed on July 23, 2019.
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Figures and Imaginary: