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Authority record
Photography

William Notman Studio

  • Corporate body
  • 1856-1882

William Notman was born in Paisley, Scotland and after immigrating to Lower Canada in mid-1856.and started his own photographic business on Bleury Street in Montreal. The studio tended to focus on portraiture of individuals and groups; however, his early commissions included one from the Grand Trunk Railway in 1858 to document construction of its Victoria Bridge. His resultant work led to a growth in his reputation such that by August 1860, the Canadian government requested he produce a portfolio of photographs in an album that was enclosed in a silver-mounted bird’s-eye maple box as a gift for the Prince of Wales who was visiting Canada. This further enhanced the studio's reputation and attracted many noteworthy clients, such as Sir John A. Macdonald and Louis-Joseph Papineau. He was also hired by athletic clubs, social gatherings, and families to create group photos; the studio produced high quality prints of groups by photographing each person in studio, cutting the figures from the prints, and sticking them to a background. In addition, Notman accumulated a large body of images showing Canadian scenes that resulted from the work he and his photographers created when travelling across the country as they recorded the land, economic activity (such as lumbering, mining, hunting, and farming), physical features (rivers and lakes); vessels (ships, trains, carriages and carts), and communities (buildings and street scenes). Notably his studio managed to document many aspects of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and other railways, including personalities and the labour involved. In addition to studio work, Notman frequently photographed pedlars, newspaper carriers, woodcutters, and underprivileged citizens of Montreal. The studio photographs frequently made use of props and painted backgrounds, thereby allowing him to produce a multiplicity of options for his clients. This variety in settings, the range in products (albums, stereographs), and the moderate prices he charged, ensured his photographs were attractive to a broad clientele. Notman provided instruction and apprenticeship opportunities to those interested in learning about photography, resulting in a large number moving on to either becoming employees of Notman or operating their own studios.

Notman’s studio took his own talent and supplemented it with skilful photographers and painters that could deliver high quality products. In 1860, Norton hired John Arthur Fraser to set up an art department responsible for creating colour photographs, retouching negatives, and painting studio backdrops. To assist Fraser, Henry Sandham was hired, and the art department soon grew in staff and in reputation, with the photographers and painters supplemented by assistants, printing, darkroom, and finishing personnel. In 1877, possibly precipitated by a decline in economic conditions, Notman made Sandham a partner in the Montreal firm and it was renamed Notman and Sandham; however by 1882 Sandham had left to pursue a painting career in the United States.

Notman’s early success resulted in him opening branch studios and developing partnerships with like-minded individuals. For example, in 1868, beginning with Ottawa, Notman opened a branch and installed William James Topley as the manager of its operations; later in the year, a studio was formed in Toronto (under the name Notman and Fraser) that represented a partnership with John Arthur Fraser. His partnership with Fraser ceased in 1880 when Fraser began a career in painting. Expansion continued with a studio in Halifax in 1870 and then Saint John, New Brunswick in 1872. By the 1880s, Notman was associated with the operation of around twenty (20) studios, including in 1876 a partnership with Edward Wilson of Philadelphia to form the Centennial Photographic Company. This initiative was organized to take advantage of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition held that year, and operated with a large staff in a building located on the Exhibition’s grounds.

In 1882, William Notman’s son William McFarlane, became a junior partner in his father’s studio, resulting in a name change to William Notman and Son.

William Notman & Son

  • Corporate body
  • 1882-1935

In 1882, William Notman’s son William McFarlane, became a junior partner in his father’s photography studio, resulting in a name change to William Notman and Son. The elder Notman remained an active photographer with the studio until his death on November 25 1891, whereupon his sons William McFarlane and Charles Frederick continued the firm. William McFarlane Notman became senior photographer/manager of the studio from 1891 up to his own death in 1913 and Charles Frederick Notman took responsibility for the enterprise until 1935 when he retired and sold the business to Associated Screen News.

Searl, George W., c. 1846-?

  • Person
  • c. 1846-1889 or after

Opened a photographic studio (under the name Searl & Co.) in Winnipeg in June 1883.

Searl & Co. (firm)

  • Corporate body
  • 1883-1885

Founded in Winnipeg in June 1883 by George W. Searl.

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