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TimeLinks: Lewis Foote

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Foote Hoisted on a Derrick L. B. Foote deserves a special recognition in TimeLinks because many of the images that fill its pages were taken by his camera.

Lewis B. Foote was born in Newfoundland and came to Winnipeg in 1902, where he rapidly established himself as the city's première commercial photographer. Many of the images which survive in the Provincial Archives of Manitoba from this period come from the Foote Collection.

Foote's Winnipeg collection spans more then fifty years and documents the tremendous social change of the era in which he lived. The Winnipeg to which he came in 1902 was one riding a wave of boosterism, captivated by its own growth. It was also a city of disparity and injustice. Foote's photographs of the wealthy at their clubs and in their homes contrast markedly with those of immigrant families packed into the slums of the North End that he took as illustrations for J.S. Woodsworth's Strangers Within Our Gates(1909). Taken together, they capture the vitality, the tension and the growing pains of an urban metropolis forced to reconcile boom and boosterism with the inevitable poverty and injustice that they bring.

Images of buildings under construction fill the Foote collection, and his pictures of workers are a rarity when convention and photographic technology demanded formal poses and static images of empty buildings. One gets a sense, however, that in most instances what Foote was trying to capture was not the workers themselves, but the sense of progress communicates by Winnipeg's growing skyline.

Foote was a commercial photographer, and in looking at his photos, the viewer must consider not just the subject and the photographer, but the patron who was paying the bills. From the photos of the slums to the images of workers lined up in the factory in their Sunday best, Foote's photographs documented what the people of Winnipeg wanted to see and how they wanted to imagine themselves.

Among Foote's most famous images are those he took on Bloody Saturday, the violent culmination of the Winnipeg General Strike. Mayor Gray had banned parades and demonstrations, but the strikers went ahead with a silent parade to protest the arrest of the strike leaders. Gray called-in the Mounted Police, and Foote, who had stationed himself on the third floor of a Main Street building, documented the charge of the police and the riot that followed.

Page revised: 29 August 2009

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