Hélène Samson and Suzanne Sauvage, eds. Hazan/Yale, December 2016. 240 p. ill. ISBN 9780300223675 (cl.), $50.00.
Reviewed March 2017
Notman: Visionary Photographer is a comprehensive and much needed addition to the existing body of work on early photographers, and Notman, specifically. William Notman (1826-1891) was a Scottish photographer who moved to Montreal in 1856, where he remained for the rest of his life. This book is a companion to the exhibit of the same name at the McCord Museum in Montreal, Quebec.
The introduction to the book draws attention to the comprehensive study of Notman by Stanley Triggs, the first curator of the Notman Collection at the McCord Museum from 1965 to 1993. This volume is the first such global study since Triggs and J. Russel Harper’s The Portrait of the Period from 1967.
As a new study, Notman: Visionary Photographer offers a “fresh and comprehensive view of the photographer and his work.” Clear, brief essays precede a wealth of groundbreaking photographs, composites, and halftones that clearly illustrate an analysis of Notman’s photographic innovations, artistic philosophy and successful business.
While portions of these essays have been published electronically elsewhere as part of the exhibit, this is the first time these pieces have been assembled in an extensive chronology that documents the career of the photographer and the life of the collection. Captions place the illustrations into an insightful historical context. Comprehensive citations offer additional references for each essay. The bibliography delineates archival sources (and locations), and provides an exhaustive list of other sources. The book’s index supplies a detailed, consistent guide to the ideas, people, and places found in both the illustrations and in the text.
This oversized hardcover successfully celebrates a larger-than-life body of work. It features sewn signatures, and opens flat—several photographs span two pages.
Notman: Visionary Photographer is highly recommended for all libraries. Samson and Sauvage’s book is especially appropriate for collections that focus on either or both North American history and the history of photography.