Archive

The NFB photostory negatives and original mat releases, or final camera ready stories, are held in three different collections.

  • 1,903 negatives relating to photostories from 1955–1961 are held in the Library and Archives Canada collection (negative numbers beginning LAC-NFB).
  • The remaining 1,551 negatives are housed in the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography collection, Canadian Photography Institute, National Gallery of Canada (negative numbers beginning NFB).
  • All original mat releases are held in the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography fonds, Library and Archives, National Gallery of Canada (negative numbers beginning LIB-NFB).

Language

From 1955–1960, photostories were available only in English, however this changed  with photostory 276, dated 10 January 1961, where, due to federal government pressure, stories began to appear in both French and English.

Interestingly, stories were not written in either one of the official languages and then translated. Rather, text written in English originated in Ottawa and its French counterpart was produced in Montreal. The result is that while the images and general information were the same, the texts may vary considerably.

These texts are maintained in their original form in the Photostories Canada archive, however English photostories produced before 1960 have now been translated to French.

Photographs

Why are all the photographs in black and white? Some answers from the photographers:

We’d keep colour for when a very colourful, interesting shot could be made easily. Processing of this was very costly at the time. Then there was the user - Who’s going to use it? It was expensive for photo engraving. So we stuck to black and white.
– Chris Lund, NFB staff photographer

If you photograph people in black and white you photograph their souls, but if you photograph them in colour you photograph their clothes.  
– Ted Grant

FAQs

  • The Photostories Canada archive includes negatives and original mat releases.
  • The archive is incomplete, as some images are missing because the negatives were transferred to a different government department and their present location is unknown.
  • Photostories 497–517 exist in an unfinished, in-progress format. Each story is made up of separate sheets of written body texts and pages featuring a selection of images with accompanying captions.
  • Beginning in February 1960, supplementary text and images were included with the photostory mat release for those who wished to swap out images and text. The supplementary material shown in this website constitutes only a portion of the material available for research. For further information, please send an email to the NGC Library and Archives at erefel@gallery.ca or call 613-998-8949.

 

Ordering images

To order images from negatives held in the National Gallery of Canada collection (negative numbers beginning NFB), click here.

To order images from negatives held in the Library and Archives Canada collection (negative numbers beginning LAC-NFB), click here.