Ottawa’s Past in Pictures : Photography as Mass Media

A view of the Centre Block in 1884, with its centrepiece the 55-metre-high Victoria Tower. After being destroyed by the great fire of 1916, the Centre Block was rebuilt with a newly-designed and taller Peace Tower. (Library and Archives Canada/PA-003340)

 Photography functions both as a Mass Medium and as content for other Mass Media. It can be used as a means of documenting  events and as an artistic medium to entertain/comment . The CBC News has been running a series of articles exploring Ottawa‘s past through archival photography. As with any form of Mass Media, these pieces of media reveal target audience, values. beliefs & ideologies, and convey intended and unintended messages.

Ottawa’s thin blue line was a lot thinner in 1912, with a much smaller police force for a much smaller municipal population of about 100,000. Back then, bicycles served as equivalent of squad cars. Police officer James Fagan is posing outside C. Poulin’s store at 324 Rochester St. (City of Ottawa Archives/CA001216)

 

The Anglo-Irish police officer in front of a French Canadian owned store reveal/suggest the cultural-socioeconomic structural lines of Canadian society . To further cement  this image a truly Canadian, note the shop window. Red Rose Tea, advertised for sale in the shop window,  is a classic emblem of Canada.  Red Rose Tea  was a beverage company established by Theodore Harding Estabrooks in 1894 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. It is considered an iconic part of Canadian culture and many consumers have a strong emotional attachment to the brand  ( Only in Canada, eh ? Pity….. ).

Workers at the Ottawa Car Company plant on Slater Street pose with ‘Lallah Rookh,’ one of the first electric streetcars to ply the streets of Ottawa, in this 1893 photo. The company would go on to build 1,700 streetcar and rail vehicles before closing in 1947. Electric streetcars operated in the capital from June 1891 until May 1959. (City of Ottawa Archives/CA001508)

 

The white working men pose depict their social class and the style of clothing of the time. Notice the little girls to the left dressed in very adult clothes of young ladies. Childhood was seen as miniature adulthood and girls & women had roles to fill that were as defined as the men posing in the shot.

The young girls  in the following shot, infant Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and her sisters, resided in Ottawa during the WW II, they too had roles to play, even as children.  They were emblems of a social structure, a society & people under threat, and the  Yousuf Karsh portrait is intended to portray/represent a mother and her children who have sought sanctuary.

 

Princess Juliana of the Netherlands holds an infant Princess Margriet at Stornoway (later to become the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition) in Rockcliffe, their home during the Second World War. Juliana and her three girls found refuge in Ottawa after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. The Canadian government declared Juliana’s maternity room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital international territory to ensure Margriet would bear only Dutch citizenship. After the war, an appreciative Royal family sent Ottawa 100,000 tulips, spawning the long-standing tulip festival the capital continues to enjoy every spring. (Library and Archives Canada/Yousuf Karsh/PA-192854)

The potential of heroism & compassion can also be portrayed in scenes of tragedy and calamity , as the following images demonstrate.

 

 

 

Theories as to the cause of the Centre Block fire, but to this day it remains a mystery. An official inquiry failed to determine whether the blaze was sparked by arson, a careless smoker or perhaps faulty wiring. (John Boyd/Library and Archives Canada)

 

Eight people, including two children, all newly-arrived immigrants, died in the derailment. At least 50 more were injured. Many of those on board were Scottish and Irish immigrants who had arrived in Canada only hours earlier. While many residents showed up to watch the spectacle, others helped search for and comfort survivors, and opened their homes to stranded families. (Library and Archives Canada/PA-025114)

 

Clicking the images will take you( new tab) to original CBC articles which include more images and information.  Consider the values, beliefs & ideologies the that the CBC is trying to convey about Canada, Canadian culture and Ottawa,  in our 150th year.

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Malak and the Boat: UNICEF’s Animated ‘Unfairy Tales’ Begin

Malak Title

 

UNICEF  launched a new animated series  meant to bring attention to the youngest victims of the Syrian refugee crisis, Unfairy Tales. Created by ad agency 180LA, the videos chronicle real children’s journeys from Syria by juxtaposing stunning animation with terrifying narrations of the terrible events wrought by this globally impactful humanitarian disaster. The first story, Malak and the Boat, tells seven-year-old Malak’s harrowing story of his journey across the Mediterranean seeking shelter from the Syrian conflict. Visual design company House of Colors built a custom animation algorithm for the film that gives the waves a stylized, almost autonomous behaviour as if the sea were a sentient thing.

 

 

 

 

While intended to contrast the contemporary mass media  view of fairy tales with the harsh reality of the refugee children, it actually reveals the core of fairy tales and folklore.  The power of fairy tales to convey the harsh reality through metaphor and archetype is clearly evident in this work of animation.  Childhood can be fraught with perils, both imagined and very real. Through the fairy tale these perils and the human spirit of resilience can be effectively portrayed and modelled. The real outcomes & collateral damage, rather than the Disney/Victorian happy ever afterwards, can be presented, that those with power & voice can strive to create a positive outcome for those caught up in a wave of societal conflict & extreme upheaval.

Toronto is One Big Lazy Susan: Advice & Tips for Refugees

Vinay Menone, Toronto Star arts and life columnist & feature writer, offers observations on adapting to Canadian society and the specific advantages offered in Toronto.

This is a world-class city with great prospects. All you need to do is work hard and follow the rules. Don’t worry, you will — nothing elevates a human more than a second chance at life, especially when the first one was snatched away rather than squandered. When you gaze up at the CN Tower, think of it as pointing at the cosmos and the infinite possibilities now within your reach.

 

He points out the  range of food  as an example of how cultural touchstones are always near.

 

The good news: not much needs to change with your diet. Toronto is one big Lazy Susan, upon which all of the world’s spices and regional dishes are just a few twirls away. Kibbeh, tabbouleh, shawarma, mujaddara, you name it and someone is selling it. Or they are preparing it in restaurants such as Byblos, Tabule and Takht-e Tavoos. 

 

It is his observations on mass media popular culture that are of  particular interest. Menon provides the insight on how to navigate the flood of Mass Media influences and recognizes that it has value , while also being a continuum of styles, content and messages, “I’m not suggesting Star Wars or Miley Cyrus are equivalent to Shakespeare or Mozart” . He identifies the wide range of possibilities available to widening and sharing in community experience. from opera and live theatre to the the AGO, ROM, Science Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium and Toronto Zoo.

If you have children, don’t be alarmed by how popular culture shapes their interests. Music, movies, fashion, games, TV, books, these diversions only thrive in places of imagination and harmony. This is why religious extremists, like the ones you are fleeing, are so eager to impose barbaric laws that govern daily life.

“Art is a path to enlightenment.

It is the enemy of totalitarianism.”

 Vinay Menone, Toronto Star

 

 

 

Ontario Sex-ed: Mass Media Conveys Values, Beliefs & Ideologies

Though I have been retired from teaching for a few years now, I can clearly remember in my first couple of years of teaching when  one  young fellows ( Grd. 10-11)  was in the English Department Office . While there,  getting some information on an assignment, he casually asked one of the teachers some advice on dating/asking out a girl.  A short while later he was walking hand in with a young lady.

 

He was a thin pale gawky kid of bookish demeanor ,while the young lady in question was a lovely girl with dark tresses and eyes that spoke of her African heritage.  Even now I smile at the thought that no one batted an eye at this  inter-racial couple. It didn’t matter – I thought we were on our way to a better society.

By the time I was approaching retirement,  we had  a school support group for gay students . Students were feeling more comfortable self-identifying and non-gay students were supportive of them. There were still some issues, but again I thought we were on our way to a better society.

The Ontario Sex-ed curriculum has been updated (from 1998) to acknowledge changes in science, medicine, social norms and the impact of social media and media devices on society. 

 

The new curriculum mandates that students in Grade 4 be taught the risks associated with communications technology, including sharing sexual photos or personal information and cyber-bullying, and strategies to use the technologies safely.

Grade 5 students get a bit more in-depth on what’s appropriate in relationships. “Sharing private sexual photos or posting sexual comments online is unacceptable and also illegal,” the curriculum says.

There has been push-back from various groups in society, some of which has been generated by intentional misinformation by politically/ideologically motivated groups or individuals.

There was a trap set by easy news shorthand – most news gathering organizations went for the “colourful exotic” image of protestors, with the implied message that most protestors were of Arabic and Asian (India/Pakistan) background .

Saying No to Sex-Ed in OntarioIn reality the groups protesting are more diverse, but many hold common beliefs about  family role in education, sexual orientation and strong to moderate  importance placed on cultural and religious background. Not all are newcomers, non-European or belong to religions other than Christianity. 

The equal diversity in those supporting the new Sex-Ed mandate has only recently hit the news gathering institutions – Muslim, newcomer groups join coalition supporting sex-ed

 This  arises from an online petition defending the New Ontario Curriculum .  The video at the top of the post is also by this group.  As you can see there is an attempt to balance out, not just the negative atmosphere surrounding the revised educational resources, but also emphasis on a negative portrayal of newcomers to Canada and non-Christian groups.

There is much work to be done in this area.  I suspect that the underlying concern is with cultural attitudes towards gender roles and sexual orientation.  We as a society have only recently moved forward in acceptance of differences in sexual orientation. Not all are accepting of this change in attitude and behaviour.  The education system will be one of the places where the lines of discomfort will come to the attention of the public in a very emotional manner.  Mass Media will play a significant role in how smoothly society navigates this issue.