George Hunter: Witness in the Mines

By Megan Fothergill
Digitization Student - Young Canada Works Position, Summer 2019

Most Canadians will never see the inside of a mine, despite mining playing a significant role in the Canadian economy. Currently more than 425,000 Canadians are employed in mineral extraction, processing and manufacturing. Canada extracts more than 60 minerals and metals and ranks in the top five countries for global production for 16 of them. You can read the Mining Association of Canada’s ‘Facts and Figures 2018’ report for more information on Canadian mining:

George Hunter was one of the few people outside the industry to take a good look at what miners did on a day-to-day basis, and to photograph it well. George’s images open up the tight tunnels to the world and to help the Canadian public gain a better understanding of what these men were doing on a daily basis. The remoteness of many mining operations led many workers to move to communities built specifically to accommodate the influx of personnel, and many communities owe their existence and expansion to Canadian mining, including Elliot Lake, Kirkland Lake, Timmins, and the Greater Sudbury Area. What made their experiences unique however was the environment in which they worked. In northern Ontario they work deep in the Canadian shield in tunnels many people would find claustrophobic, often ankle deep in water and working alongside deafening machines in small spaces.

George Hunter had a special relationship with Canadian mining; much of his commercial work in Canada and in Ontario was for mining companies. His photographs were used in presentations to banks and investors, giving “life and realism” to the relatively unknown field, and in offices and annual reports to bring “warmth and conviction” about the work being done. George believed that photography was an important partner to industry and visited more than 40 mining sites over the course of his career. George’s images bring a unique perspective into the everyday lives of Canadians during the late 20th century, more of which we hope to share as the team at the Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation continue to catalogue and digitize George’s images of Ontario.


The above pamphlet is an an example of how George would market his photography to the mining industry. One interesting method to attract customers was suggesting multiple companies contribute to one trip; companies could work together to fund one of George’s 100+ cross-Canada trips to reduce the individual costs to themselves. One or more of these trips would end up supporting the brochure to the left and below, which was presented as part of the Sixth Commonwealth Mining and Metallurgical Congress in 1956.

Sixth Commonwealth Mining and Metallurgical Congress
George Hunter

O Canada

By Emily Hall
Canada Summer Jobs Position

Canada Day is a national holiday, observed on July 1st of every year since 1867. The 37 million residents of Canada will be celebrating this national holiday over the weekend with family BBQ’s, parade’s, parties and fireworks. Here is a summary of what is happening around Canada Day at CHPF.

George Hunter

George Hunter

CHPF is very proud to house the George Hunter archive. He was widely published and likely Canada's most travelled photographer. Hunter spent seven decades creating dramatic images across Canada and travelling around the nation more than 100 times. Notably, the Canada Post has used five of George’s images on their stamps and the Bank of Canada chose two for their $5, $10 bills in the 1972 – 1988 banknote series. His photographs appeared in newspapers, magazines, textbooks and atlases, and one is even travelling in space in a time capsule aboard the NASA probe Voyager.

In addition to our current project, Images of Ontario by George Hunter, RCA - Digitization and Preservation Project funded in part by the Documentary Heritage Communities Program through Library and Archives Canada, CHPF summer students began digitizing George Hunter’s O Canada slideshow of 35mm slide transparencies and will make it available to view in the coming months. For the O Canada presentation Hunter collaborated with Ken Clayton, a longtime friend of Hunter, on a concert featuring the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra playing in time to an image show of more than 800 photographs. Check out a sneak peek at O Canada by George Hunter below:

George Hunter is known for his portraits and landscapes of Northern communities but his body of work also spans across a diverse genres and subject matters, from intimate portraits in family living rooms to iconic Canadian landscapes captured from airplanes.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the exciting festivities every year, between trips to the cottage and parties in the city. But it’s important to remember the people who were here before the first French and English settlers all the way back in 1534. While this year Canada celebrates its 152nd birthday, some indigenous tribes go back thousands of years and have long been forgotten during the festivities. The name ‘Canada’ was actually a gift from Indigenous peoples, coming from the Iroquoian word, kanata, meaning ‘village.’

 "My mission is to show Canadians, and the world, a little of our country. The more they see something of Canada's grandeur and diversity of its people, the more they will appreciate it. I will not rest a minute until my mission is accomplished."
- George Hunter

Project Update: Digitizing The George Hunter Archive

Images of Ontario by George Hunter, RCA - Digitization and Preservation Project
Check out a sneak peek of the digitized Ontario negatives and film transparencies by George Hunter

During the digitization process, our team of students from the Young Canada Works in Heritage Organizations program along with the Canada Summer jobs initiative have come across a wide range of different sizes of negatives and film transparencies. Our team are using our new Epson V800 and V600 scanners to digitize using film holders and are working with a guide for best practices. A major challenge faced early in the project was related to scanning large negative transparencies. Many were curled due to age and would not fit in the holders, making it difficult to produce high quality digital images. As a resolution we are using newton glass to not only help with newton rings, which is an issue for the large colour transparencies, but also to help keep the large negatives flat for scanning.

The process of pulling the materials for this project to scan requires a significant amount of preparation. This process includes: auditing boxes, assigning accession numbers and creating accurate catalogue records. The materials also need to be placed in proper housing to preserve them for the future. We are custom creating our own negative sleeves while preserving George Hunter’s original envelopes with illustrated labels, titles and dates.

George Hunter shot with a variety of cameras and explored both black and white and colour photography. The George Hunter fonds are diverse with a wide range of photographic materials. Hunter explored and embraced the progression of new photographic inventions and materials. He really did move with the times, starting off with black and white film and moving forward with colour and finally fully embracing the digital era. It is very fitting that CHPF can digitize these images and move forward with Hunter’s vision to share the works of Canadian photographers.

Some highlights from the first one thousand five hundred scans include aerial views of Toronto, parliament buildings, mines, landscapes and portraits. Hunter’s Ontario images call attention to the many industries, developments and changes this province has experienced.

This project has been made possible in part by the government of Canada’s Documentary Heritage Communities Program through Library and Archives Canada.

Aerial works: A collection of George Hunter's aerial photographs as seen in TIME and MacLean's.

Aerial works: A collection of George Hunter's aerial photographs as seen in TIME and MacLean's.

George Hunter’s photographs have appeared in many publications over the years, including various newspapers, magazines, and books. Some notable magazines that have featured his work include TIME Magazine, TIME Canada, and MacLean’s, who have all had multi-page spreads featuring George’s aerial photography from all across Canada and the United States. The letter from the publisher in these issues of TIME and TIME Canada also discuss George and the work he did in these shoots. Here, we would like to share with you these letters and photographs, as well as the article that accompanies his spread in MacLean’s. We hope you enjoy!

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