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"Five shots of Hannah Maynard, multiple exposure"
Hannah Maynard, "Five shots of Hannah Maynard, multiple exposure," ca. 1893, taken from original glass plate, size variable. Image F-02850 courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives.
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Courtesy Masters Gallery Vancouver
Hannah Hatherly Maynard "Victoria- Vancouver Island" August, 1895
Hannah Hatherly Maynard "Victoria- Vancouver Island" August, 1895/ albumen print mounted on card/ 7.5 x 9.75 in.
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Courtesy Masters Gallery Vancouver
Hannah Hatherly Maynard "Kuper Island Indian School, BC" 1890
Hannah Hatherly Maynard "Kuper Island Indian School, BC" 1890 / silver gelatin print mounted on card/ 7 x 9.5 in.
BACK ROOM: Hannah Maynard
(1834 – 1918)
By Portia Priegert
Vancouver is known for its vibrant contemporary photography scene, with leading artists Jeff Wall, Ian Wallace and Rodney Graham commanding international attention. But photography in British Columbia has a long history that dates back to the 1800s, when Hannah Maynard, a determined and independent-minded woman, made her way in what was then largely a man’s trade.
Born Hannah Hatherly in Cornwall in 1834, she married Richard Maynard, a shoemaker, in 1852, and moved with him to Canada. They settled initially in Ontario, where she learned to take photographs, but ended up in Victoria with their four children a decade later, after Richard made a trip West to prospect for gold. There she bought cameras and opened a photo studio. Her husband also took photographs, but focused on landscape, which he documented on trips to the northern reaches of Vancouver Island.
For her part, Maynard photographed the people and places of Victoria, but also experimented with complex composites and multiple exposures more than a century before digital technology would turn such techniques into child’s play. In one striking image, Maynard, wearing a full-skirted, floor-length dress, stands at a table where she is also sitting with her correspondence. She added three other self-portraits to the image, creating a surreal effect.
The BC Archives, which has many of Maynard’s photographs, makes note of the technical risks she took. “Hannah liked the idea of suspension,” it says in an online article about her work. “She would do this by using the same person twice in the same space at a single moment, or using a person standing beside or opposite his double on one exposed plate. She experimented with mirrors and the possibilities of infinity contained within them, as well as pursuing the technical problems posed by multiples, to push her surrealism.”
Masters Gallery in Vancouver, which handles historic photographs, has two of Maynard’s images, both from an Ontario collector. One is an 1890 silver gelatin print called Kuper Island Indian School, which shows a group of students in a field with trumpets, drums and other musical instruments. The second, dated 1895, is a cityscape of Victoria shot from a high angle. They are valued at $1,500 each.
Western Canadians have been slow to collect historic photographs, which are popular in Europe and the United States, and affordable compared to drawings and watercolours of the same era. “I think it’s definitely something we’re playing catch-up on,” says Jill Turner, assistant director at Masters. Still, she says there was plenty of public interest in the gallery’s recent show of vintage prints shot along the CPR line by Richard Henry Trueman, one of Vancouver’s early photographers. She encourages people to look through old family albums and bring in promising photographs for an appraisal.
And what of Maynard? She retired in 1912, died six years later, and was buried in Victoria’s Ross Bay Cemetery.