Archive for June, 2009

NS in Art – Adolf Fassbender

Cape Breton Beacon, A. Fassbender
It’s no secret that much of the inspiration f0r this blog comes from my history studies. While editing my thesis last week, I came across a reference in a tourism brochure to a prominent photographer, “Mr. Passbender,” who extolled the beauties of Nova Scotia as a world-class destination:

“‘Nova Scotia possesses outstanding subjects for pictorial photography,’ writes Adolf Passbender, F.R.P.S., of New York, one of the foremost authorities on photography in America. Every year a small army of artists and photographers come to Nova Scotia. They know that the quaint little seaside villages with the fishermen’s homes built amongst granite boulders offer excellent studies. “

(From Canada’s Ocean Playground, 1939)

“Passbender” was actually a spelling mistake, as I discovered when I googled the name. Adolf Fassbender was a German-born photography instructor and pictorial photographer whose most important artistic years were in the 1930s and 1940s. Fassbender did not believe in absolute accuracy in photography or in anything like “the ugly truth.” Fassbender believed that the photographer was supposed to find – and create – the beautiful and picturesque.

Here are a few of Fassbender’s Nova Scotia images (The photo at the top of the post is “Cape Breton Beacon”):

Fishermens Menace, A. Fassbender

Fishermen's Menace

Crooked Mile

Before the Storm

This final image is somewhere on the South Shore of Nova Scotia (here). It is different from his other NS subject matter – fishermen and fog and lighthouses – but the common element of the ocean is still there.

Apparently Fassbender’s major publication of his images includes lengthy captions written by the photographer which address the technical aspect of the photo and Fassbender’s personal thoughts about the setting. I would love to be able to read those captions, to get some kind of insight into how he approached and modified the Nova Scotia landscape in his images.



In the News – Lighthouses, always.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, by Scosborne

Tourism approaches like Nova Scotia’s, which rely on a certain amount of “rugged charm” to draw in the visitors, walk a fine line between picturesquely abandoned and dilapidated sights, and just plain neglected and ugly. Combine that with jurisdictional/responsibility issues, and you’ve got a news story.

Take, for example, the recent dust-up over the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse. Despite the millions upon millions of dollars the Conservative government has decided to bestow, graciously, upon the taxpayers who gave it to them in the first place (I never said this blog was apolitical), the government itself was apparently unable to round up the $25,000 necessary to pay for cement work and paint on the province’s most recognizable lighthouse this year (it was supposed to happen last year).

After making the news a few days in a row (with DFO offering to donate the paint to volunteers who were willing to paint the lighthouse – now there’s a liability issue if I ever heard one), some provincial MPs have announced that the lighthouse will, after all, be painted. Of course, the minister in charge of the DFO didn’t make this announcement, but the minister in charge of ACOA, who has decided to give DFO the money. Right.

This is an example of the kind of problems that can emerge when multiple jurisdictions or levels of government have responsibility for different aspects of one landscape – especially when goals are divergent. DFO only really cares if the light is working – the tourism industry (as well as many Nova Scotians) cares what it looks like as well.