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.



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