Friday, July 30, 2010

Photographs and Moving Images

A Camera in Hand

Every day I sit and look at pictures from the past. There is something marvellous about finding the shot in a landscape – the one that captures “the moment” in time, as the summation of all you have experienced in that place.

Perhaps you have read about Ottawa photographer Yousuf Karsh who removed the cigar from Churchill’s mouth, clicked the shutter and captured, for eternity, the very being of the British Prime Minister? However, chances are few of you have heard about Chilliwack’s itinerant photographer James Orville Booen whose series of glass plate negatives are held by the Chilliwack Archives? Mr. Booen had an experienced eye and during his time in Chilliwack from 1895-1897 he captured many moments that today allow us to look into the early eyes of Chilliwack, First Nations families, new settlers, youth and adults, businesses and events. These images create wonder with curiosity and like Karsch capture the very being of those pictured.

The Chilliwack Museum is also very fortunate to have an extensive camera collection along with many related accessories. Recently we received the cameras used by Norm Williams in his photographic business which complement our extensive holdings of images taken by Mr. Williams throughout his years as a professional and Master photographer. Similarly, we are thrilled to have the Paillard-Bolex movie camera that belonged to Cecil Bradwin of Fairfield Island, Chilliwack. This camera, purchased in 1948, was used by Mr. Bradwin to film the 1948 Flood which we also retain in the Chilliwack Archives.

On the other hand I sometimes find myself thinking about the distinguished Canadian cinematographer Osmond Borradaile. Born in Winnipeg he saw his first film in Medicine Hat at the age of seven and his imagination was launched. Through his work he became friends with Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes met Lawrence of Arabia and worked for legendary film-maker Alexander Korda of London Films.

Borradaile travelled extensively and it was Osmond who discovered Sabu who became an international star. In 1939 Borradaile filmed in the Sudan on Korda’s classic film, The Four Feathers which was nominated for an Oscar for best colour cinematography. Borradaile’s other work included, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Elephant Boy, The Thief of Baghdad, Scott of the Antarctic, Drums and many others.

So what does this all have to do with Chilliwack?

When Mr. Borradaile retired from film, he and his family moved to an 80-acre farm in Cheam living there circa 1951 to 1959. I recall Gordie Mitchell pointing out Borradaile’s farm to me when we drove around Chilliwack and district many years ago. I may not have really understood who Osmond Borradaile was at that very moment, but once I researched him I learned that I had known of his film work for years. So it would be a wonderful bonus, if one day maybe a camera, maybe a film poster, might show up at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. I can picture this moment in a future time. A visitor comes through the door carrying a box, smiles and says, “I have this camera it belonged to Osmond Borradaile, do you know who he was?”

Image One: J.O. Booen image of Edenbank Farm
Image Two: Paillard-Bolex camera belonging to Cec Bradwin
Image Three: Osmond Borradaile, Chilliwack Progress, September 19, 1951

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