Things We Like: Black & White Photography of Frederick H. Evans

Liam Mooney - May 29, 2015

Things We Like is an ongoing series where we comment on the things that we like and our reasons for liking them.

Luminous and True: The Photographs of Frederick H. Evans
Curated by Ann Thomas at the National Gallery of Canada from May 29 – September 13, 2015

FrederickEvans-NGC-2Portraits from the exhibition.

A special exhibition focusing on the Victorian photographs of Frederick H. Evans (1853-1943) opens Friday, May 29th at noon. The show varies from portraits to landscapes to interiors, mounted on the wall and displayed in books. A man who made his life as a bookseller, Evans mastered photography through honing his powers of observation, photographing interiors and facades of cathedrals, as well as exterior shots of forestry and urban landscapes.

FrederickEvans-NGC-8A cathedral interior.

As a photographer, I was blown away by the shots; Evans’ work felt me transported in time. Despite the works being black and white, his work is vibrant and attention-grabbing. Also included are gelatin silver prints on glass and lit from behind. They reminds me that, as a photographer who shoots digitally, the amount of work and effort involved in Evans’ craft was more demanding than what is required of photographers today. Especially considering that Evans’ ideal photograph was one that was un-retouched or modified in any way.

FrederickEvans-NGC-9Gelatin silver prints.

The simplicity of the composition echoes a lot of my candid photography, yet while I take photos of events and people as they naturally occur, Evans clearly spent a lot of time working to make every image perfect. The exhibition induces a sense of nostalgia to go back to shooting on film, specifically black and white, it feels more expressive in a way which cannot rely on the vibrancy of the colour to grab the viewer’s attention.

Be sure to head over to the Gallery to check out the photographs and see for yourself the enduring magical power of black and white photography.


The show runs until September 13th, 2015. Special exhibition admission rates apply. Learn more at the National Gallery of Canada website.