Bringing the ‘Old Canmore’ back to life

Canmore's Main Street, modern and in the early 1900s. ©Rob Alexander

Canmore’s Main Street, modern and in the early 1900s. ©Rob Alexander

By Tanya Foubert

Rocky Mountain Outlook, Oct. 9, 2014

Many have often lamented that Canmore’s historical built form has slowly been laid waste for duplexes, townhouses and second homes, but a new project by a local photographer is bringing the past back to life through blended images.

Rob Alexander is spearheading the Juxtaposition exhibit at the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre as part of the month-long photography festival Exposure in February.

But in order to see the project come to fruition, Alexander and the museum have launched a fundraising campaign this week that involves limited edition prints, raffles and an Indegogo crowd funding effort.

“This new campaign and the crowd funding is a new venture for us,” said museum director Debbie Carrico. “It is totally new, but exciting to be starting a campaign we haven’t tried before.

“It is quite something to see the blended photos and it really gives you a here and now of the changes that have happened in Canmore.”

There is indeed magic in the images, says Alexander, and a sense of satisfaction in seeing the past and present at the same time.

“There is sort of a magic there,” he said. “I have looked at a lot of these photographs for the past 10 plus years, but I am seeing them differently. I’m seeing them almost as if they belong, as they were when the photo was taken.

“I think I am creating, for myself at least, a better familiarity with Canmore, a better understanding of Canmore for myself and intrinsically how I feel about this place.”

A Russian photographer who blended photos from Second World War sites and battlefields inspired the idea for the project. Like that photographer put Canadians back onto Juno beach, Alexander said it was satisfying putting the past into the present, like the No. 1 mine back into Canmore Creek.

“It is bringing old Canmore back and pushing new Canmore a bit to the side and reminding us what it was like.”

Alexander said lining up the historical photos with current day Canmore was a challenge. In many places, the physical layout of the community has changed greatly since the 1900-30s. He said the series of photos really is a chronicle of what has changed, and what hasn’t, which is how much people love Canmore.

“When we look at the physical layout of Canmore, it has definitely changed. How we use Canmore, the mines and that industry is gone, but we are still doing a lot of the same things,” he said. “What hasn’t changed is people loved this town, lived here, worked here and were a part of it.”

The exhibit will also be a long-term endowment to the museum, with images and postcards available to purchase and proceeds going to the non-profit community organization. Alexander said he wanted to give back to the museum after all the support it has given him throughout his career.

“It is a great way to give back to the museum and hopefully create a fundraiser for them they can draw on,” he said.

Leading up to the exhibit, the museum is selling 10 copies of limited edition prints for $150 created by Alexander that will not be available for sale or on display. The 11 by 14 inch prints are available at the museum along with $2 raffle tickets. The raffle prize is a blended image of Main Street.

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About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.
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