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Tuesday December 6th, 2011  
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   Volume 81 - Issue 49 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: news@passherald.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
"There are lots of things out there that are old, but that doesn't necessarily mean they should be protected."
- Matthew Francis  
   
   

 

Story
John Kinnear photo
Gushul's International Mine Workings - my most prized photo
Looking Back - John KinnearProbably one of the most important contributions to documenting a community’s historical development comes from the early professional photographers that were there at the time. They religiously captured images of buildings, weddings, scenery, industry, family portraits and anything else of social significance within their pervue. The records of their work, the negatives and photographic plates they left behind, are valuable beyond description.
I had the opportunity to study this type of work in Fernie for 25 years with the oh so important records of community photographer Joseph Fredrick Spalding and from this study realized that nothing is more vital than the accurate photographic capture of a communities story. That is why the Gushul story and legacy plays such a special part in the Crowsnest Museum’s records. And that is why every year the Crowsnest museum’s annual calendar carries many of his captured moments. They are defining images and each one speaks volumes about the time and place it was created.
It should be no surprise to find that Crowsnest and Its People Volume 1 carries a wonderful description of his history here. It is a fascinating story and is a classic account of someone working his way throughout the Canadian nation building era until he found his calling. 
Thomas Gushul came to us from Rosniw in the Western Ukraine where he was born in 1889. He immigrated to Canada in 1906 and worked on the construction of the famous figure eight tunnels at Field, laid track to the Galt Number Eight mine in Lethbridge and eventually moved to Blairmore where he worked in the old Mutz Mine. Incidentally, Albert Mutz was a German brew master who brought his brewing skills to the Fernie area at the turn of the century and where he created the still much loved Fernie beer. (my opinion only)
Thomas taught Ukrainian in schools in Manitoba and then came west to work at the York Creek and International mines in Coleman.  Gushul was fascinated with photography and honed his skills until in 1918 he opened his own studio in Coleman’s Bushtown. Three years later he opened a second outlet in Blairmore by moving an abandoned building from Lille there and modifying it into a studio which remains active to this day.
His Ukrainian bride Lena was his constant inspiration and they worked together tirelessly in photography.  Gushul’s 1914 documentation of the Hillcrest Mine explosion stands as an invaluable record of that horrific time and his images will undoubtedly be front and center in 2014 when we commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Canada’s worst mining disaster.
It wasn’t until 1917 that he finally left the coal mines and committed full time to his craft. He spent the rest of his life working at and enjoying his art. His work was highly acclaimed and his scenic pictorials won awards in San Francisco.  He pioneered and perfected new techniques in mining photography and his photo of the Greenhills mine entry in Blairmore is a work of art, using the technique of light painting.
He set up a photo-engraving plant and he and his son Evan cranked out zinc printing blocks for local and district newspapers in record time.
 
His photographs have been used extensively in newspapers, brochures, historical books and even television programs. 
If you’ve ever watched programs like the history channel and seen how they pan across high quality black and white photos to tell a story then you will realize how significant it would be to pan something like his International Mine workings picture or his fabulous Sentinel Power Plant works. I recall reading that he drove out to the lakes week after week when conditions were right to finally get this shot just right. He took care in positioning himself to create scenic photos that are unequalled in Crowsnest Pass photographic history.
His portraits and wedding pictures were always of the highest quality and the museum archives contains no less than 529 people portraits and 275 wedding pictures. Many Pass families had their fourth generations recorded by Thomas and Lena.
 And then there was Thomas’s son Evan. Evan’s mother Lena remembered him as a precocious child who by the age of six was comfortably posing groups of people under the studio’s skylight. Even at that age his summer holidays were spent helping in the business by developing and washing prints. Evan tells the story of the family using a sluice box set in the creek to wash prints. The holes in the box would at times plug causing it to over flow sending the prints floating down the creek. It was then the kids’ job to race after and retrieve the photos. With the gift of a Brownie camera, he had by age eight, learned the entire process from exposure to print to capture his own images
In 1939 Evan used a home built camera with a fast 1.9 lens to capture available light photos of a hockey game at the Coleman Arena. An article in the Coleman Journal read, “To many curious people it appears that there must be magic connected with this camera, because Mr. Gushul does not use any flashes in taking these night shots. All the action shots together with the candid close-ups of hockey fans were taken under the ordinary lighting of the Coleman Arena”.
The Gushul collection at the Crowsnest museum is alive and well and prints and digital copies are available to the public as part of the remarkable 60,000 images that have been compiled there.  It is hard to describe just how amazing it is to immerse oneself in this immense collection. There is so much one can learn, even about the physical appearance of where you now live and what was once around your home or town. The images make wonderful additions to a restored home and remind us of what it all looked like back then. The staff at the museum is more than willing to take you through their archives and find the print that is just right for your home or business. If you grew up here and went to school here the images of you and your class mates are there, waiting for you to discover and enjoy. Oh yeah, one more thing. The 2012 museum calendar carries a lovely selection of Gushul and museum prints and would make a nice Christmas gift.
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   Volume 81 - Issue 49 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: news@passherald.ca   $1.00   
 
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