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BriefsReportRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

For release Tues. November 15 - 2:30 p.m.
4:15 p.m. [ note écrite à la main - Rédacteur. ]

[page de titre]

to the
On National Development in the

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Submitted by
Commercial and Press Photographers' Association of Canada
October, 1949

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To The Royal Commision On National Developent In The Arts, Letters And Sciences

Submitted By Commercial And Press Photographers' Association Of Canada

This brief is submitted to the Royal Commission in accordance with the terms of reference as set out in P.C. 1786.

The Commercial and Press Photographers' Association of Canada is an organization formed for the primary purpose of improving standards of photography in Canada. It holds a Dominion charter and is expanding to a point where it might be termed the collective voice of commercial and press photographers in the country.

In the letters patent incorporating the association the specific purposes and objects are described as follows:-

  1. To advance photography in all its branches;
  2. To create, promote and maintain among its members:
    1. Cordial personal relations, co-operation and social activities;
    2. An interchange of thought, opinion and ideas;
    3. A high standard of conduct;
  3. To oppose violations and infrigements [sic] of the rights of professional photographers and/or their organizations;
  4. To propose and support legislation favourable to and oppose legislation unfavourable or prejudical [sic] to the interest of professional photographers;
  5. To consult and co-operate with any and all federal, provincial and local authorities having to do with the control or restriction of professional photographers;
  6. To co-operate with other photographers' organizations which may be striving to accomplish similar purposes.

Individual members have, by the nature of their work, a considerable opportunity to influence public opinion. It follows that the associations' [sic] objectives assume considerable importance.

In accordance with the desire to improve the standard of photography in Canada, it is submitted that professional photographers should be permitted the utmost freedom to develop their talents, improve their methods, obtain appropriate rewards for their work, and generally [sic]afforded the same opportunities as are guaranteed to any business undertaking operating within a free competitive economy.

It is submitted that the National Film Board of Canada is a threat to every professional photographer in Canada. It is further submitted that any extension of the Film Board's functions and activities would be a severe blow to these photographers. Many of them would be forced to earn their livings outside their chosen profession, their creativity and initiative stifled, their talents wasted. And the sacrifice of democratic principles which would be necessary to enable extension of the Film Board's functions would make professional photographers victims of a grave injustice.

It is perhaps a disagreeable task to treat art, science and culture in relation to business and finance. The two fields do not completment [sic] one another very well. But it is necessary to deal at least to some extent with the financial aspect of the work of photography because monetary reward is both necessary and stimulating to those who help promote the arts, sciences and culture. There is perhaps no other profession which is so necessarily a combination of art and business as that of the professional photographer. There is a close alliance between economic security and the production of artistic efforts in this peculiar vocation which necessarily combines art, science and business acumen.

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Among the present activities of the National Film Board opposed by this association are:-

  1. The production of still photographs.
  2. The maintenance of a library consisting of negatives rather than prints.
  3. The sale and (in some cases) free distribution of its prints. For the year 1948-1949, $224,760.94 was received from the sale of prints alone.
  4. The invasion of the industrial field. Industrial photography, is assuming increasing importance and is the bedrock on which many photographic companies are founded. The National Film Board has been increasingly active in this type of work. It is of interest to note that National Film Board's brief states that between 80 and 100 "documentary" photo-stories are produced each year, but only an average of one story a month is released for publication.
  5. The practice of sending camera crews from Ottawa to distant cities. This is a practice which is uneconomical and unnecessary. For example, photographic coverage of recent oil discoveries in Alberta was provided by local professional and Imperial Oil Company photographers. These photographers could easily have provided the National Film Library with the necessary pictures at negligable [sic] cost to the National Treasury instead of the very considerable cost of sending crews from Ottawa for long periods of time.

The above list is not intended to be all-inclusive, and in fact the graphics section of the National Film Board encroaches upon the field of commercial and press photography in other ways, such as the production of film strips and displays. And the wider the scope permitted the National Film Board, the deeper this encroachment will become.

The reasons for the Association's objection to these activities are as follows:-

  1. The National Film Board is a publicly financed body. As such, it is not compelled to operate within the ordinary economic sphere. The profit motive is absent and any losses suffered are underwritten by the government. The National Film Board is therefore in a position to underbid and undersell a private operator. Its position of advantage is further enhanced by the fact that private operators must pay tax on their profits and must also charge a sales tax to their customers. The National Film Board is literally free of these obligations. As a result, private operators suffer a substantial disadvantage and the government is deprived of revenue which it ought to have.
  2. There is strong objection to the principle involved in the government, through its agency, entering into competition with photographers. There is an ironic twist in this respect in that many of the photographers subjected to this unfair competition are veterans whose training was received under the auspices and by means of the funds provided by the rehabilitation branch of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  3. The standard of photography in Canada is due to suffer in the near future unless the National Film Board's operations are restricted and it will suffer very seriously if the National Film Board's functions are extended. This is because, by its nature, good photography can only be developed in an atmosphere that is free and unrestrained. Like all endeavour dependent on an individual's skill, imagination and artistic ability, photogrpahy [sic] is essentially a personal undertaking. For this reason the great majority of photographers operate alone or in very small firms. Creative photography and artistic expression develop best in the unhampered atmosphere of private enterprise where craftsmen work in their own studios, transmitting their thoughts and ideas into photographs - without being thwarted by the stultifying nature of work in the Civil Service.

That this is true is evidenced by the fact that Canada's best known photographers - those who are making outstanding contributions to Canadian life - are private, not National Film Board photographers.

It is unfortunately true that already Canada has lost several first-rate photographers to the United States where they have found recognition and greater rewards for their work. It is hoped that no further discouragement will be given to the members of this profession whose interests and aspirations remain in Canada to prevent the otherwise almost certain drain of Canadian talent across the border.

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There is no question of this photographers' association opposing the National Film Board as such. And it is submitted that if the National Film Board had remained within the bounds originally designed for it there would be no objection to it to-day. There is no doubt that Canada should have a government agency to disseminate information. This was particularly true during the war years. In fact, the National Film Board might truthfully be described as having been set up as a war emergency department of government. The war years provided it with a unique opportunity to function on a large scale and all commercial agencies in Allied occupations co-operated fully with it.

It is interesting to note that although the war has been over for more than four years the numbers of the staff of the National Film Board in March of this year were still 70% of the peak staff number of October, 1945. This combined with its present campaign to increase its staff is a very plain indication that the National Film Board has gotten completely beyond the functions and purpose for which it was formed. It is natural that it should seek to expand and grow more powerful, human nature being as it is, but it is submitted that not only should further expansion be discouraged but present activities which encroach upon commercial enterprises should be prohibited. Rather than expand and buy new plants and equipment it is urged that the National Film Board be required to sell all its cameras and equipment.

It is recommended that the National Film Board become a purchaser, distributor and library for photographs of national interest, and that it cease to be a producer of still pictures. It is submitted that only such activities would be consistent with its proper function. It is submitted that Parliament, in passing the National Film Act, 1939, did not intend to thereby prejudice or effect [sic] in any way the livelihood of private photographers.

The National Film Board was conceived and organized to be a government information agency - to interpret the national spirit of Canadians, to stimulate, enliven and encourage Canadian talent, culture and artistic endeavour. It can not be commended too highly for the contribution it has already made towards some of these objectives but it has gone far beyond the purposes for which it was designed. It is submitted that in this respect we may be guided considerably by taking note of the groups of government agencies grouped together for examination by this Royal Commission in its terms of reference - the National Film Board, the National Gallery, the National Museum, the National War Museum. The Public Archives and the care and custody of public records are listed as "Agencies and activities of the Government of Canada". No one could ever doubt the national institutional character of these august agencies. It is submitted that the National Film Board was intended to fulfill a parallel function in the sphere of photography, and here would appear to be at least a strong inference that the government through the Privy Council saw the National Film Board in such light when it passed on P.C. 1786 on the 8th April, 1949. Being ambitious and energetic it is reaching out in all directions. In its interpretation of what are "areas of interest and need in Canadian life" "disseminating information about democratic structure, process and problems" "Canadian development and achievements" "when the public interest so requires" and other headings brought within such broad phraseology, the National Film Board tends to consider its field to be literally anything that takes place in Canada.

The National Film Board by its inclinations as verified by its history since the end of hostilities, is not satisfied to be contained to reduce staff and to concentrate on its primary functions. It has chosen instead to reach out octopus-like still further. It [sic] its budget should be increased in accordance with its request and if it became a body corporate, it would most certainly assume immeasureably [sic] more power. It would be the beginning of the end of members of this Association and eventually the taking of still pictures for commercial use could become a government prerogative. This association has on file letters from long-established studios, operated by second and third generation photographers who fear that they will be forced out of business if the National Film Board competition becomes more oppressive. These letters will be

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available to the Royal Commission at any time and the Association begs leave to present them at the hearing if the occasion requires.

To sum up, the Royal Commission is respectfully requested to give its most serious consideration to the submission of the Photographers' Association with a view to making the following recommendations to the Governor in Council:

1. That the National Film Board be required to curtail all activities which place it in competition with professional photographers; that the National Film Act 1939 be amended, if need be, to accomplish this purpose or in the alternative that the National Film Board be enjoined from exceeding its functions under the Act.

2. That the National Film Board be denied its requests for a larger budget appropriation and for the status of a crown corporation; that by restricting itself to a non-competitive field of operation, (as do other government agencies) it should be able to function on a lesser budget than that on which it is presently operated because a very considerable proportion of its present work is in competition with commercial enterprises. That part of its work is costly because of uneconomical methods and its underselling practices. Cut it away from the Board's central function as a national cultural and information agency and it is submitted that present appropriations will be more than ample.

3. That specifically the National Film Board become a purchaser, distributor and library for photographs of national interest, that it be required to cease production of still pictures.

4. That the National Film Board 's library of still pictures consist of prints only, the negatives of which shall remain in the possession of the photographer who made them - this in accordance with usual commercial practices.

5. That the National Film Board be required to sell its still photographic equipment. Since this part of the Board's activities is, it is submitted, outside its proper scope of operation and since it constitutes one of its most expensive activities, the government should not be required to maintain such equipment.

Independent still photographers are most keenly aware of their responsibilities as recorders of the Canadian scene. Tremendous strides have been made in the field of still photography. What was fromerly [sic] a somewhat mechanical craft has become a profession where the quality of photographs may be distinguished almost solely by the artistry of their takers. Many photographers are artists within the true meaning of the word. Artists in Canada are seriously in need of encouragement and are looking forward with much anticipation to the assistance they feel they will receive as the result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences.

The Association begs leave to submit further material at the time of the hearing if such material comes to hand between this date and the date of such hearing. Still photographers will be pleased to co-operate fully with the Royal Commission, and in this respect to produce any documents desired, provide specific examples of the matters referred to herein and assist in any investigation of the activities of the National Film Board and of private photographers.

All of which is respectfully submitted this 31st day of October, 1949.

John H. Boyd, President.

*From: Commercial and Press Photographers' Association of Canada. Brief to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences. [s.l.: The Association, October 1949]. 4 p. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

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