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In an expanding and socially fractious early twentieth-century Winnipeg, Lewis Benjamin Foote (1873-1957) rose to become the city’s pre-eminent commercial photographer. Documenting everything from royal visits to deep poverty, from the building of the landmark Fort Garry Hotel to the riots of the 1919 General Strike, Foote’s photographs have come to be iconic representations of early Winnipeg life. They have been used to illustrate everything from academic histories to posters for rock concerts; they have influenced the work of visual artists, writers, and musicians; and they have represented Winnipeg to the nation. In this illustrated essay, historian Esyllt W. Jones reveals the complex artist behind the lens and the conflicting ways in which his photographs have been used to give credence to diverse and sometimes irreconcilable views of Winnipeg’s past.

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