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The Outsider – Photography in Algoma

Group of Seven Connection

Updated: By James Smedley

It’s no secret that Canada’s premier group of landscape artists spent a lot of time in Algoma Country. Shortly after the first world war, members of the Group of Seven painted the inland lakes and rivers within the rugged country along the Algoma Central Railway. They also made eight trips to Superior’s North Shore between 1921 and 1928, producing hundreds of paintings. Their work during this period resulted in widely-known pieces like Lawren Harris’ North Shore, and Arthur Lismer’s Sombre Isle of Pic.

The same things that make Algoma Country such a great painting destination also make it a wonderful place to take photographs. Add the fact that much of the landscape appears as it did 100 years ago and living, playing, and photographing in Algoma Country is particularly rewarding.

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I recently discovered that the Group of Seven’s A.Y. Jackson was co-owner of a log cabin on Sandy Beach near Wawa. Throughout the 1950s, he was often seen painting the coastal landscape around Michipicoten. With the recent resurgence of interest in Canada’s premier landscape artists, more than a half a dozen A.Y. Jackson paintings from the Michipicoten area have been rediscovered.

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This is of particular interest because I teach a photography workshop out of Naturally Superior Adventures on the coast of Lake Superior at the mouth of the Michipicoten River. With new paintings being discovered, it’s exciting to get out on the land and visit known sites and try and find those that have not yet been identified.

Visiting an A.Y. Jackson painting site allows us to shoot a similar scene, focus in on parts of the composition or shoot a composition of our own. From a photographic point of view we really can’t lose.

Following in the footsteps of the Group of Seven adds another layer to be explored in depth at the Superior Woods and Waters Photography Workshop.

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About James Smedley

Professional photographer and writer James Smedley’s contributions - more than 400 written pieces and close to 1,000 images - to U.S. and Canadian books, magazines and newspapers have earned him over 40 National and International awards. In addition to teaching photography workshops, James is Travel Editor at Ontario OUT OF DOORS Magazine. James has fly fished for brook trout and arctic grayling in far northern rivers and continues to cast for trout, bass and steelhead near his home in the northern Ontario town of Wawa where he lives with his wife Francine and daughters Islay and Lillian.

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