'Look for the story': Gifted photojournalist captured life in the mid-1900s West
Harry Rowed’s early Alberta photography subject of museum event
After returning to Canada from his first major assignment — the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics — photojournalist Harry Rowed set out to tell the stories of people and industry in the early years of Alberta and the West.
And it was perhaps his demeanour and relatable approach to his subjects that seemed to make people want to share.
"He was a real sociable, people person, which I think really helped him with access and putting people at ease," his son Scott Rowed told CBC News.
Harry covered people going about their business in the Rocky Mountains, the North, whale hunting, coal mining, farming, aviation and the dawn of the Alberta oilpatch, over a four-decade period starting in the late 1930s.
Scott has about 30,000 photos from Harry's collection but has spent a lot of time carefully choosing about 250 for a new event this week in Banff at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.
It's a slide show narrated by Scott, tapping into the meticulous notes recorded by his father for each image.
"He had access to a lot of places because of his position with the National Film Board of Canada and also his jobs, especially editorial jobs," Scott said.
A spokesperson for the NFB confirmed Harry's tenure to CBC News.
"According to our employees files, Henry Newton Rowed worked at the NFB and he is listed as a photographer in 1943, then as a producer in 1945 and left in June 1946," Magalie Boutin said.
Boutin provided an article from the May 1945 edition of the The Monetary Times titled Who's Who in the National Film Board.
"Few citizens know their country as well as this 38-year-old westerner," the article reads.
"He has climbed many mountain peaks, and as a special photographer for Canadian National Railways and for Trans-Canada Airlines, he has covered by air more Dominion territory than most citizens hope to see in a lifetime.
"Born in Waseca, Sask., this fair-haired, blue-eyed cameraman began his career with the Prince Albert Daily Herald, and later worked with various other papers, including the Winnipeg Tribune."
Harry was born in 1907 and died in the spring of 1987 at age 79.
"My dad was a real master at working in the field, photographing people going about their daily lives, whether they were working or just hanging out in coffee shops or going to school or going skiing or whatever," Scott explained.
"He grew up in photojournalism, so his photographs were to tell a story, to illustrate the story that he was telling with words. This has been something that I've tried to carry over into my own work as a photographer: look for the story."
Harry was the director of photo services with the National Film Board of Canada in the early 1940s, which gave him access not afforded to many.
"He spent time in the oilpatch in the early days of exploration in Alberta. He's got some really cool shots where they were actually flying into some of these sites on the prairies with a Cessna 195, setting up the rigs and cooking right beside the plane.
"And he also did quite a bit of work up in the Arctic. He was doing a lot of work with British American Oil, which turned into Gulf. He'd be down on the Mackenzie Delta quite a bit, and Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, Yellowknife and Norman Wells."
But where he was was less important than what he did when he was there.
"While he was in those places, he would also get out and spend a few days doing other things like photographing the Indigenous people on whale hunts and just getting shots of the kids, the huge caribou herds up there," Scott said.
Harry was fascinated with the mountains. He loved the Jasper area, making many trips to Mount Athabasca.
He took a picture of a young woman named Margaret Stock.
"This beautiful woman holding an ice axe and just expressing the joy of being up in the mountains. She was 19 years old at the time. It's just a real classic because of her expression and everything," Scott said.
"He was up with Gertie Wepsala and her ski coach, Peter Vajda. They were training. Peter Vajda became one of the primary names in the ski industry in the Vancouver area. His grandchildren were on the national ski team."
Harry also covered farming in southern Alberta, coal mining, the Crowsnest Pass and Hutterite communities.
Harry was profiled in a 1961 Photo Age magazine feature called One Man Show … Harry Rowed.
"Both writing and cartooning were among his early passions, so it was not strange to find him in a newspaper officer in his early twenties," the article reads.
"It is given to some men to know early what their life's work is to be; some never know, but once in a very long time the work goes seeking the man."
Scott says he hopes people will walk away from the museum presentation with a few key messages.
"Stay curious, seek adventures and leave your comfort zones," Scott said.
"Love your family and friends, but learn from different cultures and people. Spend as much time as possible in nature, especially the mountains. Laugh often and live a full life."