Don Newlands

Narrative I | January 14 – February 29 2016 | Opening January 28 6pm-9pm

Don Newlands


Don Newlands was to Canadian photojournalism as Wayne Gretzky was to hockey. Top of the heap, a definer of his art, creator of a body of work which had immediate impact and continues to resonate to this day.

He was a Grand Master of Flash. An originator whose work defined photojournalism and documentary for close to two decades. As he crisscrossed Canada in a series of high performance cars, he photographed Canada coming of age.

His portraiture captured the essence in real life moments, working in a style of great photojournalists of the 1950’s and 60’s.


In this exhibition we focus on Old Quebec City prior to its restoration. Don Newlands documented everyday people, showing life during the social change of the late1960’s. It was a time when the Anglais and the Catholic church ruled the Quebecois. Poverty was rampant, old Quebec City was crumbling as was the social structure. This exhibition captures the lead up to the Quebecois’ unrest which lead to the FLQ crisis and inevitable change.

The complexity of his work reaches its height in this Quebec series. Newlands blends humanity with stark environmental destruction shot in moments of sheer visual poetry. His rich dark colour palette and incredible attention to details in his composition will stir you and evoke emotions of a time past.

Newlands by name and restless by nature, was always speeding across the country in fast cars seeking out views of a young land coming of age. Either physically or metaphorically, a boulevardier, at once capable of delivering images of intimacy from a decidedly outsider perspective. Even among society, he revelled in it but was never really of it. It was his way of ‘keeping the work real’.

Newlands’ unique status as carte blanche photographer and photo editor of publications like Maclean’s, The Canadian, Weekend, Black Star, Time, Life and Paris Match was paid back by top flight social documentation of stirring events of the day. Including Trudeau’s attempt to row to Cuba, the making of the Trans Canada Highway, an unforgettable Royal tour culminating in an image of a young Queen Elizabeth flirting with Cardinal Leger, (shot through a hole in a closet wall). He photographed the Montreal haute-monde and demi-monde and the spectre of dire poverty in Quebec and New Brunswick.

Similarly, his work in fleshing out a visual vocabulary of the Canadian identity peaked with photo essays of a Newfoundland barely 10 years after becoming Canadian. Newlands focused on powerful physical icons like icebergs, mammoth woolly dogs, hopeful young men in their Sunday best and lone fishing villages teetering on the edge of the world. In so doing he crafted a seminal image of this Newfoundland and this newly Canadian province, as alien to us as it would have been to the Americans had the flounder flipped the other way.

As an artist he proved you could do grace without the gloss and a single subtext was never enough. Sadly, recent research indicates that some of the Newlands opus has been lost or damaged, making the preservation of the surviving original material all the more crucial.

The Don Newlands Collection consists of approximately 1150 B+W vintage 11×14 prints. Some are still crisp but some are damaged. Approximately 11,000 color transparencies, (35mm and medium format 2 ¼ inches) are still being processed. The intimate portraits range from famous people like Leonard Cohen, Ian Tyson, Anne Murray, Bobby Orr, K.C. Irving to famous politicians to everyday Canadians walking, parading, fishing, skiing, shopping, hitchhiking and bicycling.

Newlands moved in the fast lane in a series of high performance cars and that passion shines with many street scenes clearly dating themselves by the automobile and fashions. We also have a clip of an interview by Glen Baxter shot for Fashion Television which was used as the Contact promo piece for 2005.

We are in the process of editing and scanning the colour transparencies and will be able to show you more upon request.

Contact: Dolores Gubasta, Photo Editor, KlixPix Photo Agency, 416-698-3468 Office, Cell 416-725-3468