Catching the Light: The Life and Photography of Victor Post
Runs from Tuesday, Jan. 29 to Sunday, March 31
Opening reception to be held on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.
Musée Héritage Museum in St. Albert Place, 5 St. Anne St.
Call 780-459-1528 or visit www.museeheritage.com for more information.
This is the second of a two-part feature exploring the upcoming exhibit, Catching the Light. The first part, A treasure trove of photographic history, was published on Saturday, Jan. 26.
It's no secret that the late Victor Post was a master photographer. Most of his life's work and his very passion for capturing captivating images stemmed from his utter fascination with physics and technology, even from a very young age.
His father was into electronics as well and would bring home radio parts for the boy. Before young Victor went to school for the first time, he had built his own radio. Once in school, he was set upon by the teachers to fix their own radios.
Later he would build other things, like a transformer. He made the local news, not for the accomplishment, but because the unit was too small for the electricity that was running through it and it started to smoke. His mother called the fire department. He was seven years old.
As a teenager, he got into other more modern pursuits like holography and lasers. He became the youngest person in Canada to have a permit to operate lasers and won a national science award for his home-built laser. He also got into ham radio, another hobby that would carry throughout his life.
More so than any of these other pursuits, it was photography that would become synonymous with Post. While most other teens were thinking about clothes and cars, he had already begun his lifelong career, turning his passion into a profession.
By the time he was 15, he was doing freelance work for the St. Albert Gazette. This practice would solidify only a few years later when he established Victor Post Photography in his parents' basement, a studio filled with high-tech equipment.
The boyish glee Post felt while learning about science and technology gave him not only the means but also the inspiration to express himself. Post took thousands upon thousands of photographs in his life, leaving behind a wealth of creative output. Post died in 2001 at the age of 48 after fighting a chronic illness for most of his life.
When his widow Kathy donated his collection to the Musée Héritage Museum last year, it was a magical moment for the museum staff.
"It's a great collection for the museum to acquire," director of heritage Ann Ramsden said at the time. "We're very pleased that it's come home."
It isn't just a great collection because of its size. Post was internationally renowned and recognized for his abilities as much as his dedication to the craft.
In a previous interview with the Gazette, Kathy Post once remarked on his talent. Travelling through the Rocky Mountains with him was an exercise in discovering the obscure – rather than the obvious – beauty.
"I would see something, maybe a mountain, and say 'Vic look! Isn't that pretty?' and he would shrug. Then a few miles down the road he'd shout, 'Stop the car' and he'd go off and look at something in the ditch. I'd get all the gear out and wonder what the heck he was looking at. But he'd shoot it and it would be beautiful. It was a gift he had, to see beauty where no one else did."
Yes, he won awards but he also worked hard to hone his skills and continue to learn new technologies, allowing both his passion and profession to thrive.
For the better part of four decades, the late St. Albertan would establish himself as a photographer of ability and distinction, and a positive role model for all.
Through his professional work, both with his business and as the province's official photographer, he had the opportunity to snap shots of many important events, people and places. He did everything: weddings, portraits, dignitary and celebrity visits, politicians, major sporting events, aerial shots, commercial work, artistic work, and experimental photography.
"There's a wide range of work," said curator Joanne White, who added that she has chosen a good sampling from the very broad array of categories. "It covers a little bit of each of his different styles and interests and focuses. He dabbled in everything."
The exhibit includes images of posed politicians and royalty. There's a candid shot of entertainer Liberace wearing a brilliant red, white and blue plaid jacket, signing autographs at a mall, and an aerial shot of St. Albert.
Post managed to shoot a toy car that looked like it was glowing green, all thanks to his trusty laser. Other landscape shots are rich with saturated colour, while some artistic still lifes of a shoe in black and white would be right at home on any collector's wall.
And yes, there's Wayne Gretzky wearing his famous mullet and corduroy jacket, shilling Pop Stars cereal in the mid-1980s.
Among the thousands and thousands of images in the collection are some award winners. There's an excellent example of a white dog on a white background, a very tough shot to manage. Another of his photos, a shot of an old woman in a narrow alley leading to the oldest church in Egypt, is held by the National Gallery of Canada.
The one thing that he didn't do was keep a lot of records showing the who, what, when, where and why of each picture.
"He didn't document boxes of prints to a great extent," White explained. There are some records, she continued, "but we don't have a huge amount. There's most bits and pieces, occasionally there might be a newspaper article that talks about a piece so it gives us some information."
As an example, she said that she knows when he went on some trips but not where or what the subjects are in his images.
"We're still in the early days on this so at some point we'll gradually gather more information with the photos."
This is another reason why this show is so important. There likely will be many visitors to the show who can fill in some of the missing details.
"A lot of people have been coming in and saying they knew Victor," White said.
She asked for the public's assistance with this ongoing project.