Four men making faces at the Ukrainian Voice newspaper, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. [ca. 1920] / Photographer: Gushul Studio, Blairmore, Alberta
Calgary’s Glenbow Museum runs a permanent exhibit exploring Alberta’s history through the lives of different mavericks — it’s aptly called “Mavericks: an incorrigible history of Alberta”. Not all featured mavericks caught my eye but there’s one couple, Thomas and Lena Gushul, who definitely did: their photography is by far the best thing in that exhibit.
Thomas Gushul immigrated to Canada from Ukraine in the early 1900s, and after working as a miner for a few years, he took up photography as a hobby and then, in 1918, as a full-time profession. He and his wife Lena ended up managing two photo studios (one in Bush Town, a rugged part of the Crowsnest Pass region, and one near Blairmore), taking thousands of photographs over five decades, and in the process leaving an important visual legacy of the life in the Crowsnest Pass.
What I love about the Gushul’s body of work is the diversity of backgrounds and cultures that it covers and its sympathetic eye towards people’s work and struggles. I also find their obvious dedication to their work admirable (they would work insane hours to perfect the quality of their work and find new processing&printing techniques) — it’s clear that they loved what they did for a living, and that’s one thing that never fails to impress me.
Thousands of Gushul images are kept at the Glenbow Archives => HERE
The Gushul family in front of their photographic studio, Blairmore, Alberta. [ca. 1920]
Religious ceremony, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. [ca. 1920]
Three Bukovinian women Crowsnest Pass, Alberta.[ca. 1920]
Two bare-fisted boxers and onlookers, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. [ca. 1920]
Big woman, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta.[ca. 1920]
Worker (probably Chinese) in coveralls and jacket, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. [ca. 1920]
Evan Gushul with dead mouse and cat, Coleman, Alberta. [ca. 1922]
Young woman, Crownest Pass, Alberta. [ca. 1925]
Women’s hockey team, Coleman, Alberta.[ca. 1929]
First Complete Workers Administration, Blairmore, Alberta. [February 1935]
Makeshift sleeping accommodations, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. [ca. 1935]
(Sleeping accommodations for transients or possibly miners during the Depression)
Thomas and Lena Gushul, photographers, Blairmore, Alberta.
(Thomas Gushul is holding of portrait of their daughter, Paraska)