Bryan Adams Features Notable Canadians in Photography Exhibit and Book

A black and white photo of Bryan Adams in a black shirt with his back turned.
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Photography: Bryan Adams

There’s no doubt that, as a musician, Bryan Adams is one of Canada’s best emissaries, but some of his greatest hits are his philanthropic works for the health-care, arts and culture communities right here at home.

So to celebrate Canada Day this year, we’re looking back on one of his photographic endeavours with a philanthropic twist. 

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday back in 2017, he unveiled an exclusively curated exhibition of his portrait photography, Canadians, during the Royal Ontario Museum’s fundraising gala. The exhibition catalogue, executed as a hardcover book by the art publishing house Steidl, was sold at the ROM Boutique for $40. As with the sale of the portraits, proceeds benefited ROM priorities including  exhibitions, programs, educations and research.

Here, read on for ROM curator Arlene Gehmacher’s forward and click the view gallery button above for a selection of the photos inside.

Bryan adams’ photographic grouping of iconic Canadians presented in this book boldly recognizes the significance of cultural initiatives in articulating national identity and the diversities that shape it. From the long-venerated to relative newcomers, the musicians, actors, authors, sports star and models, among others, together offer a spectrum of creative people and pursuits that remind us of their extensive reach both within and beyond Canada’s borders.

As such, they are our nation’s true cultural attachés. Adams’ photographs of these fellow Canadians can be understood as distillations of a creative process born as much of the dynamic between photographer and subject as of the post-shoot production of the photograph. While some seem straightforward, others are engagingly fun (cheeky, even), at times sporting an air of spontaneity. There is an ease about them, a casual intimacy that sometimes ventures into irony. How else to explain the image of a head and torso wrapped in diaphanous linen? Author Margaret Atwood, internationally renowned, becomes, at least in the context of this grouping, “every Canadian.” They often seem to confirm Canadians’ reputation for lack of self-importance and even comic self-deprecation.

Given Adams’ artistry and playful, ironic photographic/curatorial eye, it is perhaps not surprising that in portraying himself amidst this group of iconic Canadians, he – himself such a icon – would choose to turn his back to the camera (and viewer). Head barely turned, just enough to reveal his identity, he encourages us to join him on this celebratory journey by viewing these Canadians through his eyes.

It is with the pleasure of edgy insight that we appreciate Bryan Adams’ photographs of famous cultural Canadians as ROM Ball toasts Canada, 150 years young.



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