Ah yes, Guelph, I went back and looked at past 52-Roll projects and realised that Guelph had lacked in a lot of those past projects. And initially, Guelph had been bumped down into later in January. Until I actually went out to shoot the first roll in the project. An accident on the 401 and a sudden wave of exhaustion combined with leaving Milton later than I wanted, pushed Guelph into Week 1. Last year, Guelph provided a backdrop for many photography and reviews of cameras, films, lenses, and developers. I first discovered downtown Guelph’s wonders several years ago when I was housesitting for my Opa while he was on a trip. As I was getting started on my photographic journey, I discovered the space as a place where I could easily walk if I needed to get out of the house. Plus there was a camera shop downtown that handled both film development and printing. The downtown has changed a lot since then thankfully for the better with many of the old buildings being restored and a fresh batch of new businesses opening up including a butcher and a craft brewery.
The city of Guelph is corporate, as in it was founded by the Canada Company in 1827. Following a lengthy report on land use in Upper Canada by Robert Gourley, an effort to purchase (often at insulting prices) from indigenous peoples and the disposal of Crown Land to further European expansion in Upper Canada. The Canada Company, headed by John Galt, had the charter to build roads, bridges, school, and other infrastructure and facilitate the land sale to settlers. But Galt had a far larger vision; he decided to lay out full towns in Upper Canada’s wilderness. In April 1827, in a tree cutting ceremony, he founded the city of Guelph. Not just to settle the area, but also acting as the headquarters for the Company’s efforts in that part of Upper Canada. The name, Guelph, comes from the House of Welf, which King George IV, the King of England, traced his linage. By the fall some seventy homes made up the small village. Followed by a market hall and even a brewery (that would grow into Sleemans which is still found in the city today). And by 1832 a proper grist mill had been built by the Company to allow farmers to have an easier time grinding grain. One of the oldest still operating high schools, Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, opened in 1840. By 1855 the village incorporated as a Town with John Smith being elected mayor. Growth to this point had remained slow, at least until the Grand Trunk Railroad arrived in 1856 having purchased a smaller railroad that ran between Toronto and Guelph, and then extended out to Sarnia. Guelph grew rapidly through the 1860s and 1870s with many more mills, industries, and commercial businesses opening up as more rail traffic ran through the city. The Romany Catholic Church began constructing a massive cathedral on a hill above the downtown, Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate. However, it wouldn’t see completion as it stood today in 1926 when the twin towers were added. The Upper Canada Veterinary School (1862) and Ontario Agricultural College (1874) both made Guelph their home and today form the core of the University of Guelph (1964). In 1879, Guelph became a city and separated from Wellington County. The city is also home and final resting place of Colonel John McCrae, whom many will know better by the poem In Flander’s Field in remembrance of those who fell in World War One where McCrae served as a doctor with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Today, the downtown has seen a lot of improvement with many older buildings seeing restoration and rebirth as old businesses closed and new ones filled in the gap. And while Sleeman’s is now a massive brewery outside of the downtown, breweries like Wellington and Blood Brothers still showcase the city’s brewing history.
Having been visiting Guelph a lot of late, when it came to picking and even shooting the downtown can be hard. There are always ‘those spots’ and ‘those shots’ that you always are drawn to, so I ended up parking in a completely different parking lot when I got into the downtown. Usually, I park up on the hill behind the Basilica, this time I parked in a pay lot behind some smaller churches deeper in the core. It let me swap out cameras, so I wasn’t carrying everything or hiking up the hill. And while I did include many familiar locations and buildings, there are a couple of new ones that even I had never seen before. The first image you will notice is the icon of Guelph, the Basilica up on the hill, I never went up this time around to get closer, but keeping at that distance up on the hill’s crest to better show the majesty. Since I knew I would be talking about the city’s history, I made a point to include the tablet marking the location where the tree felling ceremony took place. I should have gone further past the bridge and looked at the surviving mill from the 1830s now turned condo. Still, instead, I hit up the Speed River to include the historic facade of a former skating rink, an image that has been hard to nail the exposure on, but I managed to get it this time. The Western Hotel holds a bittersweet memory for me, as it was where we had dinner during the visitation for my Opa (the one that I housesat for), excellent food and Heather and I tried to get our niece Scarlett to eat a lemon, she did, and liked it, so much for trying to trick her. The small duplex I included is a new spot for me and the old Reynold’s Sewing Machine building all thanks to parking in that new spot. I did want the 28mm for the Sewing Machin building; it just demanded something wider. And finally, the Guelph Armoury sits high above the street and is again a tough one to capture, but just slipping onto the train platform offers up a decent vantage point. And there is so much more that I would have loved to include, but may take this as inspiration for a future ‘zine or book dedicated to the city.
Despite the sky being moderately overcast, I ended up shooting the film with a one-stop pull but left the yellow filter alone. Now I often shoot Fomapan 400 at less than box speed, usually between 320-200 because I have found that the film performs the best in most developers at those speeds. Since there was no definition in the sky, I decided there was little point in having a filter and shooting mainly buildings; it only made sense that I needed to have a few extra stops on my aperture. The lens I chose was a favourite of mine, the 35mm f/2.8, a balance between my wide-angle and a fifty and it, worked well, I only wanted something wider once when I “found” the sewing machine factory, but mostly I am happy with the choice in focal length. For developing, I wanted to use the last of the Rollei Low-Speed developer, which I have been working with for a future review this year. And having planned to use RLS for processing is another reason I went with an ASA-200 speed. And I’m happy with the results, any developer that can tame Fomapan 400 is okay in my book.
Stay tuned for next week when we explore one of the many villages that make up the large city of Mississauga and the ghosts that haunt one of the buildings.