1992 - Saskatoon Through the Lens of Helen Schrader
Helen Schrader made a unique contribution to the photographic history of Saskatoon, providing us with a fascinating and refreshing view of life in the early days of the city. Her intimate photographs are a valuable counterpoint to the professionally-posed portraits and street scenes of the predominantly male photographers of the time.
In documenting the significant, as well as the everyday events of her growing family, Mrs. Schrader has given us a charming view of what it was like to live in Saskatoon. The family home at 321 - 6th Avenue North provides the focus for her images but does not restrict them; in the background we see the city growing and developing. When built, the house on 6th Avenue was at the city limits; over the decades as her family grew up, it was from this vantage point that Mrs. Schrader watched as the city expanded around her.
Although the primary focus of this exhibition is people, this does not mean Helen Schrader limited her photography to family portraits. The construction of the Bessborough Hotel, scenes of the exhibition, photographs of early Doukhobor settlements and pictures of early aviation provide the subject for other Schrader photographs in the Local History Room. The wide range of subject matter is testimony to a lively curiosity at work.
This curiosity has its roots in Helen Schrader's childhood in Minnesota. She was born to a wealthy family on 4 November 1881 in Red Wing, Minnesota. Her father was Edward T. Mallory, a superintendent with the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company; her mother, Leonora Vedder Mallory. The family traced its roots back to Sir Thomas Malory, author of the medieval Aurthurian romance Le Morte d'Arthur
. Helen was well educated, graduating with a Master of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota. It was at this time that she began to take photographs with a retractable Kodak camera.
Marriage to Udo Schrader and the move to Saskatoon did not stop her photography. Isolated and lonely, Helen Schrader's initial impulse to photography was motivated by a desire to document for family and friends her life in this new land. A lively imagination and an artistic eye help to distinguish these photographs from the typical familiy snapshots of the time. To the social historian of early Saskatoon, they provide an invaluable record.
Helen Schrader would probably be surprised to see her photographs displayed in a gallery setting. Although her obituary mentions Mrs. Schrader's involvement in church, patriotic and educational organizations, her photography is not included among her achievements. She herself would have chosen to be remembered for her literary contributions. An active member of the Writer's Club, many of her poems were published in various American journals. She collected some of these poems together and published them in booklet form in about 1910. It is, however, as a photographer that this extraordinarily creative woman is honoured in this exhibition. As a woman and a mother, Helen Schrader brought to her photography an element of emotion and creativity lacking in other photography of the time. It is this quality which compensates for any lack of technical quality in her photographs and which is perhaps Helen Schrader's greatest legacy.
Original Gallery Show (1992) curated by: R. Jaremko
With the assistance of: A. Kagis, J. Colvine, and R. Millar