Display to show area farms as they looked in years gone by

by Colin Smith

The farmsteads that dotted the countryside in the 1950s are mostly long gone, sacrificed to agricultural progress. However the bygone era will be summoned again in photographs to be displayed in Morinville this week as part of a travelling photo exhibit which will visit a few northern Alberta communities in November. Kim Bessette of Homestead Aerial Photo will be at the Rendez-Vous Centre on November 21 with a collection of historic images of area farms that were taken from the air.

The photographs come from the Homestead library, which holds images from the early 1950s to 2001 and cover the entire province of Alberta, most of British Columbia, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, and parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario.

Edmonton-based Continental Air Services began taking aerial photos in 1953. Their library was later acquired by Superior Aerial Photo of Kelowna and had been in storage when Bessette brought it to Alberta in 1993.

Bessette points out that many people don’t realize that much of the country has been covered by aerial photography. During the 1950s, thousands of photos were taken on spec, with the hope that the owners would buy images of their farms.
“Because back then many people didn’t have much money, so a lot of the pictures were never purchased,” he said. “We still have those negatives.”

Because the photos were taken from low altitudes they are full of detail. “You see the shadow of the plane’s wing on the barn,” said Bessette. “So there is a lot of detail. You see people standing in the yard.” The photos provide a record of farms that were bought out and buildings that disappeared with the development of large-scale agriculture, he noted.
Bessette finds that the farm photos are of interest to people other than those who owned them or grew up on them. “Maybe their grandparents lived on the farm,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of younger people, some 14 or 15.”

The display at the Rendez-Vous Centre will include a selection of images taken within a 40- or 50-mile radius of Morinville, from the 1950s to the 1980s.

People who are interested in getting photos of a particular farm will be able to order them at the display session. A legal description of the property is helpful, but people who don’t have one can describe driving directions and the closest small town and the company will locate it through that. Homestead also specializes in aerial photography using a remote-control helium blimp. Bessette will also take bookings for custom shoots of farmyards next summer.

The farmstead photos will be on display at the Rendez-Vous Centre from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on November 21.

Visit homesteadaerial.com for more information.

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