Cool Things in the Collection: Lorene Squire: Wildlife and Northern Photographs in the Hudson's Bay Company Archives

Article excerpt

The years will never change my ambition to picture all manner and variety of waterfowl in characteristic formations of flight, from the smallest snipe to the proud, great-winged Canada Goose. That this ambition can never be entirely realized doesn't make any difference. (1)


In the Hudson's Bay Company Archives (HBCA), the largest collection of photographs is one comprised of photos originally acquired by the Hudson's Bay House Library in Winnipeg, primarily for use in The Beaver, which had been launched by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) in 1920 as a magazine for staff. In 1933 the magazine expanded its scope, adding "Magazine of the North" to its masthead and turned to professional photographers to increase the appeal of the magazine to a wider audience. Lorene Squire was an American photographer, known primarily for her wildlife photography. She was among the first group of professional photographers commissioned by The Beaver to take photographs to document life in the north and the HBC's involvement there.

Lorene Squire was born in Harper, Kansas in 1910. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 1932 and began her career as a photographer shortly thereafter. Squire gained recognition relatively quickly for her nature photography and she was particularly well-known for her photographs of waterfowl, publishing "Wildfowling with a Camera," in 1938. Squire was first commissioned by The Beaver in 1937, and was sent on two subsequent assignments for the magazine in the following two summers. Her photographs were published by numerous other magazines including Life, Country Life, The American Magazine, Canadian Geographic Journal, and The Saturday Evening Post.


Squire's first commission in 1937 was to take photographs of waterfowl in Northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In 1938 she joined the HBC ship Nascopie for its annual supply run to Eastern and Western arctic posts. The assignment, as she was told in correspondence with the company, was, "in addition to your specialty, you would do a more or less routine record of life in the north as you see it, and hitherto unphotographed [HBC] posts." (2) She captured many candid shots of HBC employees and events, including people relaxing and socializing aboard ship, hard at work unloading supplies, and even the wedding of HBC employee Alan Robertson Scott and his bride Eileen Wallace who had travelled aboard the Nascopie to meet him at Arctic Bay.


Squire's last assignment with The Beaver in 1939 was to document the work of the Rupert House Beaver Preserve, a beaver sanctuary founded in 1931 by HBC employee James Watt and his wife Maud in response to the near extinction of the species in the James Bay area. In addition to multiple photo spreads that appeared in The Beaver, one of her photographs was chosen for the HBC's 1940 calendar. In a change from reproducing paintings of historical events, it was the first photograph to be selected for a calendar and she was the only woman whose work was featured during the entire run of calendars from 1913 to 1970. In a letter to The Beaver she remarked that it was the only presentation of her work that year of which she was really proud. (3)

From her communications with editors of The Beaver and staff of the publicity department, her professionalism and passion for her craft, enthusiasm for the subjects and locations where she was sent to take photographs and her gratitude for the opportunities provided by the HBC commissions, are all evident. …