Text by Dan Lafrenière
On June 5, well over a hundred friends, colleagues, admirers and family members crowded into the gallery of the School of Architecture to attend the vernissage of the photography exhibition of former official photographer and union activist, Jack Goldsmith, who died at the beginning of this year following a lengthy illness. “Faces and Places” honoured the legacy of Jack with a portfolio of 73 of his images of people and landscapes from various travels through Japan and China, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Georgia (former Soviet republic), Tunisia and Peru. Attendees were regaled with wine and food, and several invited speakers spoke of their treasured friendships with McGill’s renowned photographer.
Four speakers spoke lovingly of their friend Jack and the special relationship that he shared with each of them during his long career at the university spanning nearly four decades. Former chief archivist at McGill, Theresa Rowat, mentioned Jack’s technical expertise and knowledge, his passion for the art as well as his eye for beauty so well-represented in the many images on the walls behind her. She spoke of Jack’s curatorial skills and dedication to preserving photographs for future generations and lamented the controversial “austerity measures” decision by McGill to close the photography lab which had led to the abolition of Jack’s position (the complete text of her speech is linked to the Facebook page here). Trudis Reber, former German History professor, remembered Jack for his tremendous patience and help in restoring period photos of the Weimar Republic which were integral to her curriculum. Faculty lecturer Richard Cooper treasured the many conversations that he and Jack had discussing union politics, and gave him credit for helping create their academic bargaining unit. And finally, Desmond Morton, respected historian and former head of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, showcased several 35 mm slides of the “ordinary photos” that Jack had taken, the snippets of everyday university life, and underscored the contributions he made that would be preserved for the future. Morton compared Jack to the only photographer commissioned by the Canadian government from among the many artists to document in images the Great War. Jack was a consummate professional whose body of work will prove invaluable long after his passing.
Those of us who knew Jack Goldsmith as a person will never have to be reminded of how his presence touched all of us in one way or another.
I would be remiss not to credit the McGill School of Architecture for their generosity in providing Gallery 141 at no charge as well as providing most of the wine for this event. The exhibition was the result of a collaborative effort of many people, and it was reflected in the tremendous success of this tribute. For the man whose life and works we have celebrated, we truly are in debt. Thank you, Jack, for making our lives that much richer!