Stave Lake Historical Powerhouse

One of the genres of photography that I seldom get to experience is that of industrial photography. However, there is one exception in my vicinity at the Stave Lake Historical Powerhouse - a national historic site of Canada, which started producing hydro-electric power in the early 20th century until a modern replacement in the year 2000 took over the job. Perhaps growing up on the prairie has instilled in me an affinity for industrial machinery and when I found a historical powerhouse, it proved to be the ideal location to explore the notions of technology and art.


Hidden In Plain Sight

I first became acquainted with the Stave Lake Powerhouse early in 2018 where I purchased an annual pass allowing me to come and go as much as I pleased during their open season from around March to October. For myself anyway I find spending time to become familiar with a place and subject helps me find the unique perspectives hidden in plain sight, i.e., things that are commonly looked at but seldom seen and appreciated. At the powerhouse, one of the biggest challenges I found was doing my best to control the lighting hotspots on some of the machinery as it was fixed lighting high up in the building, but nothing some burning-in during a darkroom session can’t mitigate.


Four Sections To The Plant

There never is any real need to rush when photographing at the powerhouse because weather isn’t an issue and it is fairly quiet despite the various groups that occasionally wonder through. If it is cold, windy, wet & rainy outdoors, you can enjoy the calm, dry, indoor facility. There are four sections to the plant: 1) entrance & gift shop; 2) theatre; 3) hydro-power displays and educational demonstrations and finally, the turbine floor featuring the five hydro turbines that attract not only still photographers such as myself, but movie crews that have utilised the facility in the past.


Photographic Exploration

My photographic exploration at the powerhouse is an ongoing challenge of visual interpretation of a finite site. I return several times looking for new and aesthetic ways to capture the various pieces of machinery and memorabilia that date back to the early 20th century.


Therapeutic Experience

Photography for me, is a whole and therapeutic experience, from the smells in the air to the various sights of experience. I'm motivated by the "doing" of my photographic art practice, getting out ... just out and about with my camera(s), rolls of film in my pockets or loaded film holders in my bag. I'm motivated by the interplay of light and subject and the blessed opportunities to capture some of this on film.


I like to craft my images from start to finish. Whether I am working with my Toyo field camera, something smaller or pinhole cameras, I try to match the format and camera to what I think I would like to do in the field. I say "think", because sometimes my preconceived ideas are revised by the shooting circumstances or some other surprise.


Deeper Meaning

I don't mind trying new films but my stable go-to black & white films are: HP5 plus and FP4 plus. I also enjoy crafting fibre prints from my negatives as much as I enjoy making photographs in-camera. When printing, some of my favourite papers are ILFORD Ilfobrom Galerie, glossy, grade 03, Warmtone glossy, Multigrade fibre and I’m starting to use the classic glossy fibre paper a bit more as well.
Finally, like Paul Strand, I hope my work engages viewers on some plane of deeper meaning within the context of each unique piece I make.


©Bob St-Cyr