The First Photographers: A Picture Says a 1000 Words

As history buffs we rely on photographs not only to describe styles of buildings; but also to remember earlier historical events and people .

Lethbridge has been fortunate to have our history recorded in images by many photographers since 1885. One of the first photographers was Fred Russell (1885-1897) whose work included the events of the Northwest Rebellion. Photographer W. A. McBean had his photograph gallery in the river bottom. It was consumed by fire in 1900 and McBean suffered the loss of his photographs and equipment. Richard Crabb’s studio was on Redpath Street today’s 3rd Avenue and he photographed early Lethbridge buildings and people from 1903 to 1915. Wilbur Handford (1906-1912) did all kinds of photographic work with the latest and most improved style for the times. Arthur Rafton-Canning of the British & Colonial Photographic Company (1907-1913) was our City’s most prolific photographer. He took shots from a high vantage point and years later returned to the same point and recorded the changes. George Allison (1913-1929) was an early adopter of new techniques and used the most up-date ideas in good photography. Mrs Helen Collins (1920-1923), the only woman with a camera, was an ‘artiste in portraiture’ and enlargements in oils and watercolors. John Waddell (1920-1940) was a commercial photographer developing images from his home studio. Alex Wood (1920-1962) was well known throughout the province for his photography and picture framing.

Lethbridge’s first photographers recorded the town’s landscape and gave us a glimpse into the past and what it was like in the beginning. A photographer’s booklet is being compiled of first photographers that made contributions by documenting local architecture, landscape and people.

If anyone has information or photos regarding the photographers profiled above or listed below please e-mail Trish at

George W. Allison [1913-1932]; John Waddell [1920-40]; Harry Clarke [1932-52]; Neil Webster [1964-1971]; Randy Neufeld [1978- ]; Rick Selinger [1974-1985]; and Lorne Kemmet [1985 -2012].