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Photo of Spalding

Capturing History

Joseph Frederick Spalding: Photographer—Tourist—Visionary

A Haven for Hunters & Anglers


Fernie is the logical centre for tourists visiting the East Kootenays; we can give them everything they are looking for, fishing, hunting, climbing, golf, hotel accommodations, garage service, movies and churches, even hard stuff too, if they want it.
- Letter from Joseph Spalding published in the Fernie Free Press (1919)

Because of his mountaineering skills, Spalding was able to photograph wilderness areas not readily accessible to everyone and his images present a sublime landscape relatively untouched by the incursions of industry and transportation. In a 1905 advertisement in the local press highlighting his photographic studio, Spalding notes that ‘Views of Fernie & the Mountains’ were always on hand, available either as photographic reproductions or postcard images.

Spalding’s majestic views of the mountains, lakes, rivers and waterfalls appear to reflect a philosophic and aesthetic vision of nature that is considerably more romantic than in his photographs highlighting the local coal and logging industries, and the building of the railway.

Although his responsibilities as Tourism Commissioner extended from southeastern British Columbia to western Alberta, Spalding was not afraid to show a hint of bias towards Fernie, evidenced in a 1919 letter to the Fernie Free Press. Responding to an assertion in an automobile guide claiming that Cranbrook afforded better opportunities for fishing, Spalding passionately argued in Fernie’s defence, even inferring that Cranbrook may have falsely claimed ownership to Fernie’s rivers,

I noticed that they have pictures of [the] Elko and Bull River, which they call their district. Are we going to sit on our haunches and allow them to steal our thunder like that? They have nothing around Cranbrook at all sufficiently interesting to attract much tourist travel so they have to steal from us.