Canada captured through a unique lens
By Stephanie E. Ponder
WILLIAM MORASSUTTI WAS serving as
editor of Toromagazine.com when his boss
asked if he’d be interested in a collection of
roughly 22,000 photographs of Canada and
Canadians that were shot for The New York
Times. Morassutti jumped at the chance.
Within a year, the website’s resulting photo-of-the-day widget generated more than 13
million page views, easily becoming the site’s
most popular content.
From there, Morassutti put together a few
preview exhibits of the photos—and once again
the images proved wildly popular. It didn’t take
long for him to realize the value of creating a
book featuring the best of the collection. The
result is Imagining Canada: A Century of
Photographs Preserved by The New York Times,
which, along with the photos, includes accompanying essays on themes such as Canada’s
landscape, politics, industry and icons.
The Connection recently spoke with
Morassutti about how the book developed.
ALL PHO TOS: NE W YORK TIMES
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012 The Costco Connection 31
The Costco Connection: How did you pare the
collection down to 100 photos for the book?
William Morassutti: We broke it up into nine
categories and then we created short lists. In
other words, here are the 50 or 75 best images
on hockey or on Canada at war. Then we
selected the writers whom we wanted to write
the essays and sent them that short list. We’d
say, “Look at the images and see what clicks
for you, see what inspires you, see what’s
intriguing, see what makes you think, and
[then] write your essay inspired by these
images. Also, by the way, give us your favourite
list of 10 to 12.”
It was their subjective take, and also it’s
such a diverse list of contributors. Some of
them are writers, but we also got people such
at Justin Trudeau to write about politics. We
got National Chief Shawn Atleo to write about
First Nations. It’s a group of really interesting
people … journalists, novelists, historians.
CC: What is the appeal of seeing Canada
through an American lens?
WM: I think there’s a really interesting
dynamic with Canada and the United
States that is almost like if you had a friend
who is 10 times bigger than you. We want
to be noticed by the bigger country, the
bigger power. If you look at the history of
people like Jim Carrey and Mike Myers
and Justin Bieber, these are all Canadians The Costco Connection Imagining Canada is available in most Costco warehouses.
who, once they’ve gone down and achieved
success in the United States, they’re suddenly—in a strange way—validated to their
fellow Canadians as legitimate stars.
On top of that, it’s not just America looking up here at Canada; it’s America looking
through the lens of The New York Times,
which is arguably the most prestigious journalistic institution in the world. When you
look at yourself, or when a country looks at
itself, of course there are going to be biases. It’s
nice to have a fresh set of eyes looking at us.
CC: While working on the book, did you learn
anything about Canada that you found particularly interesting?
WM: One of the things I really admire about
Americans is that they are excellent in celebrating their history and their culture and
even just the idea of America. I know a lot
about America because [Americans have]
created what I think is a really vital mythology
about America. And I think that there are
times when Canadians have been a little bit
too reserved about doing that for ourselves.
When encountering these images I was
struck by the richness, the imagery—just the
scope of Canadian history—which I’d kind of
forgotten. [The photos] kind of add up cumulatively and create this resonance of what Canada
has been and what things we’ve done. C