This article considers the role played by photography as both a chronicler and an agent of change in the development of industrial capitalism on Canada’s northern frontier. Landscape photography of early twentieth-century Canada highlighted raw natural resources or not yet commodified nature, training viewers to associate abundance and national destiny with the resource-rich north through an aesthetic of “wilderness as surplus.” As a genre, landscape has meanings that are mutable and often contradictory that reflect shifting relationships to the natural world. This article will chart some of the different ways that landscape was evoked in a region defined by geography but where land held competing meanings. Through an analysis of two neighboring communities on the Canadian Shield—Cobalt, a mining community, and Temagami, a logging community and wilderness vacation destination—I demonstrate that the instrumental and preservationist gazes were not so distinct as they are now. The conventions of landscape were utilized to naturalize capitalist domination over nature by presenting the natural world as something external to human society that could be controlled, owned, exploited, or protected. Photography was a mode of representation that enabled viewers to envision a place where commerce, industry, and art would come together in a nation-building project.

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