With this concept of visual consumption for inspiration, I decided to conduct a simple experiment for this week's blog post. What are the iconic images of Ottawa? If strangers wanted to learn more about our city, what would they learn? I entered the phrase 'iconic images of Ottawa' into a Google search, clicked the 'images' tab and sat back to see what would happen.
The first image was a pretty traditional one featuring tulips and the the back of the Parliament buildings, which technically means it's an image taken from Gatineau, right? It's a perspective of Ottawa taken from beyond the technical city limits. Or, to push the point a little further, from 'outside.' The second image featured the War Memorial and the Chateau Laurier hotel. This is also somewhat to be expected, except that it made me wonder if perhaps it's appearance was linked to the fact that we aren't all that far away from Remembrance Day on November 11th. Could some Ottawa tourist promotions be using this image?
What else did I find? Lots of images of the Peace Tower, of course. And one of Maman, Louise Bourgeois' truly iconic sculpture in front of the National Art Gallery. That thing really creeps me out. I have yet to go within 15 feet of it, much less stand under it for the now 'mandatory' iconic tourist photo. Just looking at it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Yikes! Look at the size of that thing.
I noticed that almost all of the images were taken during daylight, even though the Parliament buildings look beautiful when lit with spotlights at night. What does this say about our city? Could that old saying about Ottawa really be true? Do we roll up the sidewalks at 10 p.m.?
What did I notice was missing? Well, for starters there were no images of the Central Experimental Farm. Ottawa is my hometown and I've grown up visiting and travelling through the Farm. I'm never so busy that I can't take a relaxing drive through the lane of trees with their branches forming a canopy over the road. How could it not be iconic of Ottawa?
There were also no images of the Museum of Nature. The 'sinking museum' as we used to call it, after a rumour circulated that it was built on quick sand and was gradually, year by year, sinking. As kids that was part of the fascination, would it be gone by the next time we visited? As you can see, it is still very much here. In fact, it has a beautiful new addition.
Notice anything else missing? Almost all of the images were taken during the summer! Is this some kind of plot to attract tourists, or are we as a group just putting our best face forward? Where's the snow? What about our so-called World's Longest Outdoor Skating Rink?? Just to even the score, I found a couple of those images to share with you.
Ah yes, mushy snow and skating on the Canal. That's Ottawa!
But notice something else about my choice of iconic images? Finally, there are people in Ottawa! I guess we truly are a Northern people - we only come out in winter. Or at least that's what you might think if you relied on the images in Google for your information.
Is there something to this idea of visual consumption? What do you think? If the idea intrigues you, check out Schroeder's book. It's in our library!
And, now, to leave you with one of my favorite iconic images of Ottawa. That's right people, it's all about the food! And here, in Canada, we queue up to eat the tails of our iconic national animal...
Schroeder, Jonathan E. (2002), Visual Consumption. London and New York: Routledge.