From the 1890s to the 1930s Edith S. Watson, self-supporting, itinerant, artistic and commercial photographer, travelled across Canada documenting the lives of rural people, frequently women, at work. Working Light is her story. From outport Newfoundland to the Queen Charlotte Islands she captured images of labouring people in the precarious, poignant, often gruelling act of building a country. Her subjects and their ways of living are gone, but Watson's pictures are recognizable and compelling talismans of Canada's national psyche and a social history that is very much alive. She photographed women working the fish flakes in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia; making soap, weaving, and spinning in Quebec and across the Prairies and into British Columbia; mending fish nets outside Vancouver; caring for children from Newfoundland to northern Ontario, The Pas, and Brilliant, B.C.; harvesting beets outside Winnipeg and flax in Saskatchewan. Watson explored established communities, newly settled immigrant ones - she spent three summers among the Doukhobours in Alberta and British Columbia - and Native and Inuit life. Watson lived and worked with Bermudian journalist Victoria Hayward, who coined the phrase "Canadian mosaic" in their book Romantic Canada.
"Working Light will go down as one of the classics in Canadian photographic and literary history and biography in this century." David Beatty, Professor of History, Mount Allison University "These are the photos that we were supposed to have in our minds during our high school Canadian history classes." Ken Rockburn, All in a Day, CBC Radio, Ottawa "There are very rich stories in the photographs. She captures the atmosphere beautifully." Shelagh Rogers, Morningside, CBC Radio