It’s not famous. It’s not even a major attraction for the City of Hamilton but it is still beautiful, and definitely one of the most recognizable symbols of Hamilton and the Beasley neighbourhood.
The original was erected in 1859, and then became a centre of Hamilton’s urban life. It was demolished in 1959, however, due to its deteriorating condition and the city’s plan to modernize the downtown core. In 1993, renewed interest by the city’s Head-of-the-Lake Historical society and its offshoot Fountain Foundation consisting of society members, local businesses, corporations and private citizens lead to the raising of $500,000 to build a new fountain. Installed in 1996, the new fountain is made with some pieces of the original fountain to enhance its heritage value, a near replica of the original and a true link between Hamilton’s past and future.
I first photographed this fountain on a summer day in 2005 but while it was technically and aesthetically nice to look at, I was never content with the results. In my mind, the image barely captured the spirit of the distant past and 21st century present of the fountain, park, neighbourhood and city. Even more of a problem for me was that many photographers had made countless beautiful images of this fountain that weren’t too dissimilar from mine. For a while, I thought that my only option was to abandon the idea of presenting an urban landscape/architectural/sculptural photograph of this fountain. That decision proved impossible for me to live with. I couldn’t shoot this city, and not include this icon in my collection. My final decision–which should have occurred to me much sooner, was to make an image of the fountain in a way that I had not seen done by any other photographer. It was just a simple concept of shooting the active fountain at night with a long exposure so that the ambient light would illuminate and transform the water streams into veils.
This is one of several low-light compositions I made of the Gore Park Fountain. Instead of shooting the old-style sculpture from the west as I did years before, I shot it from its eastern side and from very low to the ground. I ensured that I got some of the lit offices of the modern Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce headquarters and 100 King Street West building (formerly Stelco Tower) in the background to meld old-style elements with the new. In 2005, I composed the image in portrait. This time, I composed the image in field as I wanted to convey not just the tallness of the fountain but its breadth, include the scenery of the surrounding park, and convey dimensional depth of the scene from such a low to the ground angle. This time around, movement is conveyed by the jets and overflows of water, instead of giving just a static freeze frame impression. The tall buildings fade into a richly darkened sky which helps to make the street and shop lights dazzle without becoming overbearing. All of these elements have come together to make a much better and unique urban photograph of this Steeltown icon.