by: Shawn M. Kent (CPO 1 Ret’d)
Since the 1960s serving and retired military photographers have come together for an informal reunion. At these reunions, generations of photo techs and image techs swap stories, rekindle old friendships, and touch base with the current generation of technicians. Since 1980 the event has been known as Milfoto and has been scheduled at a five years interval to this day, albeit a bit delayed by COVID. This year the 2020 reunion finally took place on 19-20 Aug 2022 at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre. It was attended by roughly 180 serving and retired military photographers and videographers from across Canada.
The event commenced with a “meet and greet” amongst a collection of trade-relevant treasures on display. Nikon was also on hand with a selection of their latest and greatest cameras and equipment. The large hall was filled with mementos and antique cameras. Dale Gervais, a retired archivist from Library and Archives Canada and webmaster of the Canadian Film and Photo Unit website, was also on hand with an original WWII-era Bell & Howell motion picture camera used by members of the legendary Canadian Film and Photo Unit. Other treasures included an original Speedgraphic kit used by a sixties-era RCN photographer before unification and more vintage cameras than could be counted. Finally, photographs and mementos from the original Photo Unit (A.K.A. the White House) at CFB Rockliffe were on display, including a poster depicting a seventies photo reunion when the event was held at the Rockcliffe base Rec Centre, and attendees burned down the house…literally. Guests mingled and shared memories and reacquainted after many years apart long into the evening.
Saturday was equally exciting for the guests, commencing with tours of the War Museum in the morning, technology displays from Imaging Services Program Management (ISPM) in the afternoon and a formal dinner and dance. During the dinner, as is tradition, a roll call took place where graduates of successive imagery courses stood and cheered for their respective decades. Representatives in the room included everyone from the 2010s back to George Nitchsky, who graduated from his photo course in 1948. The room erupted in applause to discover that we still had a member of our community from the forties present.
Concurrent with the dinner was a silent auction where photos, tripods, camera bags and vintage cameras were put up for auction to raise money for Veteran’s House. This charitable organization has built a home for homeless or at-risk veterans. This charity was chosen as it has built a residence on the former site of CFB Rockliffe, once the home of the imagery occupation. Over $3000 was raised for the charity through the silent auction and the prized item, a Speedgraphic donated by a community member, went for $600.
Overall, the weekend went spectacularly, with the community celebrating one hundred years of history with young and old attendees. A huge thank you to all the volunteers who made this event a tremendous success. Monies raised will go to a Veteran’s House and help ensure this wonderful community and event can continue. The Milfoto committee will reconvene in the coming weeks to determine if they will plan the next one for 2025, or if they will wait for another five as is the traditional cycle. In either case, if you are an image tech who missed out this time, stay tuned for the next iteration of this incredible and worthwhile event. We’d love to have you. Also, the Milfoto committee is always on the lookout for fresh volunteers. Visit www.milfoto.ca to sign up for the newsletter and stay informed about planning for the next one.