Photographing authentic people of the Bruce and Grey Counties of Ontario was, and continues to be Willy Waterton’s passion, bringing the lives and stories of good people into focus. For Waterton, the term “salt of the earth” describes “a decent, dependable, unpretentious person.” This phrase describes the people in the area, whom Waterton had the honour and privilege of photographing over his career as a photojournalist.
This selection of 20 photographs challenges the historical notions of portrait photography by examining through a contemporary lens, the ordinary – yet extraordinary – diligent and humble people of the community. Each of these photographs documents a way of life that has vanished or is disappearing from this place we call home. While focused on only a handful of people from the area, this exhibition participates in a larger global dialogue on the importance of integrity in humanity.
A creek still bears the family name where Willy’s ancestors settled in northern Grey County during the 1840’s. A self-taught photographer, Willy Waterton spent 35 years as a full time photojournalist at the Owen Sound Sun Times daily newspaper. During his tenure as chief photographer, he oversaw the transition from black and white to colour, then finally to digital. His newspaper photographs won over 100 provincial and national awards. In 1990, Willy was named Ontario News Photographers’ Association Photographer of the Year.
His photography has appeared in national and international magazines, newspapers and books including the Globe and Mail, New York Times and National Geographic. His work is in both public and private collections.
Willy’s lifelong love for Bruce & Grey Counties along with recent expeditions to polar regions has led to his commitment through his photography, to interpret the people and land of these special parts of Canada for others to enjoy.