The list of British Columbia photographers who have an historical monograph about their work includes G.G. Nye, Hannah Maynard, John Vanderpant, Leonard Frank, Mattie Gunterman, C.D. Hoy, Frank Swannell and H.G. Cox.

H.G. Cox was a pictorialist photographer in New Westminster who employed 'the Greek Art Principle' from the 1920s to the 1960s. After three solo exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the 1930s as well as displays of his work at exhibitions throughout the world, Cox, the would-be author of an unpublished work to be called Dynamic Symmetry, faded from collective memory. His lost 'n' found archive of remarkable nudes and other works resulted in a revelatory exhibition at the Presentation House Gallery, curated by Bill Jeffries, entitled Athens on the Fraser: The Photographs of H.G. Cox, plus an accompanying book/catalogue entitled H.G. Cox: The British Columbia Pictorialist (North Vancouver: Presentation House Gallery, 2004).

One of Cox's most noteworthy exhibitions, The Book of Muriel, according to critic Neil Wedman, was a series of "eighty eye-popping photographs of a teenaged nude model, Muriel Dierrsen, lolling upon the sands at Boundary Bay," but although Cox's work was an effort to be avante-garde in the realm of his fellow Vancouver photography colleague John Vanderpant, his work was not designed to be risqué. According to one of his nude models, interviewed when she was aged 84, "it seemed Cox had no interest in sex at all. He was an artist and was completely focussed on his art." Much of Cox's work featured miniature sets of vaguely orientalist interiors to evoke his painterly vision. His career from 1924 to 1955 embraced the rise and fall of a photography movement known as pictorialism. According to critic Sylvia Grace Borda, "Pictorialists were concerned with photographic aesthetics, especially surface treatment and composition, all in the service of returning the image to a 'higher state of consciousness'." The aim was to elevate photography above the level of mere mechanical reproduction, partially in response to the invention and the introduction of the Kodak camera by George Eastman that had enabled amateurs to take photographs without much concern for art. According to Borda, "Much Pictorialist work incorporated symbolic and romantic subjects in soft-focus and awash in moody lighting, as a counter-balance to the 'reality' of nature."

Curator Bill Jeffries' critical and biographical summary is reproduced below, by permission.

PHOTO: H.G. Cox self-portrait, 1930

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2005] "Photography"