Yellowknife’s First Professional Photographer
“Shoot anything, anytime!”
“Shoot anything, anytime!”
After Henry Busse’s death in 1962, the Yellowknife Museum Society approached Henry’s daughter to acquire his work and preserve it for future generations of northerners.
When the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre opened in 1979, the Henry Busse collection was transferred to the NWT Archives.
A portion of the collection was catalogued in the 1980s but since it is so large it has taken until recently to address the entire collection. Nearly 50,000 new images were organized in 2007, and 3000 were given detailed descriptions in 2008. We are proud to present a selection of these images to the public.
Hans Heinrich Maximilian (Henry) Busse was born in Germany in 1896. A veteran of WWI, he studied agriculture at Bonn University. He was married in the 1920s but separated from his wife, with whom he had a daughter. He immigrated to Canada in 1927 and worked at a number of farms and businesses throughout western Canada.
Henry worked at Eldorado Mining and Refining at Great Bear Lake in the mid 1940s. At Eldorado he joined the photography club, improving the skills he gained earlier running a darkroom in Edmonton. In 1947 Busse moved to Yellowknife where he opened Yellowknife's first commercial photography business, Yellowknife Photo Service. His work received international awards and appeared in several magazines.
On September 28, 1962, Henry Busse chartered Ken Stockhall's Cessna 185 for a photographic assignment in the Nahanni Valley. He was joined by Gunther Geortz and Vic Hudon from Giant mine. The group didn’t return at their scheduled time. Despite a two-month air search, their plane was not discovered until June 1963, crashed in a valley near Cli Lake.
While working at Eldorado Mine, Henry Busse met Father Gathy, who encouraged him to start a photographic studio. In 1947 Henry opened Yellowknife Photo Service.
At the time, Yellowknife was a booming frontier town, with several active gold mines. Newcomers, such as miners, prospectors, bush pilots and entrepreneurs flocked to the area traditionally inhabited by the Dene people.
Busse’s shop was the first of its kind in the north. He set up a portrait studio, and took photographs of local events. Customers also brought in their own film to be processed. Henry was rarely seen without his camera. His early newspaper ads claimed he’d “Shoot Anything – Any Time” and his collection at the NWT Archives reflects this with thousands of photos of parties, portraits, parades and even pets!
Yellowknife Photo Service was in two locations in Old Town. In 1958 he moved the business up the hill to the expanding New Town. When Busse died suddenly in 1962, his business partner Gerry Reimann continued the business.