Light, Lens & Heart -Exhibit Details

Robert Maitland Roy, and his son Frederick Roy, were significant technical and artistic talents. With light, lens, and heart combined, they have given us the ability to glimpse the many places and people whose likeness was captured in a “Roy” photograph.

Many of the portraits in this exhibit date to the Edwardian era (1901 to 1919). They invite us to take a nostalgic plunge into the vivid past, reviving or even inventing memories of a former time. Yet then as now, portraits were edited, selected, and retouched.

The Roys worked within the social conventions and constraints of the day, perhaps representing clients not as they lived, but as they wanted to live, workers not as they worked, but as their employers sought to present their workforce.

When you view Edwardian Portraits from the Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images, consider...

  • Who commissioned the photograph?
  • What instructions were given to the photographer?
  • What were the intentions of Robert or Fred Roy?
  • Where was the photograph originally displayed?
  • Who viewed the photograph?
  • How was the photograph received?

About the Roy Studio

Here is another room on one of the upper floors of the Roy Studio, that served as a Showroom. As you can see, it features many examples of portrait work.Three consecutive generations of the Roy family documented almost every facet of life in the Peterborough area for nearly a century (1896-1992). Throughout, the Roy Studio remained at the same location: 140 Hunter Street in Peterborough.

Traces of it are still visible in fact. One can see, from the sidewalk, the vestibule's mosaic floor in front of the original entrance; and looking above at the second story, the angled windows used to provide light for photograph developing.

The Roy Studio Collection is a nationally significant photographic collection of approximately 300,000 glass plate and film negatives. It is now managed by the Archival department of the Peterborough Museum & Archives .

Acquisition of the Collection

In 2000, the Roy Studio collection was purchased for the City with the generous assistance of Mr. Jim Balsillie. In recognition of this, the collection is officially named the Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images.

The collection is under the stewardship of the Peterborough Museum & Archives. Contact the Museum & Archives for information.

The Roy Family

Robert Maitland Roy

Founder of the Roy Studio. Robert was charismatic, enjoyed boating, the outdoors and a good cigar.Robert Roy (1842-1912) was the first of the Roy photographers. It was a profession he came to in mid-life, although photography had always been of interest to him.

Robert was raised in Belleville, Ontario, and worked for several years in the engineering and purchasing division of the Midland Railway. He married, and had seven children (five of whom lived into adulthood). In 1887, Roy moved his family to Peterborough, where he worked for the Grand Trunk Railway.

Several years later, in 1896, Robert took over Peter H. Green's photography business located at 140 Hunter Street. He renamed it the Roy Studio, where it remained until 1992.

Frederick Lewis Roy

The collection is dominated by the work of Fred Roy (1881-1950), which documents many events in the region. Yet his photography was not limited to Peterborough; An enlarged image of Fred Roy wearing a traditional Scottish kilt.he travelled across Canada and Europe, photographing events such as the Coronation of King George VI in 1937.

In contrast to his father, Fred's photography career enjoyed an early start. He began working in the studio by age fifteen, and eventually took on sole ownership of the business. He became active in professional associations, serving as secretary of the Ontario Society of Photographers from 1912-1914, and as President in 1916.

Fred's work was well recognized during his lifetime. His photograph won the gold medal at the International 50th Anniversary Exhibition of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), in 1930. An additional honour was that of a Master of Photography degree, awarded to him in 1947 by the PPA.

Mona Roy

Mona Roy wearing a fancy dress costume.In 1907, Frederick Roy married Mona Cavanagh (1886-1965). She hailed originally from Alberta. The Roys lived at 308 Rubidge Street, in Peterborough, for many years.

Mona could often be found, however, in the studio office on Hunter Street, working with her husband. Once their son Robert took over, in 1950, she continued to be involved as an assistant and advisor to the business.

Robert John Roy

The third generation of Roy photographers was represented by Robert "Sonny" Roy (1923-2001). Sonny was a favourite photographic subject of his father's, and as a result his childhood is well documented. He received training by his father, and at the Kodak School in Rochester, New York.

Rob Roy pictured in his navy uniform. He served abroad during WWII. Shortly after his return in 1945, he joined his father Fred to work in the Studio.After enlisting and serving abroad during WWII, Rob returned to the family business in 1945. His specialties included colour portraits and wedding photography. He was to continue the tradition of the Roy Studio for nearly 50 years, and retired in 1992.

Copyright Notice

All images on this page (C) Copyright 2004, PMA