The New Northwest by Bill Waiser (Fifth House), is subtitled The Photographs of the Frank Crean Expeditions 1908-1909, but provides us with very little information about these two fascinating subjects. The New Northwest can be seen as another wacky vision of the North (in this case, the sub-Arctic region of Saskatchewan and Alberta) dreamt up by people who don't live there, and Crean's photographs are an example of the ambiguous truth-telling purposes to which photography was so often set in the cause of attracting settlers from Europe (in this case, by revealing a fertile north capable of sustaining agriculture on a large scale). Crean's photographs, the author tells us, are to be valued because they "capture" the "final days of the Old Northwest and its unique way of life." Surely by now this is a tiresome thought. How many collections of old photographs are said by their collectors to do the same? And just what are those mythical "final days"?—is that what Crean saw in his viewfinder? No, these photographs are fascinating precisely inasmuch as they fail to provide information about the "Old Northwest"; they are instead a screen on which to project our very present fantasies of the past: this is their first importance; their second is for what they tell us of the man who took them. For these photographs betray a gentle vision of the world in contradiction to the image of Crean himself that emerges from the text and the photographs, in many of which he appears. Frank Crean is a fierce-looking man, a giant Eli Wallach with a chip on his shoulder. Or so he appears. From what little the text reveals, we learn only that he was sent back from the Great War for drunkenness (remarkable in itself: surely the whole Canadian force was drunk) and died at fifty-seven, out of work and probably penniless. He was a misfit and we want to know more of him.