The Department of Finance cut its budget art spending more than 99 percent following criticism of six-figure imagery. Staff bought a single $575 stock photo of a family running through a field to illustrate its 2018 budget, Equality Growth: A Strong Middle Class.
“I cannot give you information on who the people are for privacy reasons,” said Terri Lynn Futcher, production manager for Kaspi Creative Inc. of Peterborough, Ont., the agency that licensed the photo through Getty Images. “I can tell you the photo was taken in Ontario; they are Canadian; and they are an actual family. They are a wonderful family and we shoot with them a lot.”
The finance department previously spent $176,339 on artwork for its 2016 budget, and $212,234 for the 2017 version. “Justin Trudeau’s election mantra was all about positivity, change and optimism for the future,” staff wrote in preparing the 2016 cover. “We want this budget cover to illustrate that feeling. In the past, budget covers looked staged and emotionless.”
Previous Conservative budgets depicted inexpensive stock photos. The department in 2016 hired a creative team to photograph models posing as a mother and daughter walking at the corner of Burrard and West Cordova Street in Vancouver. Blacklock’s earlier obtained details of budget art projects through Access To Information.
“We want them to look like an everyday family,” wrote the photo agency KBS Ltd. of Toronto; “On the 2016 cover we want to capture an aesthetic that is optimistic, bright and moving forward. Our subjects are looking away from the camera so our audience can feel as if they are part of the picture. Rather than simply being observers, the viewer is an active participant.”
The 2017 budget depicted four images of models including a photo of a young girl playing an air guitar intended to illustrate “fairness”, wrote staff. “Really like the air guitar; very dynamic shot, lots of potential,” wrote one employee with Finance Canada’s marketing division. “Love the little girl with the guitar. I think that’s our winner for the largest cover shot!” wrote another.
“I like the colour scheme,” wrote Natalie Rieger, senior marketing advisor for the finance department. “It’s fresh. I love where this is going.”
Other 2017 imagery included a photo of a woman in hiking boots posing with a cartoon laptop, intended to represent “innovation and skill”. An image of a boy holding a cartoon bridge illustrated infrastructure. The finance department had lengthy email exchanges with the Prime Minister’s Office on whether the model posing as the bridge boy should wear eyeglasses. “I vote glasses,” wrote an employee. “Put me on team hipster.”
A 2017 budget cover photo of a grey-haired man having his blood pressure checked was meant to symbolize “Strong Canada”, though one staffer described the senior’s facial expression as “quite unsettling”.