Bell, Ken


Ken Bell (July 30, 1914 – June 26, 2000) was a Canadian photographer during the Second World War. As a lieutenant in the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, he participated in the Normandy Landings, serving in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

One of Canada’s most able photographers, Bell documented Canada’s participation in World War II while serving as a lieutenant in the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit.

Like his better known contemporary Robert Capa, Bell participated in the Normandy Landings, disembarking at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944 with The Highland Light Infantry of Canada (now known as the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada). Many of his photographs were taken in color – a first for the Canadian Army – though these did not become public until around twenty years later.

They are the only surviving color photographs of the Normandy Landings.

Members of the CFPU were often in the front line, and sometimes even ahead of it. During the liberation of Dieppe in 1944, as the Manitoba Dragoons awaited orders to advance, members of the CFPU including Ken Bell and Brian O’Regan were the first Allied servicemen to enter the town.

Bell’s war photographs – taken with a Rolleiflex camera – are housed by the Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa.Many of the original negatives of his photographs are held by the Canadian Forces Photo Unit and the City of Toronto Archives.

After the war Bell had a successful career as a professional photographer, publishing a number of collections of photographs taken during and after the war.

In 1953 he published “Curtain Call”, a collection of photographs in which he “tried to show the changes brought by man and nature in the 5 years since VE day“. This was followed in 1973 by “Not in Vain”, published by the University of Toronto Press, a collection of photographs taken partly during the war, and partly 25 years later when he returned to the same locations in France, Belgium and Holland.

In 1990, he collaborated with Desmond Morton to publish a book detailing the history of the Royal Canadian Military Institute.

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