Ansgar Walter Lenser
Highlights of the 1950s and 60s
Though little is known about Ansgar Lenser, his photographs remain some of the most iconic views of Smithers and the Valley from the mid-20th century.
A.W. (Ansgar Walter) Lenser moved to Smithers around 1958 and married Annette Joseph Newman of Witset (Moricetown). An employee of the Forest Service, he took up photography as a side business. His postcard-style photographs depicted striking views of some of the Valley's most recognizable sights: Smithers' Main Street, Hudson Bay Mountain, Glacier Gulch Falls, Widzin Kwah Canyon, the Dominion Experimental Farm, and the Bulkley Valley District Hospital. Lenser's photos are easily identifiable by their wavy-edged white labels with bold, capitalized print. All were developed in his personal darkroom in a cabin on Seymour Lake Road.
Articles in the Interior News shed a little more light on A.W. Lenser. He could often be found taking photographs at big occasions such as the Fall Fair and 1963 Golden Jubilee Celebrations. Lenser's 100+ photos of the latter event were displayed for sale at Interior Stationery, depicting highlights such as "the Birthday Party, Golden Glitters, Little Nell, the parade, oldtimers baseball, mustache contest, and the crowning of Miss Golden Jubilee [and] the Pioneer King and Queen." Lenser also participated in a wildlife photography expedition at Owen Creek (southwest of Houston), won a prize for his "trapper" costume at a 1964 Halloween dance, and was an active member of Smithers' chess club.
A.W. Lenser remained in the Bulkley Valley for about 15 years, departing at some point in the 1970s. According to his son, he often spoke fondly of his time in Smithers, the wildlife he witnessed, and the forests in which he worked. Lenser passed away in 2013. About 25-30 of the photos in the Bulkley Valley Museum have been identified as his, though it is possible there are far more.