I had the pleasure of chatting with Bob Cain this week and discovering his beautiful photographs.
Bob grew up in Marpole, at a time when a swing bridge joined Marpole to Sea Island (it was dismantled in 1957 after the Oak Street Bridge opened).
“Marpole was a small town like Kerrisdale and Kitsilano,” he says. “They were just a series of small towns separated by bush and connected by interurban and trams. They had their own mayors, their own celebrations, and they used to have a May Day parade every year.”
When Bob was about 12, he had a morning paper route for the Vancouver News Herald. “I was getting up at 4:00 am, riding down to the Safeway on Granville Street where the papers were tossed in bundles onto the sidewalk and we would count them out and load up our bikes,” he says. “I think I had 70 deliveries which I would finish just in time to go to school.”
When he decided to quit, his manager told him if he’d stay on for another month, he’d give him a camera. “It was a Brownie Hawkeye and my first really good camera.”
What his manager didn’t tell him was the paper was going under and he didn’t want the bother of looking for another paperboy.
Now he had a “Baby Brownie,” Bob started to get more serious about photography. His family had moved into a Marpole fixer upper in the ‘50s that had a basement with a fully working darkroom. He took it over, shot, developed and printed photos as well as 8mm and 16mm reversible movie film.
In 1967, Bob was hired as a darkroom assistant with Focus Prints at 1255 West Pender Street. “Focus Prints was located up one set of stairs and down a long corridor all the way to the back of the building. The office and workroom had gorgeous views of the Burrard Inlet,” he says. (I worked in the same two-storey blue building in the 1980s for Business in Vancouver—now it’s a 15-storey condo building called The Views).
Focus Prints mostly dealt with ad agencies in the area, and Bob’s main job was to making what he calls Azos. “Using a 5×7 camera we made line negs (black and white negs, no shades of grey) of the copy sent to us.”
He moved to Hornby Island in the 1970s and became the island’s resident photographer—taking passport photos, recording weddings, and marking other events such as art show openings with his camera. He’s retired now, but still taking photos and he’s been adding to his website since 2006.
These days, he gets to Vancouver less and less. “I don’t like Vancouver anymore it’s outgrown itself,” he says.
I asked Bob his favourite photographer. Foncie, he said.
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