The Photography of Bob Cain

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I had the pleasure of chatting with Bob Cain this week and discovering his beautiful photographs.

The interurban to Marpole. Bob Cain photo, 1957

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.”

The Vancouver skyline and the Marine Building. Bob Cain photo, 1967

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.”

Boats in Stanley Park. Bob Cain photo, 1967

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.

Bob Cain photo, 1969

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).

CPR ferry to Nanaimo. Bob Cain photo, 1971

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.”

The Orillia on Robson. Bob Cain photo, 1980

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.

Britta Dansereau and Ron Shulman. Bob Cain photo 1990

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.

Ron Shulman and Bob Cain. Foncie photo, 1961

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.



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  1. What great photography. Vancouver has indeed outgrown itself. The shot of the Blue Eagle cafe really shows how this city has changed. In the 70s 80s and into the 90s I felt safe to walk anywhere in the Downtown East side I cared to. I took my wife to the Only for halibut cheeks and clam chowder. We had drinks in the Lotus Hotel and many other bars on Hastings. My wife worked at Grassie Jewelers. Every time you high lite another Vancouver Photographer it brings back many memories. Thank you.
    Not so sure I would walk Hastings today even with an armed guard.

    1. Agreed. The last time I walked on Hastings near Main I was pretty scared. Not like the old days when all you had to put up with were Loggers, miners, seamen. All drunk, of course, but having good times.

  2. What a great well-composed set of photos and memories from Bob Cain.

    Because my parents worked Friday nights, one of my earliest Richmond childhood memories is crossing one of the rickety Fraser River bridges with neighbours who shopped at the Marpole Safeway.

    I now live in Victoria where all Safeways were bought and converted into Save-On Foods. If the Marpole Safeway still stands, it’s probably slated to be rebranded as Freshco by Sobeys.

    Gotta say, Every Place Has A Story is precisely the kind of feature that would help attract readers to The Province or The Vancouver Sun (where Eve once worked). Frankly, I don’t know what the Sun will do when—before much longer—John Mackie packs it in.

    John’s heritage features, Mac Parry, a few columnists and the increasingly infrequent Exclusive Investigations are the kind of eyeball attractants—other than obits, comics and crosswords/Sudoko—that make the venerable newspaper still relevant in an instant-news age.

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