Fred Herzog, Foncie, Selwyn Pullan, Michael de Courcy, Bruce Stewart, and Angus McIntyre were just a few who took up a camera in the Vancouver of the ‘70s, and were documenting images of everything from buildings to the changing skyline, and from neighborhoods to neon. They also put a spotlight on people—the famous, the quirky, the strange and the ordinary.
At the same time, newspaper photography was coming of age. Cameras were more flexible, film was faster, and money was flowing.
Kate Bird, a recently retired photo librarian for the Vancouver Sun, has pulled together 149 black and white pictures, shot by Vancouver Sun photogs during that decade.
“We were trying to make it feel like a newspaper collection and show the access that photo journalists had in covering the news, whether that was accidents, crime, politics, business, entertainment or sports,” she says.
Kate moved to Vancouver from Montreal in the ‘70s, studied photography, and knows the city intimately. Many of the photos that she curated for Vancouver in the Seventies, reflect the Vancouver’s dark side.
There’s the heartbreaking photo of 20-year-old Playboy bunny Dorothy Stratten, taken just months before her murder. Poet Pat Lowther is shown sitting on a desk top shortly before having her head smashed in by her husband. And, there’s the picture of the underground Port Moody bunker that held 12-year-old Abby Drover for 181 days.
It’s not all dark though. There are some wonderful photos that range from a line of airport telephone booths, to a five-year-old Justin Trudeau, Rod Stewart in his prime, and Muhammad Ali.
“The city changed so much in the ‘70s,” says Kate. “There was so much building and an unbelievable level of infrastructure with the Pacific Centre, Granville Mall, Harbour Centre, the Bentall Centre, the Museum of Anthropology, and the CBC building. The numbers of new buildings radically changed the skyline by the end of the decade.”
It’s both fascinating and frightening that four decades later, we’re still revisiting a lot of those same themes: demolition of heritage buildings and places (Birks, the Strand Theatre Hogan’s Alley—wiped out during the ‘70s), housing affordability, legalizing marijuana, worker’s rights, gender equity…
Kate’s currently working on a second photojournalism book called City on Edge: A rebellious century of Vancouver protests, riots and strikes. It will come out this September.
If you’re in Vancouver, I highly recommend the Vancouver in the ‘70s exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver. It runs until July.
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