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Kurt Lang, Granville Street (1972), photograph
[Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver, BC, thru Mar 2, 2003]

Unfinished Business:
Vancouver Street Photographs 1955-1985

Presentation House Gallery
North Vancouver BC thru Mar 2, 2003

“Unfinished Business” displays documentary photographs of Vancouver between 1955-1985. For old Vancouverites seeking images from the past, the exhibit is less a trip down memory lane than a portrait of Vancouver’s downtown in her less salient areas. Occasionally an image is definitive – Isaac’s Drugstore on Davie Street or the English Bay bathhouses, both gone now – but overall the portrait is a generic record of typical buildings, anonymous street corners and oblivious pedestrians in the Vancouver Downtown Eastside.

The focus of the show is on the artists themselves: what they saw, what they chose to record, and how they chose to frame and focus it. The time period of the exhibit spans the beginning of Fred Herzog’s Vancouver photography in 1954, through the work of now-internationally prominent Vancouver photographers in the late 70s and 80s, to the time of Expo 86.

Overall, the scenes depict urban emptiness at a curb level of reality, the sort of photoconceptualist art that was in fashion in the 1980s in Vancouver. Yet together they work as what curator Bill Jeffries calls a “thick description” of Vancouver’s transition from small city to corporate and modernist agglomeration. Like scenes from a play, each photograph is a piece that can be read for changing fashions and changing architecture.

Six mini-symposia explore these themes, as well as the question of why no female photographers are among the more than 20 artists in this show. Find more information at www.presentationhousegall.com/events.html

© Mia Johnson

  

 Sun, Feb 9, 2003