As I sit writing at my computer, with two fans oscillating the warm air of my top floor apartment around me, I can’t help to think how lucky we are to have access to reliable (and relatively inexpensive) electricity. Which reminded me of a photo I discovered online in the catalogue of the Vancouver Archives – this month’s vintage photo of the month.
How crazy is that photograph? And we think there are too many overhead wires today! I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to service those power lines. It made me wonder when did electricity first come to the city of Vancouver?
Today a new regular (hopefully) feature debuts on vanalogue – vintage photo(s) of the month. This month I’m featuring the work of Scottish amateur photographer, Erskine Beveridge and some of his photographs of early Vancouver a year before the Great Fire of 1886.
This Friday, June 13th marks the 128th anniversary of one of the greatest calamities in the history of Vancouver. A year earlier, wealthy Scottish businessman, Erskine Beveridge was in Vancouver [then known as Granville] documenting a rough and tumble township on the cusp of becoming a city.
Erskine Beveridge (1851-1920) was not only a successful textile manufacturer (specializing in the production of fine table and bed linen), he was also an enthusiastic historian, archaeologist and talented amateur photographer. Beveridge was fascinated by landscapes, seascapes, buildings and archaeological monuments. He traveled extensively across Scotland, taking hundreds of photographs that captured Scotland’s rural heritage. [A collection of his photographs can be seen on the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) website.]
Just because they don’t make film for a particular analogue camera anymore, doesn’t mean you should pass up the opportunity to own one. This is exactly what I thought when I recently had the opportunity to take home a Polaroid 360 Land Camera (for free!).
At the very least I thought it would make a really cool objet d’art – a great addition to my growing collection of vintage cameras. I was curious to learn more about my new acquisition so I did what anyone would do in this day and age, I “Googled” it.
To loosely paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli: In a progressive [city] change is constant; …change… is inevitable. Vancouver is a city that most inevitably is constantly changing … sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. But, how much has the city really changed? Sometimes it can be hard to tell unless you can directly compare the past with the present.
Primary source documents like visual historical records, whether they are still or moving images, capture a moment in time and allow us to compare the past with the present. I think it is really interesting to look back and compare how much (or, how little) a place has changed over the years. So, inspired by photographer Dan Toulgoet’s “Then and Now” series in the Vancouver Courier and the blog of ‘then and now’ images Changing Vancouver , I decided to try my hand at creating my own comparative pairs of ‘before and after’ images.
When we last left our Polaroid story it looked liked Edwin Land’s dreams of a utopian world of analogue instant photography was over. With the advancements and popularity of digital cameras, “instant film” cameras (and for that matter film cameras in general) were becoming less popular. In early 2008, Polaroid announced that it would stop producing all types of instant film for Polaroid cameras.
When Polaroid ended instant film production in 2008, The Impossible Project (founded by Florian ‘Doc’ Kaps and André Bosman) picked up where they left off—purchasing the last Polaroid production plant (literally days before it was to be demolished) and the equipment for producing integral instant film. What made this project even more ‘impossible’ was the fact that they had to find new solutions for replacing and upgrading problematic or unavailable components. They decided not to recreate Polaroid film but instead to develop new products with new characteristics.
Don’t undertake a project unless it’s manifestly important and nearly impossible.
– Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid
‘Street photography’ means something quite different today… it often refers to photojournalists, documentary photographers or flanuers like Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Fred Herzog, and the newly discovered Vivian Maier. But back in the hey day of street photographers (1930s-1940s ) the term ‘street photography’ described a photographer who solicited strangers on the street offering to take their photos for a fee.
In the ‘Great Depression‘, people barely had money for the necessities in life much less for any extras such as family portraits taken in a studio. During times of economic depression people often have to re-invent themselves and the way they do business. This is exactly what happened in the 1930s in North America, when studio photographers had to move from the refined space of the studio, to the expanse of the outdoors – they were literally, out on the street.