Bill Jeffries, Glen Lowry & Jerry Zaslove, eds., Unfinished Business:Photographing Vancouver Streets 1955 to 1985 (Burnaby: West Coast Line, 2005)

In June I walked into the Monte Clark Gallery on Granville Street and experienced an odd disconnect. I was seeing a densely populated urban illumination that was obviously an unfamiliar landscape, but it seemed very familiar to me, a kind of futuristic version of Vancouver. Or, at least, to have a Vancouver sensibility, or a Jeff Wall sensibility. You can see the gallery images here. Of course the preoccupations of this photography are not specific to Vancouver (probably more Frankfurt really), but they have for me at least, come to signify a certain juncture of east/west modernism/postmodernism working class/academic aesthetic. You see these beautiful illuminated storefronts, and the muted and worn lumber of the domestic as 19th Century high-realist painting (Wall, The squid, the painted sink, etc.) But I thought, this influence surely is more international than a singular Vancouver moment. But I find out from the show notes that Greg Girard, the photographer I’m talking about, was born and raised in Vancouver and now lives in and photographs, Asia.

Now I pick up Unfinished Business, and one sees the roots of this Vancouver aesthetic–and one encounters a series of photographs by the same Girard from above, circa 1975 . The West Coast Line publication is a heady mixture of photographs, essays and an interview with luminaries such as Fred Douglas and Jeff Wall, as well as essays by people like Wayde Compton (a Hound fave). I ordered it and have been looking forward to spending time with it. But dare I say there are no women in here? Well, there are a few essays by women about the men, but good god it gets boring to always be asking the same question…where are they? That is the real unfinished business. Perhaps there were no women photographing the streets of Vancouver from 1955 to 1985? I find that a little hard to believe. It really put a damper on the whole issue.