Robson Square, 1984

Robson Square, 1984

Robson Square, 1984

Sometimes, all the elements come together to make a fine image. And I think the photographs represented (digitally) on this page qualify.

I’m always happy with radiant light … and an interesting sky, laden with cloud. The best time to head out with a camera is often during changing weather.

As with most of my successful Vancouver images, I noticed or anticipated imminent changes not just in the weather, but in the urban landscape — in this case, preparations for new development on Howe Street, across from the Law Courts, south of Robson.

The most regrettable loss, preserved in this documentary photograph, was the demolition in 1989 of the Georgia Medical-Dental Building (second from the right, behind the Hotel Vancouver).

Its iconic 11-foot-high, terra cotta statues honouring a Nursing Sister of World War I were lost, while fibreglass reproductions were installed on the new, nondescript 23-storey Cathedral Place tower. Despite widespread opposition, another treasured architectural beauty of Vancouver was no match for the wreckers’ dynamite.

Eaton

Eaton’s “Marshmallow” Building, Vancouver, 1984

Meanwhile, the ungainly, unloved building preserved in the photo above, occupied by Eaton’s in 1984, and by Sear’s after 1999, has recently been transformed by Nordstrom, it’s windowless facade removed and opened to the light by soaring glass panels. Vancouverites have generally welcomed this project by the original owner, Cadillac Fairview, to excise an architectural carbuncle described humorously by critics as a “marshmallow,” less charitably as a “giant urinal.”

To photograph these views (with my Mamiyaflex medium-format camera, mounted on a Tiltall tripod), I adopted the Ansel Adams car-top method. Trouble is, I had no platform mounted on my Chevy van. Consequently, its roof never quite recovered. As you can see in the contact sheet below, I shot most of a 12-exposure roll of Ilford FP4 120 film at the site.  As I recall, to bring out contrast in the storm clouds, I alternated between yellow and red filters, miscalculating filter factors on a couple of exposures.

Archival quality prints are available through the 80s Vancouver Sales Gallery. See more from the larger Vancouver portfolio here.

Contact Sheet

Contact Sheet

Raymond Parker
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