Afternoon Nap

“Even a soul submerged in sleep
is hard at work and helps
make something of the world.”

― Heraclitus

Lost for words, since my written journals of the period are sparse and perfunctory, I’m left with a couple of 35mm contact sheets and corresponding negatives from the winter of 1983.

Snow-covered fields bisected by fences, mountains under a lowering sky, water droplets in a stainless steel sink, flash-lit frames of a caving adventure, portraits of my daughter, then 8-years-old, and my nephew, 2-months new: glimpses of memory, lit by the low winter sun.

And the photograph represented above, made in Peter Fenn’s cabin, near Ashcroft, British Columbia: a picture of repose. The cold winter light, amplified by a blanket of snow beyond the cabin walls, mediated, I fancy, by the windowsill angel, casts a warming spell over the dreamers.

Later that year, under the summer sun, I photographed Peter again — this time with my Mamiyaflex medium-format camera.  My girlfriend at the time, a hair stylist, was cutting Peter’s hair. Overhead, jet fighters from the Abbotsford Air Show screamed through the blue sky …. Peter’s muscular back, flecked with clippings.

On the same property, home of my sister and brother-in-law, we held a barn dance and art exhibition that summer — Talking Heads, David Bowie, Police (I still have the party tape); Peter’s rural drawings (including the one seen in “Afternoon Nap”) hung alongside the first of my Vancouver urban series, which I’d just begun.

“Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: it gives back life to those who no longer exist.”

― Guy de Maupassant

Just as my trip back to England last year drove home (literally) the power of the photograph to evoke memory and to comfort the bereaved, again this month a fleeting moment illuminated on film serves as a kind of talisman, if not against mortality, then as a rage against the dying of the light.

In memoriam, Peter Fenn — 1944-2017

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Old Home

Return visitors will notice a new look to this website. Those viewing with tablet or phones will immediately notice the difference — the new site is fully responsive, looking pretty much the same on all devices, but for the navigation menu that defaults to the familiar mobile version indicated by the 3-bar icon (which students of the I Ching might confuse with the trigram Ch’ien, 乾 The Creative) 🙂

Even on desktop and laptop computers, you can test the responsive design by grabbing a corner of your browser and reducing its width. Everything should adapt.

Google has been penalizing sites that are not mobile-friendly for some time now, and though the old site passed muster — it had a separate mobile version served to smartphones — I still received occasional warnings via Google’s Webmaster Tools when some page assets did not render perfectly on some devices. That should theoretically be a thing of the past and Google will reward this site with a big increase in traffic! 😉

I’ve transformed raymondparkerphoto into this shiny new version with the adoption of the ProPhoto 6 premium theme, not to mention help from the incomparable support staff. Really, I have never come across a development team more dedicated to the success of their customers than the folks at Netrivet. They go beyond the call of duty to make sure you get what you’re looking for in design and function.

Where other themes rely on text “chats” and forums, ProPhoto offers support right through their website. In my experience, open tickets are attended to promptly, often the same day. And they stick with you until your issue is resolved.

Their website has a comprehensive library of tutorials, often accompanied by video.

ProPhoto’s graphic interface is WSIWYG defined … once you figure out how it works (again, support is awesome!) You can make custom pages for different parts of your site … same with galleries.

Settings are divided into “layers,” if you will, with a Template dashboard where you set up your page templates and other assets, and a Design area where you chose fonts, build “tiles” (animated text, buttons, etc.), forms and other style elements combined in the overall site architecture.

ProPhoto offers a good selection of free designs — 9 at this time — (one of which I customized for this site) as well as dozens of premium options to suit every taste and requirement.

The really cool thing about ProPhoto 6, besides the responsive function, is that someone, like myself, upgrading from a previous version is able to build the new site behind the scenes, via a “test drive” plugin, while their existing site is still served as normal. This is what I’ve been doing for the last 2 months.

I waited a while to make the transition from ProPhoto 5 to 6, first because it took a while for them to roll out some features I relied on (still waiting on support for captions in galleries) and second … because I’ve been overwhelmed with renovations in home, office, and workshop.

Admittedly, the learning curve was a bit steep at first, but again I can’t say enough about the awesome support!

Whether you are a visual artist, or just want to build a great-looking, responsive WordPress website, I highly recommend taking a look at ProPhoto 6.

Following this link will add a modest discount to your shopping cart.

One of the biggest advantages to the responsive design is the fact that it has enabled me to upload higher resolution images. This is especially advantageous to the Eighties Vancouver gallery, where previously I was forced to use rather small images so that the 1X1 ratios would not overwhelm lower resolution screens. Now visitors with those big iMacs should have a much improved experience.*

At my leisure, I’ll be going back to some of the more popular blog posts to replace images there as well. Meanwhile, due to the way responsive sites serve image assets, all screen sizes will benefit.

Another change here is the adoption of secure socket layer (SSL) encryption for the whole site, not just the shopping area, indicated by the padlock in your browser’s address bar. This means that any input you may make to the site is fully encrypted, ensuring complete privacy. Again, Google is beginning to use website security as a “ranking signal,” preferring to return sites using https in search results.

I hope you enjoy the new design. As you can see from the included “before” photos (above and below), I’ve simplified the graphic elements, opting for an even more minimalist look. Please let me know your thoughts — is there anything you miss? — in the comments below.

Former Footer

And, if you haven’t already, sign up for the occasional newsletter (footer, lower right) for latest news and offers. Next week we return to regular programming.

*Note that slider galleries are navigable via the usual back ˂ and forward ˃ icons. Fullscreen option is activated by clicking the opposing-arrows icon at bottom-left of galleries. Of course, you can escape fullscreen either by clicking the arrows again, or hitting the escape key on your computer’s keyboard. Check ‘em out at the galleries.

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  • Don Denton - Wow, the images really pop now. They looked good before but you certainly notice the difference on this update. It translates well to viewing on the phone as well.  I’ve really got to update my site so I’ll have to check out ProPhoto.June 10, 2017 – 6:58 pmReplyCancel

    • Raymond Parker - Thanks, Don! It’s great not having to anticipate an “average” image size and just use a high resolution image that will adapt to most devices. Haven’t checked it out on one of those 5K screens yet! 🙂June 10, 2017 – 9:46 pmReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Looks better. Like the little animations. They draw the eye. Love larger photos. June 9, 2017 – 6:51 pmReplyCancel

    • Raymond Parker - Glad you like the new site!June 10, 2017 – 9:41 pmReplyCancel

Connaught Bridge, 1913 (City of Vancouver Archives)

In November 1984, the month Vancouver’s old Cambie Street Bridge closed, my friend and fellow photographer Brian Hay scaled the span before sunrise. We set up our Mamiyaflex cameras on the swing span tower to catch first light on a landscape in transition from industrial hub to condo city.

Crossing by Bike

The “Connaught Bridge,” a name that never stuck, was the second crossing over False Creek — the first being a simple timber trestle, built in 1891 at a cost of $12,000.

The steel bridge, built at a cost of $740,000, opened to traffic on May 24, 1911. it also carried streetcars between southern neighbourhoods and the downtown core.

Just 4-years-later, a fire on the creosoted wood deck sent a 24.4-metre (80 ft) steel side span tumbling into False Creek. By the time I used the wooden sidewalk, seen in the historic photo above, 70-years of footfall and weather had worn its surface into washboard. Crossings by bicycle were enough to loosen fillings … or lens caps.

The present $52.7 million concrete bridge, was built to a tight schedule, between 1983–85, in order to coincide with the May debut of transportation and communication themed Expo 86. The 1,100 metres (3,600 ft), 6-lane span opened on December 8, 1985.

Photographs from my Eighties Vancouver series document various stages of its construction. I recall many days peering over the old bridge onto the hardhats below, and meandering along the nearby shores of False Creek as the concrete structure, monolithic compared to the Conaught’s airy girders, advanced across the inlet.

It’s hard to believe that the “new” Cambie Bridge is now over thirty-years-old.

New Cambie Bridge

Construction, Cambie Street Bridge, 1985

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False Creek, 1890

Up the creek

Along what is today known as Vancouver’s False Creek, ringed by condominiums and coffee shops, aboriginal villages once flourished. Skwachàys was established along the productive marshes that covered its eastern terminus. Senakw occupied an area on the south shore rich in elk, bog cranberries, wild rice, sturgeon, and salmon.

The natural wealth of these environments supported the great artistic traditions of Coast Salish civilization.

Colonization

Following the arrival of European explorers and settlers, Admiral Sir George Henry Richards (13 January 1820 – 14 November 1896), hydrographer to the British Admiralty from 1864 to 1874, gave the waterway its present name. Exploring for coal, the engine of the industrial revolution, Richards discovered that the inlet, falsely attributed on earlier charts as a “creek,” hid greater prospects.

In 1869, the colonial government set aside a small reserve at the creek mouth, allotted in 1877 to the Squamish people. The next 100 years saw the reserve bisected by railway lines, the Burrard Street bridge, and other development. By the mid 1960s, the entire reserve had been sold off.

False Creek, 1983 (Photo: Gerry Duncan)

Industrial Zone

The “creek” was soon transformed into the industrial heartland of Vancouver, home to sawmills and factories. A massive fire in 1960, fought by every piece of equipment and firefighting personnel in Vancouver, destroyed the BC Forest Products plant and lumber storage yard on the south side. The area deteriorated over the following decades, eventually a sclerotic artery, blighted by toxic soils and polluted waters.

By the time I documented the landscape from the top of the old Cambie Street Bridge in 1984, only a small portion of that southern industrial zone remained, Granville Island having already been converted into the popular market and artists’ haven enjoyed by residents and tourists today. The “golf-ball” geodesic dome of the Expo Centre (now home to Science World) was nearing completion.

False Creek dawn

Dawn, False Creek, Vancouver, 1984

Play Zone

The idea for an exposition in Vancouver was first floated in the 1970s. The plan got the green light from the Bureau of International Expositions in November 1980.

Life Support, Expo 86

Billionaire Jimmy Pattison, famous in his car lot days for weekly firings of the least-performing member of his sales team, was tapped to head the Expo venture, first as CEO, then as the president of the Expo 86 Corporation.

Expo 86 featured 107 provinces, countries, and corporations, with a transportation and communications theme. It attracted 22 million people over its May to October run. The original budget of CAN$78 million ballooned to $802 million, with a deficit of $311 million.

The construction came with an agreement hammered out with BC’s notoriously fractious labour sector to allow non-union labour alongside union workers.

Bill Bennet’s Social Credit government of the day, eager to include as many Pacific Rim countries as possible, including those balking at the price of admission, agreed to subsidize the China Pavilion, which was also allowed to run its own knickknack shop.

For several years, during construction of Expo 86’s pavilions and attractions, overseen by architect Bruno Freschi, I included the shores of False Creek in my photographic explorations of the city’s fast-changing urban landscape — much of it driven by the impending fair.

I wasn’t a great fan of some of the “urban renewal” plans that went along with the clamour to tart up the city in time for her unveiling to the world, especially the greed-driven expulsion of low-income residents from Downtown Eastside hotels. My 80s Vancouver portfolio is filled with architectural victims of the gold rush fever that accompanied preparations.

No one would now deny that the Expo 86 relationship came with benefits. The fair itself brought us the extraordinary treasures of Ramses II (the pink granite colossus took my breath away), the music and dance of Indonesia, the United Nations message of “Peace Through Communication” and hope for nuclear disarmament; the California Pavilion touted its part in “creating the future” through such advances as geothermal energy, space exploration, bicycle design, and computer to computer communications — which now bring you these reflections.

Today, the inlet is in better shape than the place we see in many historical photos — a scene of utter despoilment, the foreshore littered with the refuse of unregulated industrial activity.

Remediation of land along False Creek, led to the formation of BC Contaminated Site Regulations (CSR)

City artists and entertainers enjoyed a boost in their fortunes, including my late father Ray Parker, 57 at the time, who, among other “walkabout” roles, played The World’s Oldest Gas Pump Jockey for Esso’s Corporate Day. The guest passes Dad gave me assured that I attended the fair more than once. It was a jolly good party.

The playbill of the open air, 1500 seat Xerox International Theatre was eclectic — from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Miles Davis and Loverboy. I recall attending an evening performance of the German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten, who may have been channelling the tortured sounds of False Creek’s ghost factories and mills, some of which still survived on the south shore and to the east, on False Creek Flats.

Gm Pavilion

GM Pavillion, False Creek, 1985

The GM Pavilion

Getting into the General Motors Pavilion, arguably the most popular attraction at the fair, usually required a long wait — in the rain that marked the start of the fair, or the hot sun that accompanied its final weeks.

Predictably, the ground floor was dedicated to GM’s latest collection of automobiles, but the upper reaches of the 30-metre-high wedge-shaped building, accessed by external ramps, housed a “Spirit Lodge” where a storyteller in traditional aboriginal costume recounted a mythological story of a magic canoe, precursor of the Yukon SUV perhaps, that bore his ancestors to their destinations.

The storyteller conjured memories from a campfire, his dreams materializing in the shadows of the theatre by the magical illusions of a Pepper’s ghost hologram.

After dark, the pavilion’s outer facade, lit with red lights, threw a shimmering reflection across False Creek, just as it did pre-event, lit by the sunset, in my black and white photograph above.

Outer space

The Minolta Space Tower (left of GM Pavilion in photo above)) was the tallest structure on the Expo grounds. Where the tower’s revolving “Observatron” and 12-person parachute capsules once treated fairgoers to a panoramic view over the city, tenants of Park West condo tower now enjoy the scenery, albeit from whatever fixed direction their unit faces and at a much higher ticket price.

Expo 86 construction

Expo Construction, False Creek East, 1985

Post-Expo and the “Toigo affair”

I briefly mentioned in a recent post the “deal of the century” sale of Expo lands to Chinese real estate tycoon Li Ka-shing (whose surname reminds of a cash register recording a sale). His net worth of US$27.1 billion ranks him as one of Asia’s richest men.

According to the Vancouver Sun, “He bought the Expo lands in 1988 for $320 million, to be spread over 15 years. But the real price is generally considered to be about $145 million, in part because the province paid the staggering cost of remediating the soil.”

Wheeling and dealing over the coveted lands led to accusations of influence peddling and an RCMP investigation (that found no wrongdoing), involving sitting premier Bill Vander Zalm and real estate developer buddy Peter Toigo.

Boom … or going for bust?

Expo 86 constituted a giant “For Sale” sign, flown above the ocean and mountain-girded city. Students of Vancouver history agree that the deal was the icing on the celebratory cake of Expo 86; it sent out a follow-up message that Vancouver was open for business, or perhaps ripe for the plucking.

As veteran broadcaster Stuart McNish opined in a recent interview, Expo 86 marked the beginning of Vancouver’s transition into “an Asian city.”

If the fair’s success can be judged merely by counting the number of new towers on Vancouver’s skyline, as breathlessly suggested by Michael Meneer, then the fair truly did “put Vancouver on the map.” But, in the same interview, Expo CEO Jimmy Pattison himself admits that the downside has been the stratospheric inflation of city real estate prices caused by the flood of offshore money. Pattison complained last year, in another interview, that Vancouver’s high cost-of-living was making it hard to retain staff.

The adage “be careful what you wish for” springs to mind.

The consequences of this unnatural bubble — one of the greatest in history — has been to shut out young people and new, homegrown business. These unintended but predictable effects may yet lead lead to a creative decline in the city that might undo any benefits claimed by the condo counters.

Historical documents

My friendship with Gerry Duncan at Action Reprographics specialty black-and-white lab and gallery had exposed me to the photographic documentary record of Vancouver through the wonderful reproductions his company was making from historical negatives.

Using a giant enlarger mounted on rails embedded in their darkroom floor, Gerry and his partner Bob Abbott created panoramic prints that graced the walls of bars and restaurants around the city. Accordingly, I was aware that the visual record I was making of contemporary upheaval and transformation existed within that documentary tradition.

R.V. Winch Grocery Store, 66 Cordova St, 1888 (VPL collection)

Gerry recently reminded me, “We were doing all the work for the Vancouver Public Library historical photo section at the time. We printed various widths depending on the size of the negatives, but around 24″ to 36″ or so. They were contact prints from negs made with a “circuit camera” owned by the Dominion Photo Company.

“The circuit negs were much too wide to project but we did have that 8″ x 10″ enlarger which allowed us to enlarge the library collection of 8 x 10 glass plate negatives.”

One amusing anecdote perhaps encompasses a certain arc of British Columbia history.

“Remember that beauty of the R.V. Winch Grocery with the wild game hanging behind the grocers?

“At 4 foot by 6 foot you could see the individual hairs on the deers’ tail. [Vancouver hand-colouring specialist] Cliff Baldwin coloured that one for me and I sold it to Mr. [then-premier] Vander Zalm.

“‘Lillian [the premier’s wife] will love this,’ he cooed.”

80s Vancouver prints are available in limited and open editions.

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Contact

Raymond Parker Photo
230 Menzies Street,
PO Box 39029,
Victoria, BC,
Canada V8V 2G7

PH: (250) 896-7623

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