Gastown views from W. Cordova & Abbot Streets, 1984

Woodward's, Vancouver

Woodward’s Building, Vancouver, 1984

It occurs to me, looking at contact sheets from my urban forays in the eighties, that the images very much parallel those recorded, usually on Kodachrome film, during the mountaineering expeditions that were the focus of my free time.

On this day I again packed my photographic gear — Tiltall tripod and Mamiyaflex medium-format camera loaded with Ilford FP-4 film — onto my trusty Nishiki Landau bicycle to find a “summit” with a view.

I’d reconnoitred the location pictured here on other urban bike rides. The parkade, located between West Cordova Street and Trounce Alley, bordered by Abbott Street, provided a panoramic view of Gastown, from the Woodward’s department store loading docks, east to the Europe Hotel at the intersection of Powell and Alexander Streets, north to Water street.

As the contact sheet shows, the afternoon light was beautiful, accenting the texture of brickwork and rooftops.

At the time, 1984, I printed just one of the resulting images — #10, lower right, looking east, with the rather incongruous tree perched on the roof — on 16X20 silver gelatin paper for a show, later that summer.

The graphically bold Woodward’s image sat neglected in my filing cabinet for 30-years. I’d assumed, based on the contact sheet, that the negative contrast was just too much to translate onto paper. Perhaps I should have examined that negative more closely, because there is detail from the deepest shadows, right through to the blinding white of the warehouse wall. I’d nailed the exposure handily.


Modern digital scanning, editing and printing technology has enabled me to exploit every zone of these negatives. The Woodward’s shot has become my favourite, followed closely by the single exposure (second from bottom right) looking over Trounce Alley to the intersection of Abbott and Water Streets, with the summits of the North Shore Mountains beyond.


Trounce Alley to Abbott & Water Streets, Vancouver, 1984

Most of the old Woodward’ site was demolished in 2006, to make way for the 400 million dollar Woodward’s Project,  a mixed-use complex dominated by a 42-storey condo tower summit.

Prints from this shoot are available from the 80s Vancouver sales gallery



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