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Vancouver in the Seventies turns the page on a tumultuous decade

Last Updated Dec 4, 2016 at 7:28 pm PDT

(Courtesy: Vancouver in the Seventies)

Vancouver in the Seventies book shows transformation in pictures

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – From protest and political upheaval, to economic boom and cultural evolution, the 70s were a decade of tremendous change in Vancouver.

Long-time Vancouver Sun research librarian Kate Bird has collected some of the most iconic images of the era from the newspaper’s archives for the new book, Vancouver in the Seventies: Photos from a Decade That Changed the City. NEWS1130’s John Ackermann spoke with her about the book.

First off, how did you manage to whittle down the book to 149 images. I imagine there were a lot more where that came from!

“Oh, there’s so many more! Back in the 1970s, there were more than a dozen staff photographers at the Sun and they shot more than 4,000 assignments every year. So, it was a huge number of images but we started with some of the key events. [We] also wanted to cover the range of topics that the newspaper covers: news, politics, crime, business, arts, sports… so a little bit of everything.”

There are many pivotal events covered here, from the Gastown Riot to the founding of Greenpeace. Which ones stick out most for you?

“Some of the ones that I find really interesting are what were called ‘tour shots.’ Photographers would just go out and shoot what caught their eye. The newspapers were bigger at that time and there was room in the paper. So, pictures of people on the street, there’s a picture of a fellow in a dry cleaning window, really beautiful art shots that weren’t tied to a news event but were just little moments captured of the city and people in the city.”

People forget, but the 70s were quite transformative for Vancouver. What do you think the biggest change was?

“Well, at the beginning of the decade, Vancouver was a pretty sleepy town, very resource-based. Tom Campbell was the mayor and he really hated the hippies and so there was a lot of conflict, the whole period was full of protesters. By the end, there was so much infrastructure, so many buildings put up during the `70s: the Museum of Anthropology, the Granville Mall, Pacific Centre, Eaton’s, Sears Tower. By the end of the decade, the city, the looked and felt really different.

In some ways, this was a golden age for news photography, with so many great photographers on the payroll. Do you think some of that has been lost today?

“Oh, it sure has. You know, they had a lot of latitude then, news photography all around the world [did]. With the war photography in Vietnam, documentary, black-and-white kind of photography. Robert Franks [and his book] The Americans, that type of movement. As I said, there was ‘room in the paper,’ they could play the pictures really big. They just don’t have that luxury now. The papers are tiny, they have so many less people. I mean, at that time, news organizations, they were ones shooting the city. Now, everyone’s a photographer.”

I guess that’s both good and bad!

“That’s right! There’s something to be said for citizen journalism, photojournalism, people sending in images that capture events, especially all around the world. But in another way, that kind of latitude to be able to have these kinds of images that are so rich of everday events in the city, [they] just aren’t able to be covered so much.”

Kate Bird will be signing copies of Vancouver in the Seventies on December 7th at the Main Street location of the Book Warehouse in Vancouver. Vancouver in the Seventies: Photos from a Decade That Changed the City is also an exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver and it’s on until February 26, 2017.