My archive of old bikes

by Raymond Parker on February 15, 2013

in History, Photography

Img description

Bikes on Broadway, Vancouver, 1983

Readers may be forgiven for thinking I’m talking about all the bikes and parts spilling out of my closets and cluttering my workspace, but there’s another stash at the far end of my studio, filed in polyethylene sleeves.

I’m talking about my archive of “vintage” negatives.

I’ve been busy the last week or two, rummaging through filing cabinets, to organize a particular set of images, made in Vancouver during the 1980s. For several years I loaded my (circa 1960) Mamixaflex twin-lens medium format camera and Tiltall tripod onto my Nishiki Landau (pictured here in a more recent incarnation as a camera dolly) to cruise the streets of Vancouver in search of urban icons.

An old friend and photographic mentor, Gerry Duncan, used to joke darkly back then that he was becoming frightened to point his camera at any scene he loved, lest the bulldozers arrive the next day. With most of Vancouver now unrecognizable to me (I fled in 1991), these images have a decidedly “historic” look to them.

As I wade through my files I notice that, naturally enough, I occasionally included cyclists in my images. Yesterday, I came across the negs and contact sheet pictured above. The building, located between Cambie and Oak on West Broadway, an old Texaco station housing a carpet store, was my main subject. This was my second shoot (on June 7, 1983) at the location, a car parking ramp across the street that, I believe, has been converted to office space. It afforded a great view over the downtown core to the North Shore Mountains.

(I just spent an hour on Google Street View, but can’t locate the old structure. If you know anything about the fate of this building, please leave info via comments).

I made 5 exposures on Ilford FP-4 film, calculated à la Zone System, with a borrowed Pentax spot meter. Three of the exposures were worth printing. As above, I initially identified #5 as the “keeper,” but I ended up printing another version, which became part of the 1992 (actually 1991) Urban Photographic Projects’ “Vancouver’s Vancouver” show and the Vancouver Public Library archive.

Another image, featuring the iconic wooden roller coaster on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds, was awarded second price in the black & white category.

Original prints were made on a variety of silver-gelatin fibre-base papers, including Ilford Galerie and the legendary Oriental Seagull.

Though I still have my fully-functional, vintage wet darkroom (buried in one of the closets under bike frames) my digital darkroom has reached the ancient age of 10 years. Since I’m planning to print this Vancouver project, I’ve been researching and examining options for renewal. I have a very good 35mm film scanner, but this project, as mentioned, consists mostly of 6X6 negs.

I’ve been paying $13 for high-resolution scans, so this project alone would go a long way to paying for my own machine. My printer, a 2003 Epson 2200, makes good archival pigment-ink prints. But technology has come a long way in the interim. In particular, the new Epson models use 9 or 11 inks (compared to 7 in the 2200), with four dedicated to the black and white gamut for superior tonal reproduction.

I have a decent store of rag papers … but what about this new, highly-touted stuff from Epson?

I sometimes wonder how wealthy I’d be if I hadn’t opted, so many years ago, to fund the photographic industry.

Lynn Hirshman February 16, 2013 at 9:54 am

More, please!

Raymond Parker February 17, 2013 at 9:49 am

Maybe not here. But I’ll send you an invitation to the show. 🙂

Christopher in Aotearoa NZ February 26, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I remember that 1992 show. I was working in Robson Starbucks (the original one), and well remember the t-shirt I got that featured an image from that show; a lone seagull on the wind with one of the buildings lining English Bay behind.

Raymond Parker February 26, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I’d quite forgotten that image–a good one. Thanks for the reminder.

As per the link above, my shot from the PNE Roller Coaster received second prize B&W.

Two other photographs from my portfolio were featured at Robson Street venues, including an unusual image that led to a story on top of the visual mystery.

I was honoured to be invited to take part in another Urban Photographic Project: Faces of Canada, celebrating the country’s 125th anniversary. That was 1992, so I guess that makes the Vancouver’s Vancouver show 1991.

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