See a royal photographer working to unearth forgotten BC artists – Vancouver Island Free Daily

A photographer from Victoria is working to discover and preserve the forgotten practitioners of this art form in British Columbia, in the hope that they and the history they recorded will never be forgotten.

Don Denton, a photographer with Black Press Media, collected hundreds of photographs, magazines and exhibit brochures and conducted more than 50 interviews with members of the province’s photography community. Some of his findings will form the basis of his upcoming online course at the University of Victoria called Other Vancouver Photographers, but his real hope is that the research will eventually become an archive and serve as a resource for future historians.

“I’ve always been interested in the history of photography,” Denton said. “A few years ago now…there was a photographer from Vancouver who passed away and I was curious about his photographic practice. I went to try to find more information about him, and it was really difficult. It was one of those things where, here is a person who was quite important, but now that he was gone, it was quite difficult to find information about his photographic career.

“It really opened my eyes to two things: one, when a person is gone, you lose so much history, so much information. The other thing that I realized was that there was this very big field of photography in BC…all this group of people working that I didn’t really know.

Denton focused on photographers who did incredible work – often working closely with other, better-known photographers – but whose photos, for various reasons, were seen by relatively few people.

One such discovery is Bruce Stewart, who worked with famed photographer Fred Herzog at the University of British Columbia.

“On the weekends he and Fred would go out and walk around and take pictures,” Denton said. “They have similar, but slightly different images…(Stewart) is an amazing photographer and basically came out of the same place as Fred, but everybody knows Fred and nobody knows Bruce.”

While his research was able to capture a fairly comprehensive snapshot of Stewart’s photographic exploits, Denton said other discoveries still have a lot more mystery to unravel.

“My big mystery is Lynn Phipps. She came from California in the late 1960s to Vancouver. As far as I could tell, she was really the first person to do a long documentary project on the Downtown East Side .

While Phipps had several exhibitions in the 1970s, Denton found only two surviving examples of his work. Even more mysterious, beyond hearing that she had moved to the Fraser Valley, he found no further traces of her after these exposures, or even confirmed a single report that she had died.

“Here’s a person who did this important work, probably the first of its kind, and we don’t know what happened to it,” he said. “We don’t know what happened to him, we don’t know what happened to his job.”

Denton hopes to hear from anyone with a collection of old photos in their basement from a family member or friend who was an active photographer – professional or otherwise – or anyone who knows someone who played a role in the British Columbia photography scene so he could add their story and work to his project.

He can be contacted at [email protected]

British ColumbiaGrand VictoriaHistoryPhotographyVancouver

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