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Matinee: Yucho Chow Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

4 May 2019

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 200th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Yucho Chow.

Catherine Clement, the curator of an exhibition on Yucho Chow opening in Vancouver today, introduces us to the work of early 1900s Vancouver photographer in this 3:15 Vancouver Sun video.

Chow ran his studio in the heart of Vancouver's Chinatown between 1906 and 1949. His studio was "open day and night, rain or shine" for four decades as he photographed families, weddings, business people and entertainers.

As Vancouver's first Chinese photographer, you would expect him to have documented the Chinese community but because other marginalized ethnic communities were off limits to mainstream photographers, he also became the photographer of record for their communities, too.

That included Sikh, black, aboriginal and European communities.

As Clement tells the story, the problem with presenting his work is that most of it has been lost. When his sons closed his studio in 1986, his archives were simply taken to the dump.

Clement, though, became familiar with his work in family album after family album and she assembled the show from those treasures. She gathered together 300 photos of which 80 she ultimately displayed in this exhibit.

A few of these lost treasures have already been recognized by surviving family members. The Vancouver Sun article 'Silent' Yucho Chow Photograph Has a Story Again After Being Identified by Family tells two such stories.

The article also reports that Clement is making an unusual offer:

On the final weekend of the exhibition on Saturday and Sunday, May 25 and 26, Clement is inviting the public to bring their Yucho Chow photographs to the exhibition so they can be scanned and added into the Yucho Chow Digital Collection. They may also make it into a book of Chow's photographs.

How to Identify a Yucho Chow can help you tell if you have a Chow print by identifying his backgrounds and set props.

In the video, Clement notes two important facts about Chow's work.

First is the remarkable historical period of time he worked. He was active from before World War I through the Depression and World War II.

The second is his welcoming spirit to several communities other than his own. He became the historian of those ignored communities in Vancouver.

Looking at the images she has assembled, grouped by subject, Cement saw something else, too. "We essentially have the same values. We essentially have the same aspirations," she says. "And we wanted to be remembered -- through photographs."

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