A massive collection of photos from Vancouver’s history spanning four decades has been donated to the city’s archives.
The collection is the work of Yucho Chow, one of the earliest photographers in Vancouver. As such, the variety of images in the archive is wide, ranging from family portraits to notable events to celebrity observations.
“The collection grew out of the work of curator Catherine Clement, who began researching photographer Yucho Chow (周耀 初) in 2011,” the City of Vancouver Archives writes on their website.
Chow arrived in Canada in 1902 in the mid-20s after growing up in China and paying the principal tax to move to the young country.
He established his studio at 68 West Hastings Street (now an empty lot in Gastown) and picked up a number of clients, including many newcomers to Canada. The studio hopped around Chinatown for a while and was eventually handed over to Chow’s sons Peter and Phillip when he passed away in 1949. They ran it until 1986, when they retired.
“Chow welcomed clients from all backgrounds, and as such, his work documents various communities that have traditionally been excluded from dominant narratives of Vancouver’s history,” the archive notes.
Chow’s work was lost when the negatives were destroyed when the company closed, but Clement was able to put together a huge collection of his work again. She went on to hold an exhibition of his work in 2019 and published a book with his pictures in 2020; it has just won the 2020 City of Vancouver Book Award.
“The donation of the Yucho Chow Community Archive collection is a significant contribution to filling gaps in the archives’ holdings and supporting a richer, more diverse and more accurate reflection of Vancouver’s history and people,” the archive notes.