After making a post about the Bowmac sign [mbv], I knew there was more that I wanted to say, but with a slightly different and more personal twist. It all has to do with the Fred Herzog exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which has been the talk of the town for several months.
[Herzog] has produced a substantial body of photographs, taking urban life in Vancouver second-hand shops, vacant lots, neon signage and the crowds of people who have populated the city’s streets over the past fifty years-as his primary subject [VAG]
After looking at a bunch of Herzog photos, I recalled a picture I had seen of my Opa (Grandfather) that sits in my mother’s room on her dresser. It’s definitely a photo of him walking down Granville Street, you can see the neon “Studio” sign in the background, the Vogue’s marquee, and a bus stop for the #17 Oak and #19 Kingsway.
On the back of the picture, there was a stamp that said “Foncies Photo 872 Granville Street, Vancouver 2, BC”. My dad told me about a man who would stand on Granville and take pictures of passersby, then give them a ticket to come back and claim their photograph. After getting my paws on the photo of my Opa, I did some Googling and I found a Flickr Group dedicated entirely to ‘Foncie’s Fotos’.
Street photographer Foncie Pulice must have shot over a million people walking along Granville Street in Vancouver between 1946 and 1979. He’d hand you a ticket as you passed which you could redeem for your picture after 24 hours. There must be tens of thousands of these photos kicking around in albums, scrapbooks, etc. [Flickr Group: Foncies]
Foncie is famous for his unique, everyday shots of Vancouverites in his own right. There’s a great interview with him posted on Chuck Davis’ site.
People even made appointments for street pictures! “Oh, yes. They’d phone ahead and tell us what time they’d be walking down Granville. Dr. Peter Bell-Irving had members of his family photographed every year. I have shots showing one little tyke in that family growing all the way up to six-foot-five.” [Interview with Foncie Pulice: Chuck Davis.ca]
If you have your own Foncies photos kicking around, feel free to upload to the group or share your story. Although it doesn’t go back extremely far, it’s fun to uncover and rediscover little glimpses into Vancouver’s urban past.