Vancouver’s Urban History – Herzog and Foncie

Comments 10 by Rebecca Bollwitt

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.

fredherzog.jpg [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.

Foncie's Photo on Granville

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’.

Foncie's Photo on GranvilleStreet 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.

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10 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. debSaturday, April 7th, 2007 — 9:08pm PST

    I love it, thank you so much for directing me there. Joined and submitted mine (I actually have two of my Mom…I have to find the other one). This is even more special…Mom’s got inoperable brain cancer and is dying in a hospice right now. I’d dug this picture out and posted it on my blog…she’s such a beautiful woman. So I’m honored to be able to share it on the blog and share her beauty…again, thank you my dear.

    (A funny story…one night, on a dare, my father and uncle wore women’s clothes and took their purses down to have their “Foncies” done. Those pics went mysteriously missing….hhhmmm. And Mom reports that they kept losing their purses all night!).

    (Go Canucks!)

  2. KevBoSunday, April 8th, 2007 — 12:35pm PST

    I have to say that when I was in Van City this past summer the Art Gallery was my favourite place, not too sure why, but inside it, as well as out just made me so content.

    I know you really cared to know that, so I thought I would tell you.

  3. Miss604Sunday, April 8th, 2007 — 12:53pm PST

    We’ve been meaning to go and see the Herzog exhibit – waiting for a Tuesday night when admission is by donation only 😛

  4. isabella moriTuesday, April 10th, 2007 — 7:55pm PST

    you have an opa, too?

    oh, and i LOVE foncie.

  5. Angela BlekkenhorstTuesday, August 7th, 2007 — 10:59am PST

    I also have a picture taken in 1972 by foncies fotos. It was in Vancouver on Robson St. The back has the foncies fotos stamp. I can share it, but don’t quite know how to upload it.

    Angie

  6. Miss604Tuesday, August 7th, 2007 — 11:03am PST

    Hi Angie – do you have a Flickr account for sharing your photos online? If so, you can add it to & join the group noted above (http://www.flickr.com/groups/foncies/)

  7. Angie BlekkenhorstThursday, August 16th, 2007 — 6:56am PST

    No I do not have a Flickr account. Maybe I will join and add the pic.

    Thanks

    Angie

  8. Miss604’s Canuck Life :: A Vancouver Blog » Blog Archive » The Fabulous Commodore BallroomWednesday, September 26th, 2007 — 8:58am PST

    […] In 1929 the Commodore Cabaret opened its doors, only to have them shut briefly month later during the Depression. What was supposed to have lured customers away from the Hotel Vancouver and its booming ballroom business ended up sitting dark for half a year. In November 1930, local nightclub pioneers Nick Kogas and Johnny Dillias became convinced they could make a go of it, reopening the club and officially beginning its run as a live venue with dinner and dancing every Saturday. [The Georgia Straight] My Opa out Granville Street in 1956 (snap by Foncie’s) […]

  9. Ron MinlerSaturday, January 3rd, 2009 — 7:00pm PST

    I also had my photo taken by Foncie while I walked down Granville St in Vancouver in the mid to late sixties. He was a Vancouver icon. thanks for the reminder of the past.
    Ron

  10. KylerSaturday, October 3rd, 2009 — 8:45pm PST

    Wow, cool info.

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