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August 24, 2021

‘Sad Town’: Extraordinary Vintage Color Photos of Vancouver From 1972 to 1982

A renowned photographer and a brilliant documenter, but before Greg Girald became widely known he was just a teenager prowling the streets of a pre-globalized Vancouver with his camera. To his eyes at the time, despite it was the early seventies, somehow parts of the Terminal City and its residents seemed to get trapped in the ‘50s or earlier. “When I started making these photographs, especially the pictures of people in the mid-1970s, I felt like I was photographing a world nobody knew anything about, apart from the people living it, of course.” Girald said. “I was something of an interloper, but my youth protected me. It’s curious to consider these pictures now, practically unseen since they were made, in terms of a Vancouver they might have some potential to invent.”

“A sad town” was how Girald felt about Vancouver. “It maybe had something to do with the way the natural beauty surrounding the city was at odds with the more down-at-the-heel parts of town where I was spending time. In those days, Vancouver was more obviously a port town, the last stop at the end of the rail line. ‘Terminal City’ as they say, a place where people ended up. Something that most port cities probably have in common.” He added. “When Nina Simone did her rendition of ‘Baltimore,’ singing about a ‘hard town by the sea’ where it was ‘hard just to live,’ I felt she was singing about the place I was living. Which might sound odd, considering the Vancouver of today. It would be like a mournful song about Aspen or Honolulu. Though why not? The prettiest places can be the most ruthless.”

Girald’s early work of the city ended in 1982, when he left for Asia, and did not return after a few decades. His photographs from that era were collected in his book Under Vancouver: 1972-1982. For more of Girald’s brilliant work, check out his website.
































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