Dates: June 6 to January 5, 2014
Location: Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street
Only until the end of the first weekend of 2014 do you have the last opportunity to visit the exhibition of Foncie Pulice’s photos at the Museum of Vancouver and discover the heart and spirit of postwar Vancouver. Foncie Pulice, a celebrated Vancouver street photographer, took approximately 15 million pictures during his life, capturing the lives and prosperity of mid-century Vancouverites. His photographs are full of stories, and visitors can experience how Vancouver as well as its residents changed during 1935 to 1979.
The story of Foncie Pulice, who built his own camera and took snapshots six days a week so that he could each night develop the film in the basement of his home, is very interesting itself. With the help of his wife, Anne, he would then display the pictures at his storefront for the price of 50 cents for three photos in the 1940s. Visitors to downtown Vancouver would have head-to-toe pictures of them taken by Foncie as they were strolling down Granville Street and then return next day to his storefront studio to purchase a keepsake for themselves, their families, and their friends.
Foncie started his career in the 1930s, when street photography became very popular. Throughout the more than 40 years of his career, Foncie captured myriads of heartwarming memories. From Sunday walks in Stanley Park to family shopping excursions, his images created a chronicle of Vancouver’s social history, capturing the spirit of a time. The exhibition Foncie’s Fotos: Man on the Street is an excursion through life in Vancouver in different times. It's a unique retrospective of the author's life and work. As the exhibition curator, Joan Seidl, remarked, the photographs have a cheerful quality of capturing people as they're “walking into their future.” Visitors to the exhibition can observe changes in fashion and lifestyle caught through Foncie’s lens.
The street photography business started to decline in the 1970s, towards the end of Foncie’s career, when people started to buy their own cameras. Quantities like 4,000 to 5,000 images a day, which Foncie snapped at the peak of his career, shrank to between 150 to 200 photos a day. There was no longer need for street photographers who spent hours standing in the hot sun or pouring rain, waiting for the perfect pictures. Foncie retired in 1979, at the age of 65, and together with his wife, Anne, he moved to Kelowna to be closer to their daughter, Diane. He died in 2003, at the age of 88.
Even though Foncie claimed that he destroyed his negatives each year, except for two reels from May and June of 1968, which he kept, the number of photographs that have been digitized and are being showcased at the exhibition has reached a total of 10,700. The photos were saved by Foncie’s customers from Vancouver as well as other parts of Canada and the world who kept them in photo albums, scrapbooks, or frames.
In addition to Foncie’s photos, the exhibition includes memorable items such as Foncie’s camera, which he donated to the museum when he retired, samples of the ticket stubs he gave out each time he took a photo, as well as other small items. Foncie’s Fotos is an exhibition that reflects all the little things that make our ordinary lives beautiful. They're shown from the perspective of a street photographer, who spends whole days standing behind a camera creating memories for people living in a changing world and a changing city.
The Museum of Vancouver has collaborated with the Knowledge Network, which provided shorts about Foncie as well as a feature documentary shown in the exhibition. At the exhibition, you can take a self-guided tour worksheet to find the locations of old signs, solve word jumbles, and do other entertaining activities with your family. Tickets for adults are $12, and they're available either at the museum entrance or online.
All photos courtesy of British Columbia's Knowledge Network.