Two Lower Mainland Photographers on Display

Posted by Daniel on Oct 27, 2009 - 5 comments

Vancouver historian Chuck Davis reports:

I was in the good-sized audience on Thursday, October 22 at the Vancouver Historical Society’s regular monthly meeting, where we enjoyed a talk by Molly Winston, the education coordinator at the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC, on the photographic work of Leonard Frank and Otto Landauer. The photographs of these two men are an irreplaceable record of the look of the Lower Mainland in the early and middle years of the twentieth century. It’s a bonus that both men were excellent photographers.


The German-born Frank (1870 in Berne, not to be confused with the Swiss city) was active here from 1910 to 1944, and took nearly 50,000 photographs. He’d first come to BC as a result of a gold rush, but it was pretty much over by the time he arrived. He started taking pictures when he won a camera in a lottery! Otto Landauer was also born in Germany (Munich in 1903) and would take over the Leonard Frank Studios in Vancouver after Frank’s death in 1944, and run them to 1980 and his own death. Landauer was an athletic fellow, and much of his photography shows the mountains he loved to ski among.


Ms Winston’s talk focused on the shots both men took of our local bridges: bridges under construction; bridges completed . . . or bridges collapsed. Landauer was at the Second Narrows Bridge on June 18, 1958 when it was still under construction, and when it collapsed. His shots of the disaster were used in the inquiry that followed.


We got shots by both men (depending on the decade) of the building of the Burrard Bridge, the Lions Gate, the Granville Street and the Port Mann . . . the latter shots a little scary as the workmen strolled along beams with no apparent safety harnesses attached (see above). And where, the audience wondered, was Landauer perched when he took those shots above the workers?


Besides the Cyril Leonoff books (An Enterprising Life, about Frank, and Bridges of Light, on Landauer), these photographs and many, many others by these two men can be seen on the web site of the Vancouver City Archives, the Special Collections room at the Vancouver Public Library, the Jewish Museum and Archives at 950 West 41st Avenue and on Flickr. The illustration above is for an exhibit that is currently on display at the Museum.