The 1970s were a memorable decade for Vancouver: protesters marched the streets, rallying against the war in Vietnam; big-time musical acts started performing downtown; the modern-day Canucks were born.
“It was the decade that changed the city,” said Kate Bird, author of Vancouver in the Seventies, a comprehensive collection of photographs and essays that focus on one of the pivotal decades of the city’s history.
For 25 years, Bird was a news research librarian at The Vancouver Sun and The Province, where she took care of the massive photograph collection and conducted research on behalf of reporters.
Over the years, she has contributed to many books as a researcher, including Making Headlines: 100 Years at The Vancouver Sun, which won the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award at the 2013 BC Book Prizes.
Vancouver in the Seventies is her first foray into authorship. The 168-page book is filled, cover to cover, with images selected from The Vancouver Sun’s photograph collection.
“It’s a real record of Vancouver in the ’70s,” she said.
“The 70s was the decade Vancouver grew up,” said Bird. “The economy was good, there was tons of building and the whole city changed. Of course, change happened in Surrey as well, the population went up by 50 per cent.”
“The whole Lower Mainland was expanding and changing, becoming a much more modern city,” she said.
She chose to focus on the decade for practical reasons as well. “The Sun still had all the negatives from the whole run of the 70s,” she said. “And I thought (this decade) would resonate, not just with baby boomers but with younger people, too.”
“Of course, we had so many (photos),” she said.
Bird approached the Museum of Vancouver, and together they worked out a companion exhibition, which is currently on display. The exhibition was supposed to come to an end in February, but has been extended to July.
“The (Sun’s) photographers were shooting 4,500 assignments a year,” said Bird. The photos include a wide range of subjects, from protests to portraits and everything in between, she said.
Bird called on others to weigh in during the photo selection process. The initial selection looked for “classic” photos, focusing on finding images that represented the decade’s news, crime, politics and entertainment.
Then the book’s publisher, Greystone Books, helped select images on artistic merits, and, in the process, gave a “younger perspective.”
As well as photos from the larger events during the decade, the book includes smaller moments of everyday life in the city.
“It’s interesting little moments in the life of the people in the city – portraits, the incidental – in order to get across the feeling of the city at the time,” said Bird.
Many people have seen themselves in the book or have recognized someone who is in one of the photos.
“It’s very interesting what people remember (from the ’70s),” she said. “Very often you have people saying, ‘oh, I hope you have this photo in there.’”
Bird is currently touring with her book, presenting images in an author talk. She recently visited the New Westminster library for a presentation, which went well, she said, with more than 30 people in attendance.
She will be coming to Cloverdale Library next, to lead a slideshow and talk about the images and her book.
“I’ll talk about the ’70s and show loads of photographs, some specifically from Surrey,” she said.
Bird will be at Cloverdale Library on Saturday, May 27, from 10:30–11:30 a.m. Entry is free, and copies of her book will be available for $25 cash.
To register, call 604-598-7327 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.