Whenever Gareth Farfan is on the road he’s on the lookout for any sorry and forgotten buildings in Greater Vancouver -- the more dilapidated the better.
Farfan runs the Instagram account ghostsigns_etcetera, where he has shared hundreds of his photos to thousands of followers.
By day, Farfan works doing rigging in film and television which gives him lots of opportunities to scout out his next target to photograph. Photography has been a life-long passion for him as he got his first camera at 12 years old and has been exploring the art form for the last four decades.
Farfan describes his work as “the stuff that the average person really wouldn't take note of.” This ranges anywhere from falling-apart barns to abandoned railway cars, century-old buildings and, more recently, signs and advertising belonging to bygone eras.
"I've always had sort of a slant toward the stuff that you don't typically see on a guided tour. I don't know what it is, I like the decrepit nature of things I suppose," Farfan told Vancouver Is Awesome.
"My wife thinks I'm nuts and it drives her nuts when we go anywhere, but typically if I've got a spot in mind that I've noticed as being interesting I'll drive by it a few times sometimes before it's perfect to photograph,” Farfan said of his process.
Farfan is most interested in defunct business or simply the places and things that have been forgotten by time.
"For me, it's just like neglected buildings that used to be architectural wonders and there are lots of them in Vancouver. Like the entire Downtown Eastside is just a target-rich environment for amazing little buildings,” he said. "That whole area, when you try to put yourself there 100 years ago, you wouldn't know you were in the same city even though most of the buildings are still there."
More recently he has shown a special interest in ghost signs, essentially any old hand-painted advertising that has been preserved on a building for a long time. Farfan says these signs are much rarer in Vancouver than in other American cities, which he believes is in part due to Vancouver’s wet climate.
That’s why Farfan’s recent photographs of the century-old, ghost sign recently uncovered on East Hastings and Penticton Streets for the former Shelly’s 4x Bread are so special.
"I knew I had to get down there right away before anybody tagged it or anything stupid like that happened," he said having found out through a follower of his page. "I bombed down there. Boy was that exciting. For a sign like that? I mean that is so rare these days, especially a wood one. It was immaculate."
To suggest any signs or buildings Farfan could photograph he encourages people to send tips to him via his Instagram page.