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Massive photo collection from historic Vancouver photographer donated to city (PHOTOS)

Offering glimpses into the lives of Vancouver residents from the first half of the 20th century.

A massive collection of photos from Vancouver's history spanning four decades has been donated to the city's archives.

The collection is the work of Yucho Chow, one of the earliest photographers in Vancouver. As such, the variety of photos in the archive is broad, ranging from family portraits to notable events to celebrity sightings.

"The collection grew out of the work of curator Catherine Clement, who began researching photographer Yucho Chow (周耀初) in 2011," writes the City of Vancouver Archives on their website.

Chow arrived in Canada in 1902 in his mid-20s after growing up in China, paying the Head Tax to move to the young country.

He established his studio at 68 West Hastings Street (now an empty lot in Gastown) and brought in a range of customers, including many newcomers to Canada. The studio bounced around a little in Chinatown, and was eventually passed to Chow's sons Peter and Phillip when he passed in 1949. They ran it until 1986 when they retired.

"Chow welcomed clients from any background, and as such, his work documents diverse communities that have traditionally been excluded from dominant narratives of Vancouver’s history," notes the archive.

Chow's work was lost when the negatives were destroyed when the business closed, but Clement was able to reassemble a huge collection of his work. She went on to hold an exhibition of his work in 2019 and published a book of his photos in 2020; it just won the 2020 City of Vancouver Book Award.

"The donation of the Yucho Chow Community Archive collection is a significant contribution to filling in gaps in the Archives’ holdings and supporting a richer, more diverse, and more accurate reflection of Vancouver’s history and people," notes the archive.