Photography

Beatrice Street

ANNE GRANT

Beatrice Street is part of a work commissioned by the Geist Foundation with assistance from Arts Partners in Creative Development.

Memory is a story I tell myself.” —a tenant

In the spring of 2008, Anne Grant began photographing a group of adjoining apartment buildings occupying a single lot on Beatrice Street in Cedar Cottage, a residential neighbourhood on the east side of Vancouver. She had observed the buildings over a period of years, and only rarely seen anyone going in or out. In time she came to see the anonymous, rather unforgiving facade of the Beatrice Street building as the face of a silent repository, a house of memory. She began photographing some of the people who live there, and talking to them about personal history and memory.

In 1911, when the village of Cedar Cottage was incorporated into the city of Vancouver, much of the surrounding area was still farmland; today it’s an older neighbourhood of modest homes and a few small apartment blocks. Trout Lake (John Hendry Park) is a short walk away and Lord Selkirk School is just around the corner. Until the late fifties, there was a small commercial area only a block away with a bank and general store and other services. Property records for the Beatrice Street lot go back to 1914, when one of the buildings housed a sheet-metal business and a grocery store on the main floor.

In order to begin answering the questions of what had been here then and what was here now, Grant made her own investigation into the lineage of the buildings, the variety of owners and proprietors (some legendary, others verifiable); and she began to interview some of the people living in the apartments, as well as people who had lived there in the past. Many of the people who talked to Grant did not want their apartments photographed, but they were willing to share their family albums with her. Everything at Beatrice Street—people and place—was cloaked in privacy.

This place is haunted. See that picture? It often falls off the wall. That mannequin falls down those stairs again. For no reason.”

Memories are hard to verify. Some of the tenants were certain that Beatrice Street had been owned at one time by a waitress at Scott’s Café, but there is no record of her. Another resident remembered following the hockey career of a son of one of the owners, but no one by that name has ever played for the WHA. The legless woman with “fake legs,” seen “crawling around doing things” by one tenant, is unknown to anyone else.

We’d hear the pitter-patter of little feet at night, yet the children were sound asleep. The neighbours told us years ago a little girl named Donna had been killed on her way to Lord Selkirk School. They said to tuck Little Donna in at night as I tucked in my own children. The pitter-patter stopped.

Over an extended period of getting acquainted with the people and the buildings of Beatrice Street, Anne Grant accumulated a portfolio of images and stories that form the materials of the next stage of her project: to offer her representation of Beatrice Street to a wider audience.

We kids would meet at the old oak. This guy lived in number 3. He was the size of a mountain. He had this suicide blond girlfriendyou know, a chick who doesn’t want to be brunette. On weekends we’d listen at their window. She’d come by with strange guys. They’d all get liquored and high. She’d say some guy touched her ass. A fight would happen. Cops would come. She once hit him over the head with a bottle. He got seven stitches. We’d compare stories at that old tree.

Portrait-making is a way of getting to know people. During a portrait session, when one of her new subjects spoke of her concern for a relative whose memory was failing, Grant asked her how she might represent such a condition. After some thought, the woman covered herself in a white sheet.

The images displayed here are a reflection of first acquaintance, an extension of the first moment of ­saying hello.

Mandelbrot

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ANNE GRANT

Anne Grant grew up in Edmonton and studied art and photography at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She lives in Vancouver and maintains a darkroom on Main Street.


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