Wednesday, October 10, 2012


As you have probably guessed by now, I like taking photographs. I take a picture of whatever I find around town that is interesting or history related. Although my photos are decent, I don't anticipate any of them making their way into history. Not like those of the gentleman I am going to tell you about today.

A man by the name of Foncie Pulice (pronounced 'police') was seen often in areas like Granville and Robson Streets with his camera. Pulice would offer to take photos of families or couples or whichever passer-by caught his attention. His large, Electric camera flashed away and caught images of Vancouver - businessmen, teenagers, tourists and dockyard labourers. Sun or rain, the faces captured by Pulice would be smiling, relaxed and comfortable.

Foncie would take a person's picture then hand them a card that read "Call and see a natural living photo of you and your friends for a lasting souvenir." The person could pick up the pictures the next day at a charge of three for a dollar.

There is a story told by the journalist Stephen Hume about one such photo taken by Foncie. It was of a young sailor and his girlfriend, out for a night on the town. The snapshot ended up in a naval mural and that painting wound up in a seniors' home in Victoria. An old man saw the photo and recognized himself and his late wife, sixty years prior.

Foncie started his photography in 1934 when Granville Street was filled with blue-collar bustle and the nightclubs and world-class restaurants that we see today weren't there. He was there during World War II when the public couldn't get film so the street photographers were all they had.

Servicemen would come home on leave and want photos of family and sweethearts. So they would find a street photographer to take their photos. Pulice would take appointments on the street and offer multiple sizes of print.

During the height of his business, Foncie was operating three businesses and taking about 4,000 photos a day. You could find him taking photos on Granville Street or perhaps in Stanley Park or maybe at the Pacific National Exhibition or elsewhere.

But Foncie Pulice wasn't the only person doing this. All across Canada and probably into the US as well, sidewalk photographers were taking candid shots of individuals, couples, families and whoever else. No, Pulice's occupation wasn't what set him apart. Foncie became noticed in his trade because of the length of time he did it: 45 years. He snapped photos of people on the street from 1934 to 1979. Can you imagine the history that man saw in over four decades of documenting the changing face of this city? No wonder many of his photos are now in the Vancouver Museum.

Thanks goes to the book The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver by Chuck Davis

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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