Last week we made mention of the arrival of This Is East Van, a new book of photographs from our neighbours in the community. It recently premiered at the MAKE IT! show and is available for sale from our pals over at Cargoh.com or at brick and mortar worthies like Sharks + Hammers, Mintage, The Wilder Snail, Les Amis du Fromage and The People’s Co-Op Book Store. The official launch party goes down at the Waldorf Hotel on May 5th, and we hope to see many of you there (get details on their Facebook page). We recently caught up with the pair that put it together – Erin Sinclair and Jason Uglanica – and asked them a few questions…
Where are you from?
Erin: I grew up in Kelowna, and have been in Vancouver for 10 years.
Jason: I’m from Courtenay on Vancouver Island. I’ve been in Vancouver for around 12 years now.
How did you come up with the idea for the ‘This is East Van’ project?
Jason: This was supposed to be just a small project. Individually we approached the idea from very different perspectives. We are both pretty similar in the way we think, its just that Erin has the ability to see a project through from start to finish. I wanted to do a personal photography project. Erin liked the idea and wanted to combine it with her love of community art. After a few meetings (some good, some frustrating, but all including wine) the ideas for what has become This Is East Van were hatched.
Why East Vancouver?
Erin: Most importantly because it is home and it is what I know. I wanted to facilitate a community art project using photography as the creative outlet. What better neighborhood to showcase than East Vancouver? The layers and diversity of East Van are really unlike anywhere else in this city. It is a truly vibrant part of town where art, design, food, culture, ideas and community are moving at a pace that is both exhilarating and inspiring – I wanted to capture this from multiple perspectives. Both Jason and I are really proud to be a part of such a progressive group of people and wanted to share and celebrate this very prominent neighbourhood right now.
Jason: It was kind of an accident for me. While looking for a place to live, I never expected to end up on the East Side. I thought to myself, what was I doing? This was supposed to be the bad part of town. What I found was completely the opposite. Its not to say that this part of town doesn’t have it’s share of issues, but at the same time there is so much art, beauty, character, community spirit, and acceptance laced throughout our neighbourhood. Moving to East Van put me more in touch with the people around me – changing my preconceived notions. East Van is alive. You can feel it when you’re here. Its very tangible!
Describe for us one of your personal favourite East Van photo’s and tell us why it has impact for you?
Both: Oh don’t make us choose just one! We are both incredibly taken by our cover image. The photo captures a bird in mid-flight over East Hastings. We could go on for days about the beautiful juxtaposition of objects, the eeriness of the perspective, the light, conceptually how strong it is – but we won’t. At the end of the day it is just a really great image. From first glance, it captured our attention whole-hearted. For us, this is a strong photograph – something that stops you in your tracks. Show us art that does that and we will show you huge grins.
Favorite East Side place for good, cheap food?
Erin: The Vietnamese restaurant on Fraser and 23rd. I crave it in the middle of the night. For real. Roundel is pretty great as well. Breakfast to die for and amazing service. Anywhere that serves cornmeal, blueberry pancakes is alright by me.
Jason: There are three places. S Squared Cafe, which I live above. $3.50 all day breakfast and Chinese all in one! Dona Cata at 33rd and Victoria. Erin first introduced me to this special little place. We all have our Mexican preference in the city, but l like it here. But my absolute favourite is New Town Bakery on Pender east of Main. If you have a hankering for steamed buns you need to go here.
Favorite East Side bar?
Erin: The Waldorf is the obvious answer. A new cultural center for East Van! Pretty amazing. We are having our book launch/dance party their on May 5th. Stay tuned to our website and FB page for ticket and event details. The Narrow on Main is another one of my favorites. It’s across the alley from my house and oh so dark, mysterious, and convenient!
Jason: I’m constantly finding myself at Alibi Room and Six Acres. Wonderful beer lists! But then again I also like the Country Bar on Hastings, as well as the Legion on Main and 23rd (three dollar pints of who know’s what!).
Favorite East Side building or landmark?
Erin: The Dinosaurs. For as long as I can remember the big orange port cranes that stand tall in the Burrard Inlet have mesmerized me. They look like robot dinosaurs no? And what is more captivating than a robotic dinosaur set against one of the most beautiful views of ocean and mountains?
Jason: The BC Rogers Sugar Refinery. Its been there since about 1890. What you think is just some old crusty, condemned industrial building is actually a fully functioning plant. It looks as though it shouldn’t be standing, but has survived and changed very little while doing so. I see it every day, sitting, framed by the north shore mountains.
Favourite East Side park?
Jason: I like lying in McLean Park. Its good for a glass of wine. Late night jungle gym. And watching hipster soccer. Also it’s a meeting grounds for the community within Strathcona. I suggest taking a walk down on a sunny afternoon and having a hang out. Always something interesting happening. Or something random.
Erin: Ya, McLean is pretty great. Thanks for stealing my answer, Jay.
Best East Side secret.
Jason: This has been here forever! Hastings Sauna and Steam. If you haven’t been you’re missing out. If you like to sauna and need something to do on a cold evening, its the place to be. Get the guys and girls together, book a room and get naked. But just so you know, it’s intense. This isn’t the recreation center’s sauna. I promise you will change your mind once you give it a try.
Erin: Ditto on The Hastings Sauna. For something that still involves nakedness but that you can tell your mom about, I love partaking in the life drawing classes at Basic Inquiry. My favourite thing to do on a day that I am not working is to wake up early, grab a coffee and stumble into a morning life drawing class. Best way to start the day, ever.
Both of you work in the film industry, so why a book and not a documentary film?
Erin: We have been asked this question more than once. The film-making process is a beautiful thing and one that both Jason and I are honoured to be a part of on a daily basis. That said, fictional and documentary film-making are not always as accessible, or even tangible, as photography. Our want has always been to have THIS IS EAST VAN be a broad cross-section of the people and places in our community, and we felt that film would cancel out a large section of those that may otherwise decide to try their hand at taking a picture or two. Photography is like the more approachable, more accessible, better established big brother of film. Plus, we make movies every day. On a personal level, I think we wanted to explore something new.
Jason: The idea of having a printed work in your hands is something that is very inspiring to me. While brainstorming for this project, I never pictured it being a film. For me, it has always been through still images that I wanted East Van to be documented. It’s a very special place that deserves to be enjoyed slowly. Deciding to do this as a book seemed like the ideal way to incorporate imagery and story telling as well as allow us to function as a community-based project allowing everyone to become involved in a process that we hope inspires others. It has been exciting taking on a project and seeing where it has gone…especially when it is something we have never attempted before.