Navigating Disappearing Main Street

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EAST // Broadway & Main // 2011

Welcome to the Disappearing Main Street documentary photo project!

Here is a little primer on the project, and below, suggestions for how to navigate the site.

Six years ago we began documenting Vancouver’s Main Street, shooting every inch of Main in high-res from 2nd Ave up to 33rd Ave and back down again. Both sides, 62 blocks, hundreds of storefronts, schools, churches, warehouses and a few residential places, too. An honest reflection of Main Street at that time, we simply took visual stock in 2011.

We planned carefully and rose early, finding times in the early hours after sunrise when vehicles aren’t parked along the length of the street. Late afternoon parking restrictions helped sometimes, too, and we did a few blocks one morning after the barriers went up for the annual Car Free Day festival. It worked. Many of our images are car free, too. It really helps to see the actual streetscape when a single, parked SUV can render a storefront invisible from across the street.

We published the images daily for a month – East at Sunrise, West at Sunset. Then we let them sit for a spell. Photo exhibitions happened, ideas exchanged and all the while, Main Street was changing…and fast. Faster than we thought it would, and we write this as a precedent-setting high-rise condo goes up at Main & Broadway.

The effect of looking back at these images now is one of reflection, curiosity and a little bewilderment. A lot has happened in six short years. Businesses came and went, institutions moved or closed and the last house was eventually demolished. A new wave of energy and commerce came to Main Street, local chains and higher-end shops moved in along with thousands of new residents as tower after tower goes up in this region. Small businesses continue to open up, taking a chance on Main, mind the demo clauses of course. Large tech companies now call Mount Pleasant home (some try to call it ‘Mount Pixel’, and don’t get us started on ‘SoMa’ either) and with them, a new threat of gentrification. And yet, the neighbourhood carries on, this is a strong community. It’s a fact of life in a city, the only constant is change itself.

We invite you to engage in this change with us, for better or for worse. Explore the series, help us fill in the gaps in memory and history and please Share Your Main, too.

Here’s a quick guide to navigating this blog:

  • Peruse the EAST or WEST side of the street using the menu buttons above.
  • To see how some of the blocks have changed, head to Revisiting Main for recent images.
  • To read our essay on Main Street, who we are and the genesis of this project, click here.
  • Follow us on Instagram and Twitter at ‘mainstvan’ for selections from the series and stories behind the images and streetscapes. Use the hashtag #mainstvan and let’s chat!
  • We sell prints from this series. We even have some selections framed and ready to go today!
    Please contact us at disappearingmainstreet@gmail.com, through social media, or leave a comment on this blog and you too can hang a piece of Main Street history on your wall.

Thanks for visiting Main Street.

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3 thoughts on “Navigating Disappearing Main Street

  1. auntielizzz says:

    I want to tell you how deeply your project affected me. I grew up and morphed from an irresponsible teen to a young woman musician/artist/cook in the time period 1997 to 2003 on Main Street. Some of the pictures were so nostalgic I had a physical feeling in my chest. I wonder if you have any pictures from that time specifically Slickity Jim’s chat ‘n’chew before the fire, or Burchu’s Angels funky clothing store… so many memories down that strip. Getting cigarettes from the hasty market then roaming around underage drinking at night in the deserted streets, coffee and Panini‘s at being around the world, that restaurant/art gallery just off Main & 6th, and oh the Foundation! I thought only the coolest people ate there.
    I guess I’ve reached a stage in my life where I’ve seen an area go through so much change it feels like it’s a different neighbourhood. Thank you for creating this project

    • davidniddrie says:

      Hi — thanks so much for stopping by and for your wonderful comment. We love hearing about people’s experiences on Main Street as it changes over the years. Sounds like you have some solid roots in the area!
      While our MainStVan project you’ve been perusing is mostly focused on a set of images we did in 2011, I (the photographer behind this project) have been shooting pics in and around Vancouver since 2000. I’ve lived around here sine 2005, and yes — I do have some shots of Burcu’s among others. Not a lot however and many aren’t scanned or posted online.
      We have been posting some images from this site with some other ‘throwback’ shots on our Instagram: “MainStVan”. Have a look!
      Here’s one of the Burcu block in 2006: https://www.instagram.com/p/BTZjCUtjW5h/
      Once again, thanks for engaging in the project and for your feedback! It really means a lot. Happy to connect with you on this. Cheers!

    • davidniddrie says:

      We’ll also capture your comment to include in our “Share your Main” post, seen here: https://disappearingmainstreet.wordpress.com/share-your-main/

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