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Photojournalism’s golden age featured in Vancouver exhibition

In an exhibition highlighting the decline of photojournalism, Langara alumni are put on display

One photojournalist's capture of a rioter scream after the Vancouver Canucks lose to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, 2011. Photo: Becca Clarkson.
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Reported by Becca Clarkson

Langara alumni featured in a new photography exhibition on Vancouver’s past century of protests say the display highlights the decline of photojournalism’s golden age.

Langara photography alumnus Wayne Leidenfrost, one of 70 photographers featured in City on Edge: A Century of Vancouver Activism, said the industry will never be the same.

“A lot of those things won’t ever be captured again,” Leidenfrost said, claiming that social media’s immediate yet fleeting nature is responsible for a reduction in the necessity of photojournalists.

Exhibition showcases a century of activism

The three-room exhibition, which runs until Feb. 18, 2018, boasts 650 photos curated and based on a book by Kate Bird, who used to manage the photo collection at the Vancouver Sun and The Province.

“There were a dozen photographers for the Sun and Province, each [newspaper] shooting more than 4,000 assignments every year,” Bird said, adding that photojournalists were like “rock stars” in past decades.

“Newspapers don’t want to pay for or support that anymore. There’s a real concern over who will document not just protests, but other events in the city.”

The Museum of Vancouver had just finished working with Bird on an exhibition comprised of photos of Vancouver in the seventies when she pitched the idea for an exhibition of Vancouver’s past century of activism. The museum agreed to host the display before the book was even created.

Fellow Langara trained photojournalist Ric Ernst is also featured in the museum’s collection.

“It’s a front row seat to life, that job,” Ernst said, though he’s frustrated with the industry. “They don’t seem to be able to adapt to digital media or monetize it and now it’s a skeleton crew at both papers. It didn’t have to get to this point”

Leidenfrost, who was briefly an instructor for the photography program at Langara from 1978-79, said he used to like giving students a sense of the job’s “reality.”

“The adrenaline rush is always there. While you’re watching the news, we [were] there living it,” he said.

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