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A couple from Madrid was recently in Vancouver for their honeymoon. Walking down Water Street in Gastown, they came across an arresting vision in the window at Inform Interiors – a cool pad that mixes vintage and contemporary furniture.
Pulling it all together was the art on the wall, a trio of giant photos of Led Zeppelin and the Mission Raceway, face-mounted onto colored acrylic. The Zep photos were in blue, the Raceway in orange.
They went inside to inquire about them, and were directed to the Monte Clark Gallery in Railtown. And they wound up going home to Spain with a smaller version of a Led Zeppelin photo, which captures the rock legends in concert.
It was taken by the acclaimed local photographer Greg Girard, and is part of a show running concurrently at both the
Both the Led Zeppelin and Mission Raceway photos were taken in 1973, when Girard was a budding photographer. When he decided to put them in a show, decades later, he mounted the images on colored acrylic as a way of “separating” them from being “purely vintage or purely retro.”
“Ain’t nothing wrong with a vintage picture,” said Girard, who did regular black and white prints for the show as well. “But I was looking at new ways to present this older material.”
Placing them in the context of a high-end furniture store fits the bill. The idea came from Monte Clark, who had been looking to incorporate art into a window at Inform with owner Nancy Bendtsen.
“It’s a window with lots of street traffic, a good place to get one’s work seen,” said Girard. “I’m not a purist in terms of how it should be presented.”
Bendtsen came up with a whole back story for the display.
“The idea of the window is we created a persona who was the roadie on the tour, and since then he’s worked his way up, he’s a record producer now, so he’s traveled and has collected odd and weird things,” she explains. “This is a very eclectic mix of new and old.”
Indeed. There is a 1970s Ribbon chair by Nancy’s designer husband, Nils, that’s in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as a stunning limited edition reproduction of a 1960s Radiofonografo record player by Brionvega.
David Bowie used to own one, which sold for 257,000 pounds at a Sotheby’s auction in London in 2016. This one is $ 32,000.
Bendtsen was not at the Led Zeppelin show at the Pacific Coliseum that Girard shot on July 18, 1973. But she did see the band as a teenager in Toronto.
“Because I remember the concert, I remember the song – Led Zeppelin is playing Stairway to Heaven during this shot,” said Bendtsen. “Greg’s work is just electric, it’s gorgeous.”
The use of blue acrylic adds a nice touch to the images, which show singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page in full rock-star mode. In one shot, Page is playing his famous double neck guitar, while Plant wails away on the other side of the stage, long longs flowing, pants so tight they probably had to be taken off with the Jaws of Life.
Girard, 66, grew up in Burnaby but spent three decades as a photographer in Asia, based in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai. Although he is known as an art photographer in Vancouver, where he returned in 2012, a lot of his work in Asia was photojournalism for magazines like National Geographic.
During the pandemic he’s been looking through his archives, unearthing stuff that in many cases has never been seen.
In April he had a show of his trips to California and the US in the 1970s called American Stopover, featuring moody images like a Greyhound passenger in the early morning light in Texas, and palm trees in fog at night outside a bar in Oceanside, Cal .
He has a lot of old images to go through because he used to shoot a lot of photos in Asia for magazines.
“You would shoot your assignment and put your raw film on a plane and send it to New York, and it would turn up in a magazine the following week,” he relates.
“Then all the film would go to your agent and I was living overseas, so I might visit my agent once a year to look at some of the returns, and then they’d go into a storage locker in New Jersey or something.
“So it’s just in the last few years that all of this stuff has been returned to me, and it’s a chance to go through it.”
Some of the Led Zeppelin images were in earlier exhibitions, but Mission Raceway is new, although the images of the car racing track are almost four decades old. There’s a wonderful shot of a track worker recoiling from what must be a thunderous sound as a drag racer called the Wheeler Dealer lays rubber and smoke on the track behind him.
Asked what attracted him to the Raceway, Girard said it was a natural spot to photograph.
“How could you miss, right?” he said. “All that smoke and whatnot. I did not have a super-long lens or anything, so you’re a bit limited by the simple equipment one had at the time. I was just doing what you could as a ticket holder in the stands. But it was exciting.
“When you’re starting out everything is interesting,” he said with a laugh. “Even if you’re kind of a young contrarian it’s still all interesting.”
It may seem a bit odd to show photos of Mission Raceway at Inform, which specializes in cutting-edge design. But Bendtsen says her husband Nils has a connection.
“My husband used to race there when he was a young buck,” she said.
“Oh god, he used to chop cars. He chopped a Cord. One of the most beautiful cars ever built, and he chopped one. I could still kill him for that. But at the time they were chopping everything. ”
Inform Interiors is at 50 Water Street, Vancouver. The Monte Clark Gallery is at 53 Dunlevy Street, Vancouver.
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