A remarkable book about an early Vancouver photographer whose work was almost forgotten was named the winner Saturday of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing, as presented by the British Columbia Historical Federation. The award comes with a cash prize of $2,500.
Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow is by Catherine Clement and published by the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia. Yucho Chow was Vancouver’s first Chinese commercial photographer and its most prolific. His lens captured thousands of faces of all skin colours, religious beliefs and backgrounds and chronicled a tumultuous time in Vancouver’s and Canada’s early history.
This coffee table book displays 344 pages of long-hidden, community photographs taken by Yucho Chow Studio. The private images showcase the different, marginalized communities that Yucho Chow chronicled in his lifetime, as well as the remarkable stories that accompany these photographs.
This book was also the people’s choice winner, as selected by the audience in real time during the awards gala.
Second prize, worth $1,500, went to Step into Wilderness (Harbour Publishing), by Deborah Griffiths, with Christine Dickinson; Judy Hagen and Catherine Siba. This book features never-before-seen photos from the Courtenay and District Museum collection, showcasing the growing community’s varied interactions with the wilderness they inhabit, from early hiking and skiing expeditions to encounters with wildlife, afternoon tea in the wilderness, beach races and early outdoor activity clubs.
The collection also explores the ways in which inhabitants have altered the landscape, including K’omoks Bay fish traps and stump blasting to clear fields. These unique and arresting photos are complemented by equally engaging accounts of individuals surviving and thriving in the midst of natural beauty and great devastation, including survivors of the great fire of 1922 and pioneer skiers on Forbidden Plateau during the Great Depression.
Third prize, worth $500 went to Lara Campbell for A Great Revolutionary Wave: Women and the Vote in British Columbia (UBC Press). This book rethinks the complex legacy of suffrage by considering both the successes and limitations of women’s historical fight for political equality. That historical legacy remains relevant today as Canadians continue to grapple with the meaning of justice, inclusion, and equality.
This book is for readers interested in women’s history, British Columbia history, or the history of women’s fight for political equality, including secondary school and university students. It will also find an audience among those concerned with gender equality and social justice.
Honorable mentions went to Pioneer Churches of British Columbia and the Salish Sea, by Liz Bryan (Heritage House); British Columbia in Flames: Stories from a Blazing Summer, by Claudia Cornwall (Harbour Publishing), and Legacy of Trees: Purposeful Wandering in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, by Nina Shoroplova (Heritage House).
The Community History Book Award, worth $500, went to Peter Smith for Silver Rush: British Columbia’s Silvery Slocan 1891 – 1900 (self-published). In the 1890s, mining camps like Sandon, Three Forks, Whitewater and their neighbours; New Denver, Silverton, Slocan City, Kaslo and Nakusp, thrived. Once the most productive mining region in British Columbia, prospectors and miners came from Idaho, Montana and other mining centres to reap the silver harvest. Capitalists flooded in from Spokane, Seattle, Vancouver, and investment centres across North America and the world. Plummeting silver prices, labour troubles and the Klondike gold rush eventually put an end to the silver rush but the legacy of that rush endures to this day.
The award recipients were chosen by a three-member panel of judges from nominees published in 2020.