Accidental Exposure, Deliberate Concealment



Flagging changes large and small which signal the disjointed evolution of the urban landscape, Eric Deis hurries to capture them, initiating a process of delaminating the city. His photos, while of Vancouver, are not specifically of Vancouver; while they are of buildings, they are not about buildings; and of course, while they are of construction sites, they are not concerned with construction sites. The photos instead reveal the discovery of accidental encounters, a process that only just begins as the photo is taken.

Drawn to the Downtown Eastside as one of the major sites of change in the city, Deis has taken multiple photographs of the area from rooftops and scaffolding, focusing intently on the landscape that most passersby sidestep with a distracted gaze. In the photograph which would later be titled Hipsters and Drug Dealer, Deis unwitting-ly captured not only a landscape, but a scene, the unintentional consequence he always hopes for.

Upon further scrutiny in the studio, the image revealed more than he had apprehended when he recorded it. While concentrating on the dramatic tension between the urban pioneers and the drug dealer crowding the entrance to the alley, Deis didn’t notice the live narratives taking place in the adjacent SRO building or the intense blue light from the film set a block away that was sculpting a satellite dish into sharp relief. Capturing such a fortuitous convergence of stories in one image seems to defy the odds; it’s Deis’s prize, what he refers to as “the photographer’s delight.”

Inadvertently recording these passing moments has made Deis acutely aware of the transitory nature of the landscape around him, whether measured in seconds or years. While his photographs convey this sense to those who study them closely or who return for multiple viewings, he is seeking to engage the broader public in a critical awareness of the changing city.

Though the numerous cranes on the horizon are a constant reminder of Vancouver’s frantic building pace, they call particular attention to the layers of the city being concealed or eradicated in the frenzy. And so, Deis has devised a simple means of attracting attention to this phenomenon. Having successfully negotiated with developers and property owners, he intends to paste a massive image of Vancouver’s cityscape on to an exposed party wall, where it will slowly be covered up as the adjacent building is constructed.

Where typically he seeks to reveal accidental encounters and antagonisms, exposing layers of people and detritus in their man-made environment–in this case, Deis reveals by concealment, as carefully laid layers of concrete block systematically obliterate an image of the city for good.CA

Hannah Teicher currently works for Shape Architecture and Jill Anholt Studio in Vancouver.