Aug 9, 1971: Photograph from the Gastown riot by Glenn Baglo. Print from the collection of John Denniston

Aug 9, 1971: Photograph from the Gastown riot by Glenn Baglo. Print from the collection of John Denniston

In our era of the proliferation of images, when it’s increasingly easy to share photos of important events through sites like Flickr or Tumblr, what place does photography have in describing the world around us? Photographs are often widely shared to show accomplishments, to celebrate an event or instead, as incriminating evidence to undermine a public figure. Indeed, evidence of a politician shaking hands with a well-known criminal can be the source of endless speculations of corruption!

As we are consistently shown more and more images of events across the world that we naturally believe as documentary truth, does the role of photography as news media also carry more weight than ever before? How are we more likely to believe something actually happened with a photograph rather than, for instance, elaborate argumentation or vivid narratives?

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Aug 14, 1974: A native militant at the Bonaparte Indian Reserve near Cache Creek takes aim at Vancouver Sun photographer Glenn Baglo, warning him to put down his camera.*

In the social media world, this use of photography as documentary evidence has led the more incredulous of us to the conscious or subconscious ultimatum: ‘pics or it didn’t happen!’ While this phenomenon, so common it’s called PoIDH online, is alive and well in different sectors of society, it hasn’t always been this way, and the prominence of photography as documentary truth is relatively new.

This evolution of photography in the last century is retraced in NEWS! which opens at the Satellite Gallery next Thursday. It will examine the history of Vancouver through a selection of photographs and ephemeral material from The Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers, to reveal how photojournalism evolved dramatically over the past hundred years. During this time, occasional illustrations were replaced by photographs, which dominated the pages of newspapers by the 1960s, when staff photographers were in abundance. Television and picture magazines such as LIFE also helped shift public understandings of current affairs from the written word to images.

Ralph Bower, Vancouver Sun photographers (clockwise) Dan Scott, Ralph Bower, George Diack, Ray Allan, Dave Buchan, Ken Orr and Charlie Warner, 1960s.

Ralph Bower, Vancouver Sun photographers (clockwise) Dan Scott, Ralph Bower, George Diack, Ray Allan, Dave Buchan, Ken Orr and Charlie Warner, 1960s.

* Kate Bird, who selected this photo for a feature in the Vancouver Sun last year, will give a behind-the-scenes look at the photography collection of both The Vancouver Sun and The Province, with reporter John Mackie at the Satellite Gallery on Saturday, February 16, at 3:00 PM

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