On Aug 18, 2012, I participated in the 2012 12x12 Vancouver Photo Marathon. My previous posts have detailed my past experiences and I am finishing up my 2012 recap as well.
I wanted to quickly jot down a summary of the whole experience and particularly the realization towards the evening of how we had experienced the metamorphisis of Gastown over 12 hours.
As the sun rose over the eager photographers, it cast shadows in leopard print patterns all over the buildings and sidewalks, the contrast and highlights making for excellent backgrounds to the coming Black & White challenge. The empty streets gave a idyllic setting for the start of an epic day of photography.
As the challenge proceeded, Gastown's streets started to fill with life. Shops opened up their doors to beckon to passing tourists. The trendy furniture and fashion stores catered to the local folk but the feeling of Gastown was predominently "touristy" as countless tour groups wandered up and down the streets much like the 12x12ers carrying cameras and stopping to take photos in all conceivable places. The steam clock was, predictably, a very popular location, as was the statue of Gassy Jack.
As the day progressed, the heat and fatigue started to set in, focus was primarily on keeping up with the themes. The streets grew thicker with tourists exploring Vancouver for the first time.
Those that ventured west of Gastown may have noticed some futuristic and fantastic people wandering the streets. You could not be faulted for thinking you had walked into a video game or cartoon. The quality of these costumes is nothing short of admirable. These were attendees to an Anime convention at the Vancouver Convention Centre down the street.
Then the zombies came... at first only a few here and there through my travels. Then an entire family. I wondered, what did zombies have to do with anime? I would find out later in the day that Saturday was the day of the Zombiewalk. Talk about an interesting day!
As the sun retreated from its hard day of work, the character of Gastown slowly changed... the patios started to fill up and dinner goers replaced the tourists on the cobbled streets. The pace slowed to a nice enjoyment of the cool evening after a hot summer day.
Marathoners continued on their quest for the perfect photo for the wall of themes welcoming them upon each entry into the Coffee Bar home base. The hourly gathering and exodus of approximately 60 photographers every hour must have been somewhat disturbing for any locals looking for quiet coffee/book time. Thank you to Coffee Bar and the regulars for sharing your space with us that day!
The retro streetlights of Gastown lit up as the sun finally dipped below the horizon. Gastown in its full nighttime beauty, street lights softly lit up the sidewalks, giving a small taste of the olden days. Patios were now bustling with people and the streets now filled up with party goers headed to the pubs. Women in their finest gaze drawing attire negotiating the less than ideal sidewalks in their stilettos. Well groomed men waiting to get into the bars watching intently. Mighty Mouse and Green Lantern getting money from an ATM... wait... what? The heat must be getting to me.
As dusk turned into night, the street clogged up with taxis dropping off evermore partygoers, came the reminder of one of the ongoing issues in Vancouver. I had not ventured east of Gastown very much but throughout the day there was a constant reminder of the proximity of Gastown to the DTES (Downtown East Side).
I finally ventured eastward after dark for the final theme and it was an amazing experience to see some of the empty streets I had walked earlier in the day change completely after dark. The relatively empty Hastings St. and its shuttered storefronts were suddenly teeming with a powerful, chaotic yet organized energy.
The lethargic, quiet, unseen, DTES residents of the day had come to life in the darkness. It was apparent whose neighborhood this was. The streets were THEIR home. You were a tourist walking through someone's home in the middle of a house party.
This was the final and most eye-opening change of the day that I witnessed and it really made me think back about the changes in appearance and energy of Gastown.
I made my final walk to my car after the excitement and challenge of the 12x12 Vancouver Photo Marathon, opposite to the young people rushing forward to their night of excitement ahead and the DTES residents simply making their way through another day/night. It was easy only to think about the the completion of the 12x12 event, yet it was apparent that it was only the start for many others.