Vladimir Keremidschieff's Seize the Time shows a smaller, stranger city

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Seize the Time
By Vladimir Keremidschieff. New Star, 123 pp, softcover

Starting as a freelance in 1967, Vladimir Keremidschieff photographed rock concerts, protest demonstrations, and sometimes street scenes and ordinary people for the Vancouver Sun, the Province, and the Georgia Straight. Toward the end of his seven-year stint, he was going down to Seattle to shoot more of the same, and never returned to Vancouver permanently. He now lives in Australia. The images in Seize the Time—the phrase comes from placards carried in a 1970 protest in support of abortion rights and Black Power—recall a much smaller Vancouver of a much simpler age that was nonetheless far more exciting than the present.

Keremidschieff’s introduction to the book is a bundle of vapid clichés (“the mid-to-late sixties were boisterous times”) leavened by some interesting comments about the difficulties of photographing live performance. It’s left to the poet Jamie Reid, in his thoughtful, essaylike afterword, to go beyond the simple archival importance of these images. “Vladimir’s arrangement of his photographs,” he writes, “implicitly recognizes and pays tribute to [the] hierarchy of performers and stars and viewers as consumers, not through any misapprehension or volition of his own, but through the structure of social reality itself…” The book documents “in that old black and white some of the more important moments in the narrative echo of the final years of the youth rebellion as it broke out” in the city “then and now recognized as a Canadian centre of radical political and cultural dissent”.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep the key events straight. March 1970: the fourth Stanley Park Be-In and also the three-day March Against the War in Vietnam (and Richard Nixon), as well as a demonstration “inspired by environment concerns”. May 1970: a counterprotest to “Help Eliminate Lawless Protest Parades”. August 1970: a massive protest against joblessness and income inequality. October 1970: protests against the War Measures Act (which the city’s ludicrous mayor, Tom Campbell, wanted to enforce against local hippies). In many cases, the venue was the courthouse on Robson Street, though that same year a generic-sounding March Against Frustration occupied the Burrard Bridge.

The photographs are generally interesting qua photographs, full of visual information and social history, with figures frozen in stillness or captured in frantic motion. Depending on your actuarial circumstances, they are either an aid to nostalgia or a handy crash course in a period of history that is quickly receding from memory.

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