Is There a Picture puts Vancouver's famed photographers in the frame

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      A documentary by Ric Beairsto and Harry Killas. Rating unavailable

      There’s some circuitous logic to the lack of a question mark at the end of the title quote from Jeff Wall, perhaps the best known (and named) of the haute-gallery photographers under glass in this thoughtful documentary. He’s the most religious adherent to the artifice-is-truth segment of what’s become known as the Vancouver School, in which documentary-style realism usually turns out to be highly managed stagecraft. So if Wall is asking about imagery at all, it’s mostly to identify what’s already in his head.

      The other superstar in the conceptual galaxy illuminated by veteran filmmakers Ric Beairsto and Harry Killas is Rodney Graham. He likewise undertakes large-frame, sometimes backlit studio images with a theatrical bent, but there are sometimes more elements of accident and disinformation built into them. Graham is also a painter, filmmaker, and long-time musician, and his tenure alongside Wall in the proto-art-punk band U-J3RK5—pronounced “you jerk”—is lightly explored, with archival footage helping to document that fading slice of Vancouver cultural history. (Band member and veteran CBCer David Wisdom is on hand to testify.)

      Marginally the eldest of the group, British-born Ian Wallace taught Wall and Graham at UBC. He’s been living in Paris and other far-flung places, and his works often deal with urban dislocation, as well as the kind of abstraction that ties him to the postwar antifigurative movement. Like Wall, Greek-raised Christos Dikeakos sometimes sets up elaborate pictorial tableaux that expertly capture the illusion of candid snapshotting. His images tend to linger on some disruption between the present and buried history, often regarding the relentless development of False Creek and other familiar zones, or the scattered remnants of First Nations culture.

      The sole woman featured here, Marian Penner Bancroft is a multi-media artist and long-time professor whose current work favours the subtler textures of rural landscapes increasingly overlaid by modern life.

      The 95-minute movie doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive about contemporary photography in Vancouver, and the participants don’t really attempt to define their own ethos—where’s the advantage in that? But a fascinating Picture emerges nonetheless.