Numerous ‘lost’ Yucho Chow photos identified at exhibition

Yucho Chow was a prolific photographer who worked in Chinatown between 1906 and 1949. His work reflected the city’s diversity as he became the go-to photographer for visible minorities and other disadvantaged groups.

Detail of photograph showing Ishar Singh Gill and his dog King by Yucho Chow. From the Nirmal Gill family. PNG

As many as 181 “lost” Yucho Chow photographs have been identified during an exhibition of the works of the prolific Chinatown photographer.

Catherine Clement, curator of the exhibition, said 151 photographs brought by family and the public to the Chinese Cultural Centre last weekend were identified as taken by Chow, who worked as a commercial photographer from 1906 until his death in 1949.

Two of his sons kept the business going until they retired in 1986, when the studio’s contents including negatives were taken to the dump as garbage.

Clement has spent the past eight years finding 250 Chow photographs, 80 of which were in the exhibition Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow.

Clement said she has another 30 or so images in emails sent to her. As a result of all the people who have brought images to the exhibition or sent them to her, she’ll be able to add at least another 181 Chow photographs to his archive.


Ishar Singh Gill and his dog King by Yucho Chow. From Nirmal Gill family. PNG

One of the memorable additions from between 1918 and 1920 shows a Sikh immigrant named Ishar Singh Gill with his dog King perched on a faux marble pedestal.

Gill emigrated to Canada in 1906. He eventually owned and operated Patterson Wood Yards, which delivered wood as fuel to homes. King accompanied Gill on every delivery.

King was such a memorable pet that every dog owned by the family since, has been given the same name.

The Yucho Chow photograph on a postcard kept in the family of Maureen MacGregor for more than a century. PNG

One of the photos in the exhibition that didn’t have a story is no longer silent.

When Maureen MacGregor read the Postmedia article about Chow, she knew right away she had one of his photos which shows her father and his family, daughter Joanne Enchelmaier told Clement.

The postcard photo had been in the family for more than a century.

When Clement saw the MacGregor’s family photo, she recognized the woman in the light coloured coat with three prominent buttons from a 1916 photo showing a young First World War soldier and a woman, possibly his mother. It’s believed to be Enchelmaier’s great aunt, but Enchelmaier is unsure of her name because it would have been different from her grandfather’s.

Joanne Enchelmaier in front of the 1016 Yucho Chow photograph of a woman believed to be her great aunt with her son. PNG

Clement estimated that about 1,000 people a weekend have visited the exhibition since it opened May 4.

The new photographs illustrate how Chow was the main photographer in Vancouver for the city’s visible minorities and marginalized groups.

Clement said last Sunday the exhibition room was packed with a diverse audience that included five young Sikh men in turbans, a black couple, as well as Russians and Croatians.

“It was so great,” Clement said.

“It mimicked what it must have been like in Chinatown at one time: the diversity that came into that neighbourhood was reflected again in the exhibition. It was just like it was once upon a time.”

Clement plans to release a book on the photographs of Chow later this fall. She said there are no plans for the exhibition to travel to another venue.

Handpainted photo of Quan Chung Fune in 1942 by Yucho Chow. A good friend of Chow’s, his personal album is filled with images of the two of them doing things together. From Don Montgomery. PNG


[email protected]

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email [email protected]




You may also like...