Thursday, April 6, 2017

Documenting debris

When you tear down 1,000 houses in Vancouver every year, with each one producing 50 tonnes of waste, you get a really big pile of  debris. John has been documenting this pile in an industrial area of southeast Vancouver for several years, and recently made a poster out of this July 2016 shot.
My partner John Denniston is more practical than I am about the changes sweeping Vancouver today. He reminds me that the old character homes and mature gardens now being demolished to make way for huge new houses once replaced a beautiful forest that had to be razed to make way for them. Also that change is inevitable, that cities are always evolving, and that what's happening here is also happening in sought-after cities all over the world.

But as a photographer who believes in documenting the world around him, John necessarily takes a lot of pictures these days of doomed houses, destroyed gardens and huge machines chewing their way through buildings. One day he discovered another angle to the demolition frenzy -- a gigantic debris pile in an industrial area of southeast Vancouver. Each of the 1,000 houses demolished in Vancouver every year produces 50 tonnes of demolition waste, and this is where it ends up.

He's been photographing the debris pile for several years now, but when he shot it in July of 2016, it was the highest he'd ever seen it. At about 50 feet, it dwarfed the huge trucks hauling in the waste.

Recently, when I met several other people to discuss the demolitions, it seemed natural to take along that photograph. John made it into a poster, adding the words: "What a street of character houses looks like in Vancouver." (You can tell he used to work for a newspaper.)

People loved the poster and wanted copies, but I gave it to Adriane Carr, the only member of Vancouver city council who seems concerned about the mass destruction of perfectly liveable homes. She was delighted, and scrutinized it closely. "I love it," she said. "I'm going to put it up in my office. No, I'm going to put it on my office door."

In the corridors of power, a little slice of what's going on in the outside world -- courtesy of a photograph.


  1. A wonderful poster....I hope it goes viral. I found Steven Levitt's (author of Freakonomics) take on some aspects of the Vancouver situation interesting.

  2. Powerful photo, John & Carol! Am glad to hear it's going to be on Adriane Carr's office door!