May 20, 2016
David Wisdom is best known for his 30 year career on CBC Radio as host and producer of many music programs, notably Nightlines, RadioSonic and Pearls Of Wisdom. He was a member of the bands French Hand Laundry, UJ3RK5 and The Young Winstons, and has written about popular music for a number of publications. His photographs have been exhibited by The Teck Gallery, The Equinox Gallery and The Vancouver Art Gallery. He has organized and presented scores of multi-artist slide shows since 1969 in dozens of venues, indoors and out, including The PuSHFestival in Vancouver, The Elks Hall in Sidney Nebraska, Mahon Hall on Salt Spring Island, and for the past seven years at The Vancouver Art Gallery.
A boxed postcard set featuring images from this exhibition is available for purchase. Click here for more information.
In the late 1960s I was living in Kitsilano, Vancouver and studying history at The University Of British Columbia. Life was good but my mind and heart were elsewhere. London, the old home town of the Wisdom family, had become the centre ofinnovation for many of the things I cared about: art, design, style and most of all music. I wanted to be there.
In 1967, during the visit to Vancouver of the band Cream, I met the drummer Ginger Baker, who stayed at our house on Point Grey Road for a while. He invited my wife and I to come and stay at his home in London. In the summer of 1968 we took full advantage of that offer and in a concentrated period I absorbed all I could of all I saw and heard. I had no camera of my own but I borrowed a friend’s Brownie but hardly used it. The pictures I took of that time were afterthoughts.
In 1969 I bought my first camera, a Pentax Spotmatic, which I happily used until 2008. In 1970 I took a break from UBC, and moved to London to live for what turned out to be a year. We shared a flat in Hampstead with Vancouver friends and artists Ian Wallace, Jeff Wall and their families. I had several jobs, mostly delivering legal documents in The City and East End of London. Every day I took my camera. Despite my affinity for the late-psychedelic hipster period, I was more entranced by the continued existence, both architectural and human, of a London that stretched back in time before The Beatles, before The Wars, back to the slophouses of Dickens, back to the slatterns and toffs of William Hogarth and back to the Romans. Despite the apparent creative upsurge in Britain during the late sixties, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of money about.
Unemployment was high and wages low. Ruins of every age of London’s existence were apparent, at least they were to me.
I remember how I stood, how I felt, when I took the pictures in this exhibition. One reason I remember that feeling so well is that I took relatively few pictures, given the expense of film and processing. But the main reason these pictures are some of my favorites is because when I took them I realized I was figuring out how to see, how to observe and how to remember.
They are pictures I took before I immersed myself in the street photography of Robert Frank and Walker Evans and the photography of humans by Edward Weston and Cecil Beaton.
The pictures in this exhibition recall for me a time when I felt exhilarated by a city and a time that belonged to me.